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Essential Read: Domain Name Strategy for Your Business

Domain Name Portfolio Strategy Planning

Written by Kellie Watson, Director ~ MarkIT Space

Updated and Republished on 12th September 2023

Originally published on Blogger on 19th March 2022

Tag

Domain Names

Careful planning is crucial when it comes to registering and maintaining a brand's domain names. Surprisingly, very few businesses have established a clear and consistent strategy for their domain portfolio. Developing a Domain Strategy should be among your foremost priorities when crafting a comprehensive digital marketing plan for your business.

Fear not! With over two decades of professional experience working with domain names, website development, and digital marketing, I'm here to walk you through the fundamentals in this article.

Don't Just Set and Forget!

You've acquired a domain name, whether recently or some time ago. However, owning a domain name doesn't mean you can forget about it.

Your domain name is the digital address that exclusively represents your business in the online world. It is a fundamental component of your online presence and digital communications, carrying a significance on par with your business name. To safeguard your brand, it's imperative to have a well-defined Domain Strategy in place.

Additionally, keep in mind that domain names serve not only as your website's address but also as the foundation for your professional email addresses. These email addresses are crucial for maintaining a cohesive and credible online presence. Choosing the right domain extension can help reinforce your brand identity, whether in website URLs or email addresses.

Help! What is a Domain Strategy?

A Domain Strategy is the continuous management of your domain portfolio to maintain stability and safeguard it against external threats. This involves ongoing assessment of potential opportunities and ensuring all your domain names remain current and registered. A well-crafted strategy is key to keeping your websites operational and reliable, boosting customer trust. Regardless of the scale of your online presence, every domain owner must implement some form of ongoing domain management to safeguard their brand.

A Domain Strategy is indispensable for brand protection. While it can become quite intricate for larger corporations with widely recognised brands, even smaller businesses should address the fundamental steps as part of their strategy. Here, we outline six essential steps to strengthen your brand within the framework of your Domain Strategy.

Two puzzle pieces connected together. One says “Planning, the other says “Strategy”

Step 1: Assess Your Current Domain Name Portfolio

To lay a robust foundation for your domain strategy, thoroughly evaluating your existing domain name portfolio is essential. Commence this assessment by ensuring that your domain name registrations accurately correspond to your brand and associated trademark registrations.

Additionally, identify any gaps in your domain coverage, paying particular attention to core brands, product lines, or trademarks that may necessitate equivalent domain name registrations.

As part of this comprehensive assessment, take note of the domain registrars where each domain is registered, including their respective expiry dates. Assess whether privacy protection or any other additional services are associated with these registrations, as these factors can impact your overall domain management strategy. Moreover, maintain consistency in registering your company's domain names, whether it involves selecting top-level or country-code extensions.

Lastly, monitor the domain name registrations for products or services no longer in use and confirm they will not be renewed. This not only streamlines your portfolio but also prevents unnecessary costs. By considering these essential aspects during your initial assessment, you'll be better equipped to fortify your domain strategy and optimise your online presence effectively.

Step 2: Develop a Hierarchy of Potential Domain Names

Constructing a hierarchy of potential domain names stands as a critical pillar in the realm of domain strategy. It provides the framework for building your brand's online identity and presence.

Prioritise Domain Names

Your business name should be at the top of your domain name portfolio hierarchy. Directly beneath it, place your core brand and the names of your main products or services. These are the foundational elements of your digital identity. Further down the hierarchy, consider listing secondary or lesser-known brands. Finally, explore the vast landscape of essential domain extensions and the realm of defensive registrations.

Consider Various Domain Extensions

Choosing the perfect domain extensions and implementing a vigilant defensive registration strategy are pivotal components of your overarching domain strategy. These domain extensions may encompass a diverse array of options:

  • Generic extensions such as ".com", ".net", etc.
  • Country-code extensions such as ".com.au", ".net.au", just ".au", etc.
  • Geographically-based extensions such as ".sydney" or ".melbourne".
  • Sector-focused extensions such as ".engineer", ".shop", ".clothing", etc.

Contemplate Phonetics

The auditory aspect of branding is equally vital. Contemplate domain names that resonate phonetically with your brand name. For instance, a company named "Wear Like New" could consider securing both WearLikeNew.com and WareLikeNew.com. Brands featuring numbers should delve into possibilities, too. A brand like "4 the Win" could explore registrations like 4theWin.com, FourTheWin.com, and ForTheWin.com.

