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When my personal brand turned into a porn website

For the last four years, I’ve discussed the importance of curating and cultivating a personal brand. I even wrote a blog post for YNPN Twin Cities about it. I spent a good amount of thought designing, updating, and collecting content for my personal website, which was, in my mind, the literal manifestation of my personal brand.

I have a confession. I haven’t tweeted, facebooked, or even told some of my closest friends about this yet. This winter, my personal website—where I housed all of my projects, past speaking gigs, press, blogs, etc.—was turned into a porn site. Here’s what happened and I hope it never happens to you.

1) Realization

This December I was a few days away from launching a huge announcement about a new partnership and job as co-ceo of OTA-Pollen.org. When I went to link my name to my personal website (jamiemillard(dot)com << NSFW), GoDaddy informed me that the page was no longer connected to a website.

2) Freak Out

I immediately logged into my GoDaddy account and couldn’t find my domain listed anywhere. (Did I mention I used to brag all the time how lucky I was to get my full name as a domain?)

3) What Went Wrong

GoDaddy noted that my credit card on file had expired. Warning emails were autofiled into my trash (which I set up ages ago because I was annoyed by the spammy, pointless GoDaddy emails...unless they are telling you that you’re about to lose your personal URL).

4) Detective Mode

After some quick searching, I learned that ‘Al Perkins’ (definitely a fake name) had purchased jamiemillard(dot)com. (You can look up who has registered domains with this great site.)

5) The Pleas & Begging  

GoDaddy was sympathetic to my situation, but encouraged me to go through their domain brokering service. I was desperate, so I did. Al seems like a nice guy right? Maybe he’ll understand my personal brand is at stake and give me back my URL. Little did I know Al had many victims.

6) Al Is Pure Evil

Here’s Al’s business model: He buys thousands of domains and waits for someone to contact him. This outreach tells him which domains he’s purchased have value/meaning to someone. He’s learned that just asking for a ridiculous amount of money for the domain isn’t enough incentive. Someone will just get creative and make up a similar domain.

That’s where the porn comes in. I might not pay him $3,000 to get my name back, but what if he threatens to turn my domain, my personal brand, into a porn site? Now I’m listening.

7) The Consideration

I’ll admit, there was a moment when I considered paying him $3,000. Wise counsel pulled me back into reality, “Jamie, he preys on women. If you give-in, you’re validating that behavior.” Between tears I mumbled, “You’re right, I can’t let ‘the man’ win.”  

8) Resolution

I settled on just purchasing jamiemillard.org and never communicating with Al again. In retrospect, I wish I had never used the broker service. Al would have never known I was interested and my site would remain a blank, non-linked webpage instead of a porn site.

9) Ongoing Torture

There are many sites all over the internet with my name linked to jamiemillard(dot)com. I tried to get links redirected, but I still get emails from concerned folks: “Jamie, I hate to tell you this, but for some reason your name links to a not very nice site. You should look into that.”

One good thing came from this: if you spend years building an online brand and it can instantly be turned into a porn site, then what’s the point? Who you are, your values, your work transcends the internet. It’s rooted in your relationships with real people. And those people know you’re not a porn site. Those people don’t even care if you have a website.

TLDR: My domain expired. Someone bought it. When I didn’t pay up, they turned my website into a porn site. I learned two things:

  1. If someone buys your domain, never email them (no domain is better than a porn site).

  2. I no longer value all the things people tell you to do in building a “personal brand” (even though I used to be one of those people). Because when your personal brand is turned into a porn website, you realize what really matters: how you treat people on your journey. 

Photo Credit 


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