New Domain Names Offer Opportunities and Pitfalls

by Dave Clarke on February 24, 2014
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Didn’t get the .com, .net, or .info URL you wanted for your company’s website? Nearly half of U.S. small-business owners say they’re dissatisfied with their internet addresses, and slightly more than that say they’ve lost business because they didn’t get their first choice in a generic top-level domain name, a national survey shows.

If you’re among them, it’s time to stop complaining. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers in late 2013 began rolling out new gTLDs, also known as “name extensions.” That means you’ll soon have more than 1,300 gTLDs to choose from.

Some of these new extensions are geographic, such as .nyc for New York City. Others are industry-oriented, such as .florist and .management, or professional designates, such as .ceo. Still others accommodate foreign languages, such as the extensions added in Russian, Chinese, and Arabic characters.

Weighing the Options

Are these new gTLDs worth the price of registration year after year? Will your company stand out from the competition if, for example, you choose .build, .restaurant, .agency, or .marketing to follow your brand name instead of a more traditional extension?

Beth Somplatsky-Martori, a marketing consultant for Chief Outsiders, says the new extensions will provide small-business owners an opportunity to obtain more desirable domain names. “But, in this age of phishing and identity theft, consumers may be suspicious that the new domain names are not actual business sites,” she says.

A December 2012 study [PDF] shows that 61 percent of consumers believe a conventional .com-based URL is more likely to be genuine than a “brand” gTLD. The influx of new extensions also will make it easier to confuse two different businesses with the same prefix but different gTLDs, Somplatsky-Martori adds.

“Cybersquatting — defined as registering, trafficking in, or using a domain name with bad-faith intent to profit from the good will of a trademark belonging to someone else — will increase,” she says. “The introduction of gTLDs will most likely make employing a defensive strategy against cybersquatting, where the domain holder registers its domain name with all possible TLD extensions, cost prohibitive. As a result, companies will switch to a combination strategy of purchasing some gTLDs defensively and monitoring the balance.”

Planning Ahead

Going forward, Somplatsky-Martori advises small-business owners to think through their growth objectives for the next few years to determine whether they should reserve gTLDs now.

“Using one of the first batches of gTLDs introduced as an example,” she says, “a small business which plans to manufacture clothing may want to purchase a domain that is their brandname.clothing.”

And, finally, she says, “small businesses should also consider whether or not it is worth the price of registering their brand names with ICANN, which has established the first global trademark clearinghouse to protect trademarks by sending the registered company an alert if another entity tries to use them.”

Dave Clarke is a business writer for Intuit and is passionate about solving small business problems.

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