Does Your Company Have a Domain Strategy?
Today most businesses have domain names. Over the last ten years business large and small have recognized the “need” to have a domain name (website name).
Some businesses got their actual names as their domain name – the XYZ Company got www.xyz.com. Some business got domains close to their names for example the Melbourne Steel Company got www.melbsteel.com. Even Walmart started out with www.wal-mart.com before the “dash” basically was considered confusing and ultimately www.walmart.com was settled on. And then there was the businesses that got a descriptive name (versus their corporate name) such as www.myrealtysells.com which was a descriptive slogan used by a realtor as their primary domain name. No matter what the industry and what the method most organizations have ended up with a domain name one way or another.
Ok – So Most Domain Names are Pretty Much Set?
GGG (that is text for Good Golly Gosh) – you could not be SO wrong about the address system of the internet. It is pretty much recognized that we are now in “Web 2.0” – which is the second generation of the internet – the premise with Web 2.0 is things are much better than the first generation of the World Wide Web. (and Web 3.0 is just around the corner). Things are making a lot more sense to folks today than they did 5 or 10 years ago – but in terms of domain names I am not sure the learning curve ever really happened. Most business folks would have had their computer guys (or their webmasters) register their domain names. And to many the domain name is just an administrative internet name that is by all rights the companies being used every day with e-mail, business literature and website activity…
Not Sure The Learning Curve Ever Really Happened?
Based on the industrial age the internet is basically in the early 1800’s. In other words it is still “BRAND SPANKING NEW” – and there is so much learning (and changing) still going on in this industry. I know this because every single day I learn more about this industry and also realize how much I still don’t understand. But to me the most basic building block on the internet is the domain name. And one of the keys to understand the value of a domain name is to understand how people get to a domain name which in essence is your websites address.
In short – you get to a website thru a web browsers – you type in the URL www.takemethere.com – or you get there thru a search engine where you type your keyword search – or the visitor is delivered thru a referring link (advertising or strategic link exchange). That is it! Your web visitor has three ways of getting to you – Domain Name, Search Engine and Referring Link. The better your domain name the better shape you are in. If people remember your domain name they can go directly to your website – GREAT. If not they will look for you a on a search engine. Pending “their” search keywords (not yours) and the search engine’s algorithms the results for finding you may vary. And last there is referring links thru strategic links and advertising which can be very effective and of course come with cost.
No Worries – They Will Find Us On Google!
Oh YEH – No worries! If you know of a formulae to guarantee your ranking (positioning) in Google in the short term please let me know. If not then I think maybe we are starting to see to importance of the domain name. First and foremost your domain name is your primary web brand and one of the most significant extensions of your corporate brand. Frankly it is it and a bit from my point of view. Certainly not anything that I would leave to chance such as hoping the webmaster keeps the registration up to date. And that is probably one of the basics to start with in understanding your domain name. It is up for registration annually and it can be lost around 30 days after registration has not been paid for (It can also be registered up to 10 years). I cannot tell you how many companies have lost their brand domains by not understanding the importance and the process and/or relying heavily on a webmaster who probably didn’t get it either (or didn’t care). Having a good understanding of domain names is good corporate practice – end of story!
Ok – So Once A Domain Name becomes available again – Can you re-register it?
Here’s hoping – GOOD LUCK! Many things change quickly on the internet and the laws governing domain names are probably due to change one day (but currently it is so WIDE OPEN right now so possession is 100% of the law). The registrars that you have the domain name registered with has first right to do whatever they like with your domain name one it expires. That includes selling it to a higher (and eager bidder) – and don’t ever be fooled – Registrars are out to make as much money as they can. There are several companies that now offer a service to back order a domain name when and if the domain owner forgets or decides not to re-register. Usually in this case the domain name is sold to the highest bidder. The registrar HAS NO responsibility to inform the owner that their name is expiring. They will attempt to contact the primary contact (the Registrant) via e-mail but I would estimate that many owners simply are not listed correctly on their domain registration information. The registrar will send a renewal notification to the “registrants e-mail” – and that is it. IMAGINE LOOSING YOUR DOMAIN thru not understanding this process – you just wouldn’t believe how many companies have done this!
But It’s Not All Bad News – There is LOTS of opportunity with domain names
I think I have at least proven that the domain name is not to be put to far to the side of your business administrative tasks. But more importantly domain name(s) should not be an administrative task that “has” to be done once a year – but frankly domain names should be on your companies business development brains all of the time. Why – because domain names bring web traffic. And from what we understand domain names with keywords as part of that domain name may get up to 25% higher search engine ranking. That’s right – the better domain names your company has the more traffic that will come to your website and generally the more “qualified” traffic produces the best conversions and results for your website.
So why would you need more than one domain name?
That is a great question. Let’s start with the basics. Your company name is XYZ Company – so we have your company domain name www.xyz.com . It is on your letter head and business cards and your company employees use the domain for email. Your company’s website is www.xyz.com. Now – let’s take what the xyz company does – let’s say it owns and distributes Magic Brew as one of its product lines. Now with many folks drinking Magic Brew, and stores selling Magic Brew and supermarkets carrying Magic Brew one way to get more people to become more loyal to your product (or discover your product) would be to register the brand domain name www.magicbrew.com. Imagine how many people on the web would type this domain name directly (looking to find about Magic Brew) or going to a search engine and typing the keywords “magic brew”.
