Rebranding Considerations: Can Your Company Benefit from A New Top-Level Domain?

For a long time, the only top-level domains available to private individuals and companies were .com, .net and .org. A “land rush” to grab up these valuable domains led to pretty much every term that would directly relate to your product or service being taken either by speculators or by one of the largest companies in that particular industry before the end of the 1990s. Unless these entities forget to renew their annual registration and you are right there waiting to pounce on it, there’s no way to obtain valuable domain names like “insurance.com” or “internet.com” without shelling out millions of dollars — if they’re even available for sale.

So most businesses have typically settled for a .com that is some permutation of their name. Which, for practical purposes, is usually just fine in terms of visibility and attracting search traffic. This isn’t without casting a longing eye at some of those valuable search-friendly top-level domains that are out of reach, however. ICANN, the organization responsible for doling out and managing all these domain names, certainly hasn’t let this desire slip by their notice. To that end, in recent years they have been gradually approving new top-level domains that replace the traditional .com addresses with an industry-relevant term; things like .audio, .cooking and .dating, just to name a few examples out of the over 1,000 varieties that are presently available.

Though just about everyone anticipated The Great Internet Land Rush #2 when these domains became available, surprisingly this didn’t really happen. Established companies have been hesitant to move out from their established territory, and also have had concerns about having to register a wide array of domain names to protect their brand. This means that there is still plenty of room for even small companies and individual entrepreneurs willing to stake out a claim in these new spaces. But is it worth the investment? 

One major factor to consider with your desired industry or product term is whether ICANN has placed restrictions on who is allowed to register for it. The majority of these new domain names are first-come first-served with no special requirements to register. Some do require you to demonstrate that you are a credentialed or established member of that industry, however, and also require that content at that domain stays relevant to that term. For example, the .aero name is only available to established companies in the aerospace industry. Likewise, a company must verify to ICANN that it is has a legitimate presence in the architecture industry to get a .archi domain. Content restrictions are also present in some cases. One example is the .lgbt domain, which can be pulled from an owner if the content at the domain is determined to be abusive, threatening or disparaging to the LGBT community.

Another major factor to consider is the actions of parties that have already established a presence within your desired domain. One of the factors adding to hesitancy to move away from .coms is that a significant portion of the early adopters of alternate domains have turned out to be scammers and hackers. The networking company Blue Coat conducted a study of bad actors in new domains that is very much worth looking at before pulling the trigger. Among the domains that are most rife with malicious behaviour include: .science, .review and .work.

Given all this, these new domains don’t represent the sort of no-brainer purchase that obtaining a desirable .com would, but they do represent a potentially lucrative opportunity for the right industries. If you’re simply unable to get a .com that you’re happy with, a .net address is still the best place to look for an alternative; though .biz and .info were specifically created to address the problem of .com addresses becoming overloaded, they still have something of a reputation for spam.

If you’re considering giving your brand a change-up, contact us at McAllister Marketing for a free no obligation consultation.

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