As the new year begins, businesses are working assiduously to launch new initiatives, update policies and prepare for new product or service introductions. Unfortunately, far too many will proceed without first consulting those responsible for protecting the organization’s intellectual property or managing its Internet domains. The consequences can range from costly revisions of marketing materials to panic-driven domain registrations unrelated to any discernible online marketing strategies.
Even worse, many such companies – having faced similar circumstances in the past and responding with the same ad hoc domain registration strategies – are now saddled with bloated domain-name portfolios and lack either a plan or a methodology for correcting the problem. The upshot: online brand protection challenges, new legal concerns and growing consumer confusion.
Now is the time to carefully assess your domain management program and develop a comprehensive, well-thought-out protocol that considers the needs of the company’s legal, marketing and IT departments. Having a solid policy in place will help increase web traffic, brand awareness and consumer confidence. Moreover, it will lower costs in a variety of ways, including:
- Enabling companies to divest unnecessary domains from their portfolios;
- Helping decrease the legal costs associated with acquiring third-party domains; and
- Reducing SEO, SEM and PPC spends through proactive registration of applicable variations and misspellings.
How best to accomplish this? Here’s a simple yet effective approach to establishing a solid domain management program.
1. Assess and classify domains by brand and by geography
When moving to a new home, have you ever transported boxes from one garage to the other without checking to see if you still even want or need the boxes’ contents? A lot of companies have virtual garages full of domains they no longer need – domains that nevertheless are renewed annually with little or no thought. Often such domains don’t even resolve to an appropriate landing page, or are associated with outdated products or discontinued marketing campaigns. Before determining your domain needs, you first need to gain a clear understanding of your relevant brands, where they are registered and where they are marketed.
2. Prioritize your brands
Take inventory of your trademarks and service marks and then prioritize them into primary, secondary, or tertiary.
3. Prioritize your geographic markets
Confirm and prioritize your current geographical markets and identify potential future target markets.
4. Create generic whois templates
While you may need to create several of them (depending on the policies of the associated ccTLD), having templates for each will ensure easier registrations moving forward, while making renewal, transfer and modification efforts much more efficient in the future.
Now that you know what you currently have registered, assess how well that aligns with your priority marks and markets. Companies often discover they have obsolete domains, are over- registered in certain markets and under-covered in others.
Eliminate domains that do not support your priorities, acquire available domains that do, and investigate salient domains registered to third parties. Carefully consider common misspellings and search query domain registrations (brand + product such as www.citizenhawkbrandprotection.com). Update whois to reflect the new policy.
7. Ensure domains are resolving to the appropriate landing pages
At the very least, make sure they resolve to your homepage. The only non-resolving domains should those registered defensively (e.g., www.mycompanysucks.com).
Following these simple steps will form the foundation of an effective, cost efficient domain management program.