Plurals and Hyphens: Cover All Bases

For brands with names in the plural form, embrace both singular and plural domain variations. Additionally, consider hyphenated versions of your brand name, as demonstrated by CircleLegal.com and Circle-Legal.com.

Defend Your Digital Fortress

In the realm of comprehensive domain strategy, strengthen your brand's digital fortress with defensive registrations. This entails securing domain names that prevent others from capitalising on your brand's popularity. It includes registering common misspellings of your company or brand names and terms or slogans closely associated with your business.

Account for One-Off Registrations

Don't forget to account for one-off registrations and their significance within your hierarchy of potential domain names. These are domain registrations linked to specific, short-term initiatives such as new product launches or marketing campaigns. While they may not be part of your core domain portfolio, they are essential in ensuring a unified and impactful online presence during these unique occasions.

One-off registrations fulfil multiple roles. They help create a memorable and dedicated online space for your campaign or product launch, making it easier for customers to find relevant information. Whether it's a special promotional offer, a product showcase, or an event landing page, these one-offs enhance the visibility and impact of your short-term initiatives.

Additionally, they prevent competitors or third parties from hijacking these domains during critical marketing periods.

 

Incorporating these domain name options into your hierarchy ensures your strategic domain approach stays agile and responsive to the ever-changing demands of your business. This adaptability safeguards your brand, maximises the effectiveness of your online campaigns, and positions you to seize opportunities while staying in tune with the evolving landscape of your industry and your customers' needs.

Step 3: Assess Potential Domain Names

As you delve into your domain strategy journey, it's time to refine your approach to potential domain names. Begin by segmenting your hierarchy of potential domain names into two distinct groups: those you already own and those you don't.

Your Existing Domain Names

Evaluate the domain names you've already registered. Consider their alignment with your brand's current identity and objectives. Are they still relevant to your business, products, or services? Are there any that may no longer serve a purpose and could be released or repurposed? Assess their performance, traffic, and any associated costs and renewal dates. This introspective examination helps you ensure that your owned domains remain valuable assets.

Unregistered Domain Names

The second group comprises of domain names you have identified but have not yet secured. Within this category, you can further categorise domain names into two subsets:

Domain Names Registered by Others

When exploring domain names already registered by someone else, it's essential to consider all available avenues to secure the domains that align with your brand and objectives. Begin by determining whether these domains are actively in use or potentially dormant.

If you identify a domain crucial to your brand strategy and is set to expire in the future, consider back-ordering it. Backordering allows you to secure a hold on a domain name once it becomes available for registration again. This can be a strategic move, especially if the current owner shows no interest in renewing it.

If negotiation with the current owner is necessary, approach it with a clear understanding of your brand's needs and the potential benefits of acquiring the domain. Weigh the costs, benefits, and legal aspects of pursuing such domain names, including factors like trademark considerations and domain name valuation.

While building your hierarchy of potential domain names, also consider contingency options. These alternative domain names should be thoughtfully selected to achieve similar branding objectives if the desired domain proves unattainable. This proactive approach ensures that you are well-prepared, supporting your domain strategy and maintaining a strong online presence regardless of the domain name outcomes.

Domain Names Available for Registration

Explore the domain names that are currently available for registration. This is an opportunity to be creative and strategic. Consider domain names that align perfectly with your brand and keywords relevant to your industry. Prioritise domain names that are memorable, easy to spell, and resonate with your target audience. Conduct thorough research to confirm their availability and secure those that complement your brand identity.

Step 4: Grow Your Domain Portfolio

Consider expanding your domain portfolio by acquiring available domain names. At the very least, register any available domain names that incorporate your brand name with the most common and appropriate extensions, such as ".com" or ".com.au" for generic and country-code top-level domains. However, to mitigate the risk of cybersquatting, you should purchase additional domain names you've identified from your hierarchy, working from the top down.

Cybersquatting poses a significant threat to your brand image and reputation and your business's financial stability. While domain name registrations may not entail substantial expenses, the time and costs of pursuing legal actions against third parties can be considerable. Allowing such sites to operate without challenge can lead to revenue loss and damage your brand's integrity.

By thoroughly evaluating potential domain names across these categories and strategically expanding your domain portfolio, you will optimise your domain strategy. This approach ensures that your portfolio aligns with your evolving business goals and branding objectives.