Let’s take it a step further – maybe we should register www.drinkmagicbrew.com which really has the keywords drink & magic brew (the domain name being suggestive and easy to remember). I call this a descriptive domain but it could also be a slogan for advertising purposes. Finally with a new summer advertising campaign in the wings we have a new marketing angle about Magic Brew called Health Benefits. Magic Brew of course has many claims to being healthy. So when the advertising campaign rolls out – instead of using a long URL link such as www.magicbrew.com/healthbenefits the company will use www.healthybrew.com – and route the visitor to a sub domain that is designed specifically to identify and market the health benefits of the drink and also linki to the primary brand website.
So now our company has its primary domain name, it has a great brand domain name for one its products, we have a domain name that is the company slogan and a domain name that is part of our upcoming advertising campaign. We have an account setup with a registrar – and we have 4 domain names in our portfolio. Generally your domain names will cost around $8.60 per domain per annum if self managed or around $35.00 per annum if the account is managed on your behalf. From an advertising expense point of view – you have spent $35.00 on your domains and you have the following domain strategy:
1. Company– www.xyz.com – Primarily serving customers and prospective outlets.
2. Brand – www.magicbrew.com – Promoting & marketing to outlets & consumers.
3. Slogan – www.drinkmagicbrew.com – Promote sales of products to consumers.
4. Advertising – www.healthybrew.com – Reinforcing benefits of using product.
Now this is an elementary example of using domain names but let’s just look at statistics over the next 12 months based on these domains and the traffic they may bring:
|Domain Name||Visitors (2007)||Conversions (‘07)||Visitors (2008)||Conversions (’08)|
|xyz.com||6,300 (unique)||73 (new outlets)||7,560 (unique)||170 (new outlets)|
|magicbrew.com||15,000 (unique)||ABOVE||30,000 (unique)||ABOVE|
|drinkmagicbrew.com||Launched in ‘08||13,700 (unique)||2,700 (coupons)|
|healthybrew.com||Launched in ‘08||6,300 (unique)||3,000 (coupons)|
In my mind EVERY company should have a domain strategy!
So now by looking at the graph above you can see the activity that has been created with the domain names that have become key players in product promotions and branding. If we simply decide our “xyz.com” is fine and we put all 3 other domain names as menu options (but not actual landing pages) we may not have had anywhere near the visitor volume we saw. Why – because web visitors are not going to dedicate time to “finding” our product. Searching a corporate distributor’s website for a brand is something most consumers aren’t going to do and the corporate distributor’s website is primarily designed to attract new outlets (not necessarily consumers) and at best direct consumers to outlets. With the additional 3 domain names we can see the way new consumers may find the product.
The product brand – www.magicbrew.com will have 2 types of visitors – those familiar with the product and those discovering the brand. They may very well discover the brand thru our slogan domain – www.drinkmagicbrew.com which promotes being cool and hip when you drink magic brew and then our advertising domain – www.healthybrew.com is focused on a totally different market segment – the health conscious that want to drink magic brew for its health benefits. Although all 3 of these domains focus on consumers it is clear that consumer demand is part of the process of creating new outlets (that hear from the consuming wanting the product and decide to carry the product).
In essence we now have 4 websites with these 4 domains. The additional domains can be as simple as a one page landing page (sub domain) that links to the details products or distributor website. From a search engine point of view each of these domains will establish a form of ranking based on the parameters of the search engines. And of course the conversions are seen in our graph. A coupon tracking system helps measure the responses of our slogan and advertising domains while our distributor and brand sites identify new outlets that came on board thru the website (initiated interest in the product). And according to our sample graph we had around 50,000 additional unique visitors with our new domain strategy. Imagine driving an additional 50,000 to your website that starts with a solid domain strategy and of course a great product!
Start small – but look into the future!
With the strategy described in today’s blog many a small business could state that we simply don’t have the current budget to develop the additional sub domains and launch the advertising campaigns. And my response to them is absolutely fine – but this is no way this should stop you from investing a small amount to secure these domain names that can be held by your organization until you are in a position to launch them. And the premise of waiting to register the domain names is simply ignorance. They most likely won’t be there when you decide it’s time to do this and even worst you will find some joker from the Ukraine that owns your product domain name. He will gladly sell it back to you for a hefty fee or you are faced with the heading into internet litigation which is currently the greatest black hole I have ever come across.
In other words the most important aspect today is securing your internet brands. With a good domain planning organization and a registrar account you can setup you domain strategy for the next 10 years and beyond and then when the time is right launch your websites and campaigns. Many folks today believe that building a website initiates the purchase of a domain name and frankly they would be wrong.
When you consider a domain name may be with your company for the next 100 years and how many websites you may redesign during that time it should be obvious what comes first. The next time your company has a business development meeting it may very well be a great time to ask the question “Do We Have a Domain Strategy?” and then let the planning begin!
Peter Beare – Webmaster
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Peter Beare is CEO of BeareWare, a Website Design & Development Company located just outside of Nashville, Tennessee. Since building his first website for a local sports club in 1998 Peter has been a webmaster. Over the years Peter’s duties with BeareWare have included strategic website planning, design and development, website marketing and sales, as well as database application programming & project management. But when all is said and done, Peter is still primarily a webmaster. And this is “Interview with a Webmaster.”