Domain name strategy – the missing link in online business


    by Stuart Fuller (CentralNic)

    Most companies have a portfolio of domain names but surprisingly few actually have a strategy on how to manage them. This often exposes organizations to brand damage, cybersquatting and misrepresentation online. This short article outlines the key things to take into account when managing a domain portfolio.

    What is a domain name strategy?
    Domain names form a crucial part of any company’s online go-to-market and brand protection strategy. A domain name strategy outlines types of names that should be registered and identifies gaps in the current portfolio as well as names that are no longer required.

    Create a domain name strategy
    A domain name policy needs to encompass the opportunities and threats that the organization faces online. The strategy should be reviewed and updated regularly to ensure it reflects corporate strategy and go-tomarket requirements. The strategy should be written in such a way as to ensure that all stakeholders understand which domain names should comprise the portfolio and identify who has the responsibility for approving and registering domain names within the organization.

    Evaluate your domain name portfolio against your strategy
    Businesses register many domain names to protect their brands and to increase revenue by driving traffic to their websites. At least once a year, businesses should review their portfolio against their domain name optimization strategy. Companies should use a classification system for all names. For example:

    • Mission critical domain names – defining key brands or resolving to critical websites
    • Commercial domain names – public-facing domain names that are used to identify strong market presence such as country code TLDs where there is a physical office or the region is considered to be a key market
    • Marketing domain names – short-term campaign related domain names
    • Defensive domain names – held by the company for the protection of the organization’s brands but do not have a revenue generating purpose

    Identifying the gaps in a portfolio
    A final element in creating a domain name strategy is to define how to deal with domain names that an organization should own but doesn’t. Undertaking a global availability check segmented by industry verticals and geography in which the organization operates will help determine gaps in registration. Use of a common classification system helps with classification. For example:

    • GREEN – already registered to the organization
    • AMBER – available to register
    • RED – registered to a third party
    • BLACK – registered to a third party and is being

    On-going management and optimization
    In order to maintain an optimized and easy-to-manage portfolio, companies should consider adopting the following guiding principles:

    • Register all domains in the name of one legal entity with a standardized whois entry
    • Consolidate all domain names with a single domain name provider to simplify domain name modifications and ensure consistency
    • Utilize your provider’s knowledge and expertise in policy creation, management and review
    • Implement domain monitoring and adapt your strategy to meet changing market trends and identify potential registration infringements
    • Monitor your competitors’ registrations to gain valuable competitive insights

    The future
    Until fairly recently, most companies considered their domain portfolio to be worth what they pay to maintain it. More recently however, organizations are considering the strategic value of a domain name based upon a ‘domain down’ scenario. This is where the domain fails to resolve to the correct website through either accidental or deliberate criminal action. Typically, domain down scenarios are calculated in terms of reputational damage to the brand or, in the case of retail websites, lost revenue. The Internet is going through its biggest change to the naming system since domain names were first released over thirty years ago. This has involved the introduction of over 1,000 new domain endings. Therefore, the need to have a clear policy for the management of a company's domain name portfolio has never been more important.