Step 5: Beware of Domain Squatters

Within your hierarchy of potential domain names, it's crucial to investigate the websites associated with domain names already registered by others. These domains may belong to legitimate competitors or be in the hands of domain squatters whose primary objective is to hinder others from acquiring the domain. Domain squatters manifest in various forms, including:

  • Typosquatting: This involves purchasing domains with typographical errors, such as "linkdin.com" instead of "linkedin.com." Often, typosquatters seek to exploit user mistakes and may create phishing sites to obtain user information or distribute malware.
  • Gripe Sites: Gripe sites are platforms designed to ridicule individuals, entities, politicians, corporations, or institutions. Notably, the introduction of the ".sucks" generic top-level domain extension has provided a new avenue for these sites. Gripe sites aren't always illegal and can serve as forums for dissent or criticism. In many cases, trademark holders have faced challenges against gripe sites, as they often fall within the realm of protected freedom of speech. However, a defamation case may hold merit if a gripe site engages in defamatory content.
  • Cybersquatting: Cybersquatters aim to profit from companies that have not yet registered a domain matching their brand or core offering. Their strategy involves registering domains with the intention of later selling them to the respective company at a premium. The proliferation of numerous generic top-level domain extensions has opened new avenues for cybersquatters to exploit.

Given the numerous generic top-level domains available, brand owners may face significant costs in protecting their interests against domain squatters. While purchasing domain names back on a case-by-case basis is an option, it can be financially burdensome. Therefore, vigilance in monitoring and addressing potential cybersquatting threats is essential to safeguard your brand and online presence.

Step 6: Maintain Your Domain Portfolio

Few things are more disheartening than losing control of a domain you've invested in for several years and finding yourself compelled to pay an exorbitant amount to a reseller or even a competitor to regain it. To safeguard against such scenarios, it's crucial to proactively manage your registered domain names and stay vigilant regarding their expiry dates.

Here's how to effectively maintain your domain portfolio:

  1. Keep a Comprehensive Record: Maintain a detailed record of all your registered domain names, including their registration dates, expiry dates, and renewal costs. Utilising a spreadsheet or domain management software can help you stay organised.
  2. Set Reminders: Establish a system for reminders well in advance of domain name expiry dates. This ensures that you have ample time to renew them without disruption.
  3. Auto-Renewal: Consider enabling auto-renewal for your domains through your registrar. Auto-renewal automatically extends the registration of your domain names, providing peace of mind that they won't expire accidentally.
  4. Regular Audits: Conduct periodic audits of your domain portfolio to assess which domains are still relevant to your business and branding objectives. This helps in deciding whether to retain, renew, or let go of specific domain names.
  5. Legal Compliance: Comply with legal regulations and guidelines related to domain ownership in your region. Be aware of domain squatting practices, and take necessary precautions to protect your brand.
  6. Stay Informed: Keep up-to-date with industry trends and changes in domain regulations that may impact your portfolio.

Maintaining your domain portfolio diligently assures you retain control of your valuable online assets and avoid unexpected losses or disputes. This proactive approach safeguards your investment and the integrity of your online presence.

Two women discussing their domain strategy

Consider Hiring a Strategic Domain Manager

For many business owners, managing domain names can become a time-consuming task. While selecting a domain name is typically one of the initial steps in establishing a business's online presence, ongoing domain management can be complex, especially in a rapidly evolving digital landscape.

To navigate this domain world effectively and ensure your brand remains protected, consider enlisting the services of a strategic domain manager, such as MarkIT Space. We offer a wealth of expertise and can be entrusted with overseeing your domain portfolio.

By partnering with a domain manager, you can benefit from:

  • Regular Updates: Stay informed about approaching domain expiry dates and opportunities for acquiring new strategic domain names that align with your business goals.
  • Cybersquatting Prevention: Protect your brand from potential cybersquatters who may attempt to capitalise on your online presence.

 

Following the steps outlined in this guide lays the foundation for a Strategic Domain Management Plan. If you have further inquiries or seek more information, don't hesitate to leave a comment or reach out to MarkIT Space.

Your online presence is a valuable asset, and with expert domain management, you can confidently navigate the digital landscape.

If you'd like to discuss how MarkIT Space can help manage your Domain Name Portfolio, send us a message on Facebook:

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