A new era in Web site naming has begun, providing a golden opportunity for savvy IT professionals to go on the offensive with new domains that can capture additional Web traffic and generate new revenue.
Under today's rules, names are available in 280 well-known categories, such as .com, .gov or country codes, like .de for Germany. Under the new rules, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is accepting (between now and April 12) applications for new generic top-level domains (gTLDs), possibly as many as 1,000. Examples of possible new domains are: cities and regions (.paris), domains tied to specific interests (.music) or domains tied to companies and brands (.motorola).
According to Jeremiah Johnston, general counsel at domain name re-seller Sedo.com, "Savvy network administrators can demonstrate added value to their company because they know how to have ancillary domain names forward captured traffic to the primary domain name and how to track that traffic. When the company then sees thousands of people coming to these other domains who are then forwarded to pages where they can actually take an action that generates revenue for the company, the company sees the profit in this remarkably underleveraged strategy."
Known as a domain name portfolio, this use of a collection of domain names enables the capture of Internet traffic that would not normally make it to the organization's web site. It is the 21st century version of adding stores in other towns to capture street traffic that doesn't go near the original site.
There are two kinds of domain name portfolios; one for domainers (people who buy domain names to then sell for profit on the secondary market) and another for the network executives, CTOs, CIOs, et al. Domainers, by virtue of their profession, know all about building such portfolios. This article focuses on those responsible for the enterprise network, for whom this is generally uncharted territory.
What is a Domain Name Portfolio?
A domain name portfolio is a collection of Internet domain names assembled to promote traffic to a business and to protect against brand abuse. It may contain a small handful of names or, as in the case of companies like Microsoft, perhaps thousands.
As an added benefit, in many cases the portfolio itself becomes a valuable corporate asset in which some components have significant resale value (See Sex sells in the domain name game).
As Warren Adelman, president of Internet domain name giant Go Daddy, says: "Anybody who is serious about an online presence or growing their business should have a domain name portfolio. Be sure to have the names associated with that business, have keywords people use when searching for you, and be sure that your business is protected from anyone getting domain names that you would want in the future." Certainly, his point would include most business operations.
But the need for domain name portfolios is not limited to the business world. Government agencies, educational institutions, political organizations and non-profits should consider it as well. Both President Obama and Mitt Romney spent thousands of dollars recently In "Campaign 2012, Web sites are the new real estate" at GoDaddy.com on domain names. In the education market, Harvard University probably regrets the group of non-Harvard students who registered www.HarvardSucks.org. The site shows a prank they pulled at a Harvard-Yale football game where attendees pretended to be Harvard students yet held paper signs that spelled "We Suck" in huge letters.
Size Doesn't Matter
Word in the domain name market is that companies like Amazon, Sony, and Johnson and Johnson have portfolios in the range of 500, 2,000, and 20,000 respectively. However, the size of the operation is irrelevant when considering a portfolio, as small business operator Joe Nazar explains.
In 2007, he launched San Francisco Whale Tours with a single boat. One year into operations he realized his new enterprise needed more than a sign on Fisherman's Wharf to capture traffic. After seeing a Go Daddy commercial on Super Bowl Sunday 2008 he called the company. What followed became an ongoing relationship that helped him select a primary domain name, build a web site and, over time, go much further.
Seeing leads come in through the Web from a single name, the Internet-newbie began acquiring ancillary names to capture missed traffic from misspellings, different extensions, geo-domain names related to the Bay Area, and key words relating to his new niche. The now Internet-savvy businessman owns more than 200 domain names.
As Capt. Joe explains, "The for-sure sweep is to cover all scenarios; .com, .info, .mobi, .net, and .org and redirect that traffic to your web site using a 301 Redirect Page then watch the stats. So let's say a name catches 150 people in a month some of whom buy tickets...that can translate to thousands of dollars for something costing $11 a year."
In the "Oops" Category
Be careful when building your portfolio of names; the idea is to make it easier to find you...not harder, as Netflix discovered recently. The popular DVD rental company tried separating its newer movie-streaming service by launching a new site under the domain name Qwikster.com (which now leads you to the main Netflix site). Suzanne Choney of MSNBC reported the results of a survey stating that the oddly spelled name was easily confused with similar names. Making matters worse the company neglected to first obtain a Twitter account using "qwikster", which was unfortunate since that handle is already owned by someone else. Still worse was the fact that NBC's Saturday Night Live did a very funny skit parodying Netflix CEO Reed Hastings' public apology (SNL Qwikster skit) over the domain name confusion.
Building a domain name portfolio
A well thought-out portfolio includes a selection of primary names, capture names, and defensive names, each described below. Note that, while there does not seem to be any standard way of classifying these groups, these descriptors seem reasonable, if only to make the respective points in this article.
Primary domain names
The primary domain name, often the only name owned by a company, is whatever best approaches the actual business name. Typically it is comprised of the company name plus an extension, i.e.; CompanyName.com.
Capture domain names
Your primary domain name is not likely to capture all attempts people make to find you or what you offer. Grabbing additional names that rein in missed searches can dramatically increase traffic. In this, Go Daddy practices what it preaches. I tried a series of misspellings of the GoDaddy.com primary domain name including www.GoDady.com, www.GoDaddi.com, and www.GoDadi.com. Each capture domain name automatically redirected my browser to the primary domain name and web site.
In another example, Bice's Florist in Fort Worth, Texas, was struggling. Working with Sedo.com they acquired some additional 20 domain names including FortWorthFlowers.com, FlowerNut.com, YourFlowerPlace.com, and eFlowerSite.com as well as a shorter primary name of Bices.com. Traffic increased 47% and sales rose by $1.5 million. Further, by moving so much of their marketing and transactions to the web they were able to close five brick and mortar stores enabling them to retain more profit from each sales dollar.
Next Page: more examples...