Why your company needs to secure business domain names nowThe number of domains you register will depend on the balance between your budget and the risk of a competitor registering your names
With more than 300 Internet domain name extensions already in use, businesses will soon be faced with a huge addition to that inventory. That will create more opportunities and more challenges for businesses of all sizes. It will also make it more important than ever for companies to plan their strategy for protecting their names.
ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) has thus far received about 2,000 applications and $350 million in application fees in the first round of a process to release more domain name extensions.
Factors like geographical location of customers, size of organization and budget all play a vital role in determining what domains a company chooses to secure. At the end of 2011, there were more than 225 million domain names registered globally. There are 21 gTLDs (generic Top Level Domains), including .com and .net. There are also more than 290 ccTLDs (country code Top Level Domains). Examples include .ca (Canada) and .de (Germany). Many of the ccTLDs are unrestricted and don't have presence requirements in order to register them. Some are used for "vanity" purposes and marketed as something other than for the country they represent. An example is .tv, which many people associate with "television" but is actually the country code domain for the nation of Tuvalu.
The number of domains you register will depend on the balance between your company's budget and the risks it faces of someone else registering its names and competing with it.
If your company is small and you don't plan on growing beyond your local area and don't offer products or services online, you'll likely only need your .com and .ca. But the more popular your brand, the more valuable your intellectual property, and the more likely someone else will try to profit from it in the wider world.
Here are five key guidelines to consider when determining your organization's domain needs:
1. If it's still available, get your .com
Representing about 100 million of the total 225 million domains registered, .com is still king; it's the most recognized domain extension in the world. If you're lucky enough to find your name(s) in .com still unregistered, be sure to register them immediately.
2. Register based on geographical location of customers and audience
It doesn't really matter where you're located, but the domains you register should depend on where your customers are. Most people prefer to buy local, pay in local currency and have products shipped locally to save on duties and shipping fees. That makes it critical for Canadian companies to have a .ca website.
To register a .ca, the registrant must meet Canadian presence requirements (e.g. the registrant must have a Canadian trademark, a registered Canadian corporation or partnership or be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident). Details on the Canadian Internet Registration Authority rules on Canadian presence requirements are available at http://cira.ca/assets/Documents/Legal/Registrants/CPR.pdf.
3. Protect other key extensions
Canadian organizations typically register .net, .org, .info, .biz along with .com. These extensions are open to anyone in the world to register, including your competition. If you have the budget to do so, I highly recommend protecting these and using them to drive traffic to your primary website.
4. Local search: optimizing for your own backyard
Local search is becoming increasingly important to online marketing and customer acquisition strategies. Think of the last time you searched for a restaurant or a plumber. You probably typed in the search engine "Vancouver downtown sushi restaurants" or "plumber in Burnaby, B.C." If the names are still available, consider registering the generic name of your service combined with the location(s) of your audience or customers, for example: Vancouversushi.ca or Burnabyplumber.ca. Forward these types of domains to your main website and take advantage of the website traffic they generate without having to pay separate hosting fees.
5. Protecting intellectual property
A company's goodwill and reputation are tied to its name. The importance of protecting your name(s) from the competition or cybersquatters that aim to profit from your goodwill shouldn't be overlooked.
Create a list of your company names, trademarks and brand names or product names, which are the most basic intellectual property assets a company has. You need to ensure all of these names are protected in every key extension you have decided on.
Think of what people pay for a premium coffee at Starbucks each day. One week's coffee budget can easily pay for a year's domain registration. In the large scheme of things, domain names are cheap and a fraction of the cost in terms of time, legal expense and a battered reputation if someone has your name and is using it to drive traffic to their website or posting objectionable material. For most businesses, a single lost customer each year could account for the price of multiple domain registrations. •
Top-level generic TLDs:
- aero (air-transport industry)
- asia (Asia Pacific Region)
- biz (businesses)
- cat (Catalan linguistic and cultural community)
- com (commerce but unrestricted/all uses)
- coop (co-operatives)
- edu (post-secondary educational institutions)
- gov (government of U.S.)
- info (informational sites but unrestricted/all uses)
- int (international organizations established by treaty)
- jobs (employment-related sites)
- mil (U.S. military)
- mobi (mobile uses)
- museum (museums)
- name (individuals)
- net (networks but unrestricted/all uses)
- org (organizations but unrestricted/all uses)
- pro (professions like legal, medical)
- tel (online directory or contact information; virtual business card)
- travel (travel industry)
- xxx (adult industry)
"Vanity" country code TLDs marketed for other purposes
- co (Columbia, marketed as shorter alternative for .com)
- tv (Tuvalu, but marketed as "television")
- fm (Federated States of Micronesia, but marketed as "radio")
- ly (Libya, but used for popular URL shorteners like bit.ly)
- ws (Western Samoa, but marketed as ".website")
- me (Montenegro, but marketed for individuals)
- cc (Cocos Islands, but used for "commercial companies" "community colleges" "creative commons" and more)