Domain Portfolio Management - Part 2

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In our last column, we began an exploration of the way in which we work with clients to properly manage their domain name portfolios. We concentrated on a quick overview of the various top-level domains (TLDs) that are currently available, and ranked those TLDs, or domain suffixes, in a hierarchy that we find most commonly works well for our clients and there online brand priorities.
 
Remember, this is only meant as experienced advice, and both the priorities that we have shared about specific domain suffixes as well as those we will share in this, Part 2, of our conversation around domain portfolio management are only a small part of your online brand defense strategy. An effective online brand defense strategy should be adapted for each organization’s own use depending on the market region (local, regional, national, or international) and a myriad of other factors that might include everything from the locations of international offices to the budget number set aside for domain renewals each year. In all cases, take insight from our approach and adapt it to fit, as that is what we do for our own clients.
 
Back to our task at hand—in Part 1 of our article, we built the vertical axis of the matrix that we will use to identify our domain portfolio. In this article, we will define the horizontal axis and show you a sample of the entire matrix.
 
Over time, we have developed a series of brand categories; similar to the way we grouped TLDs in Part 1 of this article. Listed in order of importance, these include:
 
Company Brand Domains
Obviously, the most important domains in your portfolio will be around your company brand. Where many people go astray in this area is not thinking beyond the largest font in your logo. For example, though it is obvious for Anheuser Busch to own ANHEUSERBUSCH.COM, it is also important for them to own ANHEUSERBUSCHCOMPANIES.COM (registered) and ANHEUSERBUSCHCOMPANIESINC.COM (currently available for registration). Registering both their legal company brand and the same combined with their incorporation status is important as it helps to avoid confusion around the brand. 

Acquiring various other TLDs around these domains is sure to be a requirement. Also, if your company brand includes more than one word, consider registering the brand separated by the only special character allowed in domain names, like a dash (e.g. ANHEUSER-BUSCH.COM [registered], ANHEUSER-BUSCHCOMPANIES.COM [registered], ANHEUSER-BUSCH-COMPANIES.COM [currently available for registration], etc.). Finally, if your brand includes a series of words and has become commonly known by your initials (not only within the organization, but externally), consider obtaining that domain as well. Wouldn’t you think AB.COM would be a pitch for you to purchase a tasty alcoholic beverage? Understandably, initials are going to be a tall order for many organizations due to the monetary value of 2- and 3- character domains names, but one never knows.
 
Company Brand Misspellings
In the heat of the moment, our fingers often get ahead of our brains during any feverish bout of research from keyboard. Be sure that you are considering common misspellings of your company brand as part of your domain portfolio. These should be considered as common mistyped misspellings, as well as spelling variations of your company brand and for variation of your brand during misreading or mishearing as well. This will assist in ensuring that your offline marketing campaigns (print and radio, for example) don’t suffer due to someone misunderstanding your web address. I’m sure there have been a fair number of “Did you mean: Anheuser Busch” messages resulting from misspellings pumped into a search engine. They really shouldgrab that AB.COM domain.
 
Service Marks and Trademarks
Products. Services. All of the things that fill up state-level fictitious name applications and federal patent and trademark applications should be considered. After all, you spent enough money with attorneys to ensure that no one else could use these names without permission. Why not spend a lot less money to ensure that no one else can use them online? Following our model to date, clearly it is important for AB to maintain all of their brands – from BUDWEISER.COM (obviously, registered) to WINTERSBOURBONCASKALE.COM (currently available for registration). Domain names related to these properties should be considered of utmost importance.
  
Service Mark and Trademark Misspellings
Similar to your company brand misspellings, be sure to lock in common misspellings of your service marks and trademarks. If someone accidentally enters BUDWISER.COM, should they still get carded? But, alas, Bill Bush of Drums, Pennsylvania doesn’t seem to be rending his domain BUSH.COM to Anheuser-Busch and, unfortunately, they have probably lost their opportunity to lock up BUCH.COM based on the sophistication of the site at that domain, which translated to German means “book” – this might just be the Amazon.com of Deutschland.
 
Company Brand Variations
Apply a similar strategy to your service marks and trademarks to the concept you have built on your company brand. In this scenario, you may also consider variations of the marks’ brand in conjunction with its product category. For example, owning BUSCH.COM secures your online brand; however, placing the site at BUSCHBEER.COM may get you stronger organic search rankings by embedding a keyword within the domain name. However, be sure that if you own BUSCHBEER.COM, as Anheuser-Busch does, that you at least take the time to configure it to 301 permanent redirect to the correct website. Otherwise, you’re protecting your brand, but placing roadblocks in your traffic flow.
 
Company Brand Variation Misspellings
A quick check of common misspellings of these brand variations may be in order as well. BUSHBEER.COM, like the BUSCHBEER.COM example above, may not be pointing anywhere (such a waste), and should be part of Anheuser-Busch’s domain portfolio management strategy. BUCHBEER.COM is still available if you have a use for it.
 
Campaign and Program Names
In addition to the domains around your company brand, service marks, trademarks, fictitious names, and all  of the variants and misspellings  of these , we suggest you consider locking down access to common marketing campaign or marketing program names that are in use. Would it be surprising to find out that you cannot surf to REALAMERICANHEROES.COM or even REAL-AMERICAN-HEROES.COM to find the archive of catchy AB commercials about all of our favorite real American heroes?
 
Keywords or Keyphrases
Finally, trailing our list of domain brand categories is the potentially never-ending, keywords and keyphrases category. Surely, if anyone should own BEER.COM, it should be the world’s largest brewer, correct? My apologies. Instead its owner chooses to remain unknown. However, from the phrase “Inquire about this Domain,” I’m sure the owner would consider offers. LIGHTBEER.COM? It’s the same boat: another generic landing page. ALE.COM? I suppose we could go on forever, but the value of keyword domains continues to grow over time. If the lucky individual who invested the $70 per year on BEER.COM way back at the dawn of Internet time, according to Estibot, sold it for a cool $7,000,000 USD in 2001 with an average number of monthly searches for the keyword at just over 16.7 million searches. I think this example speaks for itself on the common question “Why would someone register a keyword domain?”
 
So, these are the most common domain brand categories that we consider for our clients. These make up the Y-Axis of the matrix that we commonly build (see informational graphic). Clearly, even in our examples included here, it is obvious that one of the most important aspects of managing a domain portfolio is knowing when enough is enough. However, considering what a typical hourly legal fee is for defense of a service mark or trademark versus the relatively inexpensive cost of an annual domain name renewal, it may seem like some of the least expensive insurance coverage your organization may buy.  
 
The way that we manage this for our clients is simply by identifying quadrants within the matrix that make our clients comfortable with this aspect of their online brand defense strategy. Those domain brand and TLD combinations in the top, left quadrant of the matrix are the most critical and those in the bottom right quadrant are the least critical. In the infographic, you will see a typical view of the importance that we place within these quadrants, one (1) being the most critical and nine (9) being the least critical. Note the asterisk (*) in the Primary gTLDs / keywords & keyphrases quadrant, as we seldom place a value here simply because the value is entirely dependent on the quality of the keyword- or keyphrase-domain that you discover and/or can afford to acquire.
 
Check our next article to find out some smart thinking around how to go about acquiring domains that you would like to add to your portfolio and what you should be doing with these domains once you’ve snagged them.

 

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