What’s in a Name? How to Secure the New Digital Addresses
Posted by Jennifer Wolfe on 25th June 2014 in 360 Blog

Digital marketers are likely aware or are starting to hear about new ideas in the domain space or digital addresses as I like to refer to them in marketing terms. Whether it’s how your company could use a .guru or .technology address or how new campaigns like bleach.solutions or antiaging.solutions could be used as part of a digital strategy, what do you really need and how do you get it? In the past, domain names were usually just one part of building out new campaigns and usually an afterthought. The fact that agencies viewed acquiring the domain name as an after thought is why many brands have shelled out five, six and even seven figures for a domain name. Once they’ve spent hundreds of thousands or more in building a new product, business model or campaign, why wouldn’t they shell out a little more for a memorable domain name. But with 900+ new segmented spaces on the internet launching over the next two years and half of the world’s top brands launching their own digital worlds at the top level, what do you need to acquire to have in your digital arsenal? Will agencies start to think more strategically when they develop campaigns? What about smaller businesses – will they move into a more segmented space?

Trademark lawyers have taken measures to protect brands, which is important. But, what about acquiring digital addresses you may want for future campaigns? And, how will you manage domains in an expanding internet environment? If you’re in IT, you know your company is likely sitting on thousands of domains that are not used, so why would you want to buy more?

A clear strategy and philosophy for every company about domains as digital addresses and assets is important. Start with understanding current data points.

Which domains do you actually use?
What gets traffic?
What key words are used most frequently to get to your site?
What mobile or apps do you use – what functionality does that provide?
What ad campaigns are you running or may run in the future?

These are all important indicators of what domain names you need to acquire. You will want to catalog all of these key words. Now look at the new top level domains. Which ones are related to your industry, your brand, and your campaigns? What could be a unique campaign? Match up keywords with top level domains. Now, here’s an important question, who owns that top level domain? Is it Google? That might change the way you think about it. Is it Donuts with 300+ new gTLDs or is it a smaller company with just a few? Will they market that domain or is it already saturated with domain investors? Will they cultivate and develop it? These are all important factors to determine whether that digital asset will have longer term value for your company and is worth acquiring now.

Now you know what you want, how do you go get them? Each top level domain is being launched on a rolling basis after it has completed the Sunrise period for trademarks registered in the trademark clearinghouse. If you have not talked with your trademark lawyer about which of your brands are in the clearinghouse and any digital assets you want to ensure you acquire during Sunrise, be sure to do so. Sunrise is a little more expensive than open registration, but it ensures you get it first.

Once the top level domain completes Sunrise, it can provide a Land Rush period where the most popular sub-domains go to the highest bidder or for premium pricing. Each top level domain can operate this slightly differently. After Land Rush, the top level domain moves to open registration. Most new top level domains will go for typical pricing of $25 – $100 per year, but some could be higher. It’s a good idea to budget carefully for acquisition since you may want a lot of new digital addresses for future campaigns. All registrations will be through registrars like Go Daddy or Network Solutions. You need to check which Registrars are selling the domains you want.

What if you just want to block someone else from it or protect your brand? Some of the top level domain owners will allow you to block your brand from registration. This is a good idea if you want to protect your brand from others acquiring it. Companies like Donuts, the largest registry operator of new gTLDs, allows you to block across hundreds of top level domains at one time. You may have seen advertisements for pre-reservations. This allows you to indicate your interest in acquiring the domain and on the day those domains become available, your registrar will secure it for you at a premium price. If more than one person wants it, it will go into an auction and go to the highest bidder. Acquiring new domains ultimately will be the same as acquiring domains today. But with thousands of new top level domains changing the internet landscape, a clear strategy and budget is needed to make the right choices for your company.

As you consider the future and what you need, it is also a great time to evaluate your overall domain portfolio and build a clear company philosophy about what is needed, how much to spend annually and when to purge old assets you no longer need.