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Three Steps to Prepare Your Company's Brand for the New gTLD Expansion

by Frederick Felman  |  
July 23, 2012

In this article, you'll learn...

  • What top-level domains are and what they have to do with your brand's digital presence and strategy
  • Why you should review your company's domain management policies right now

Brand managers: You've been hearing about the generic top-level domain (gTLD) registration expansion for a while now. What are top-level domains, and what do they have to do with your brand's existing digital presence and strategy?

A top-level domain (TLD) is the portion of a website address that is to the right of the dot, such as .com, .net, .org, or .biz. Currently, we have only 22 top-level domains, but that number is set to grow substantially with the debut of more than 1,400 new TLDs starting in 2013.

In June, ICANN, the nonprofit responsible for overseeing the domain name system, released a list of some 1,900 applications for new TLDs, providing an early glimpse of which will be most popular. Some of those TLDs are hotly contested, such as .app, for which 13 entities applied. One small business applied for more than 300 TLDs, including .bargains, .discount, and .world. And, yes, someone thought of .sucks, with three companies vying to build a business around the term, evidently judging that many brands will value a central location for customer complaints.

So what should a digital brand manager do to prepare for this expansion? Let's look first at some of the potential challenges and benefits offered by the new TLDs and identify some guiding principles that will help you address them.

Potential Challenges—or Opportunities?

Do those new TLDs represent an opportunity for the brand to reinforce its digital presence or open up new possibilities? If you are in the footwear business, does it make sense to have a presence in .fashion, .style, or .shoes? What about the sporting goods manufacturer thinking about .sports, .basketball, or .golf? Does .shop or .sale make sense for retailers and e-commerce operations?

And, that's not counting the geographic TLDs, like .nyc, .paris, .tokyo, or .sydney. If your brand has a presence in any of those cities, does it make sense to register your brand as a domain in those TLDs?

Or are these TLDs just another headache in the making from cybersquatters who take advantage of brand names and scammers who steal brand-bound Web traffic? Currently, major brands dedicate more than 90% of their domain portfolios to defensive domain registrations. If even 20% of the new TLDs apply to your brand, you could be faced with a major expansion of the defensive portion of your portfolio, which could add a significant financial burden.

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Frederick Felman is the CMO of MarkMonitor, a brand protection company.

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