When a colleague suggested I google myself last week because my website was now in Japanese, I thought there must be a mistake.

But, sure enough, this turned up:

Noam Pianko

 

Why would anyone use noampianko dot com for a Japanese language site? It seemed rather unlikely that a Japanese publisher decided to set up a promotional website for my book on early expressions of Jewish nationalism!

I clicked on “my” URL and found this:

Noam Pianko website

 

What was going on here? Could google translate help? Not surprisingly, the translation did not reveal any references to my bio, Jewish Studies at University of Washington, or anything about Zionism! (although I did learn that the names of the week in Japanese seem to be connected to water, fire, and air.)

Wait…maybe this had something to do with the emails I had been ignoring from GoDaddy.com, the site I used to register my domain name. GoDaddy had an annoying habit of asking me to renew domain names years in advance, and I had had gotten pretty fed up with their aggressive sales strategy. So, I didn’t focus on the emails. Come to think of it, I also didn’t respond to emails like this:

Noam Pianko Homepage

 

My long-honed belief in the 11th commandment (thou shalt not be a freier) made me immediately suspicious of this spam-like email. Who would get suckered into paying money for his own URL? With so few Noam Piankos out there, I found it hard to believe that anyone would be willing to buy my name at an auction. But, that is precisely what happened. A quick glance at the whois database of domain names indicated that Akiko Kawaguchi of Kouya Co is now the proud owner of the noam pianko dot com URL.

I don’t think I would have felt nearly as bad if the URL was bought by another Noam Pianko out there. But the transfer of ownership to  Mr. Kawaguchi, while completely legal and the result of my own mistake, made me feel like the victim of  of identity theft. (Maybe I am just spoiled that with a name like Noam Pianko, I am not used to competing with others for virtual real estate. So no need for emails like npianko_3453@aol.com!)

I wonder why Mr. Kawaguchi paid for noampianko dot com? Was AkikoKawaguchi.com not available?

I am still not sure, but I found a clue on the page that provides a glimpse into the creative tactics of SEO manipulation used by sites that rely heavily on search results. I  noticed the homepage footer had two links:

Noam Pianko Japanese URL

They both link to on-line gambling sites. My hunch is that on-line gambling companies buy recently expired URLs to improve off-page Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Since search rankings are highly dependent on the number of links to the site, the more links on respected sites there are, the higher the ranking. I imagine that a URL that has already been used for a few years, has more “credibility” for the search engines and thus provides more value to the Casinos interested in boosting their rankings. There must be a marketplace out there for domain names that have recently expired and available at a relatively low cost. I would be curious to find out more about this business model. Perhaps something the folks at planet money might be interested in taking on.

What can I do to avoid supporting the promotion of on-line gambling with my old URL?
As you can see, I have relocated to noampianko.net and even renovated the site a bit. But, you would never know from the first page of a google search–the new site is on page two, way beyond the #1 Japanese site, my NY Times wedding announcement, and other random links.

Maybe you can help? If you have a website, please consider including a link to www.noampianko.net. Even a few outside links should put my new URL back in the game!

Does anyone out there have any other suggestions for dealing with this?