Companies spend a lot of time and money to build a trustworthy and credible brand. But, as you likely know, there are a lot of different ways to lose trust with consumers. We’re going to begin the first of a two-part online brand protection series with domain ownership. But, before I get into brand protection, I’m going to start with the basics.
First, what is a domain? This video is an easy to understand explanation if you’re a beginner:
Next we’re going to talk about how to obtain domains. So, who buys domains? Really, anyone can. Generally, there’s nothing stopping anyone from buying a domain that is not already purchased as long as they have about $25. Who buys domains for your company? Well, that’s an operational decision. It could be you, or someone who has been designated responsible for the task. Many times it’s an IT person. In order to purchase domains, you must go through a registrar. One of the most commonly known registrars is GoDaddy, but there are many others. An unused domain (meaning one that is not purchased) is probably going to run you somewhere between $7 and $25.
Now that you have a basic knowledge of some of the terminology and how it works, let’s get started on brand protection online through domain ownership.
- Determine domain registration contacts.
When purchasing a domain, including managerial contact names is a requirement. In order to make sure your domain is properly protected make sure the owner of the business is the Registrant and the Administrative contact. If the owner is not the Registrant, anyone who works for the business could potentially take the domain with them at any point. 😮
Your company has been in business for a while and all of your customers know your domain – pepsi.com. One day, Fred the IT guy leaves the company. When he leaves, he takes your domain with him. Now you have no access to your domain and he doesn’t feel like handing it over, so you are forced to change your domain. Your website is the same as it was before, but now your domain to get to the site is: redwhiteandbluesoda.com.
This would be almost as confusing to your customers as changing your company name altogether. They would have no idea where to find you online.
So, whether you’re purchasing your domains for the first time, or doing a double check to ensure that it’s registered to the correct person, making sure you have the correct domain registrant is an essential step in ensuring your brand is protected.
- Identify a domain ownership strategy.
If you’re not starting from scratch, your company most likely already owns its company name as the domain (or a version of it). If you are starting fresh, your company name is a good place to start when brainstorming domains for purchase. Once that’s covered, an effective way to determine domains for purchase is to identify what’s most important to your company. Things that are usually most important to a company are: proprietary products, services, or programs the company created. To make this easier to understand, I’m going to demonstrate this using a hypothetical company as an example: Drinks For You.
Usually the first thing people think of when they think of domains is the company name, which is the easiest – so www.drinksforyou.com. But, there may also be proprietary or trademarked products or services your company has that you would want to include in your brand protection – for example sodaforyou.com or deliciouswaterforyou.com.
In addition, it’s usually a good idea to own all of the versions of your domain. Examples: drinksforyou.net, drinksforyou.biz, drinksforyou.info, etc. Larger companies will even buy negative versions of their domains, including things such as drinksforyousucks.com, so that someone else can’t buy it and start that page or website.
As I previously mentioned, if you buy a brand new domain, it could run you around $7 to $25. That means, however many domains you end up deciding to buy, you need to plan that amount into your yearly budget. However, if someone already owns your domain (or a domain you would like to have), you have two choices: 1. Buy it from them, or 2. Pick a new domain name. In the drinksforyou.com example above, someone already owns it but doesn’t have a website on it. That could mean they’re going to use it in the future or they might be squatting. Some people buy domains at the low $12 price and then resell them for a lot more. In this case, drinksforyou.com is currently being sold for $800. Depending on the domain name, or who is trying buy the domain, prices for domains can skyrocket. This blog has some useful info on how to take brand protection a step further by using trademarks and how it can help in the context of domains. The best way to see if a domain you want is owned is to go here.
Determining the correct domains to purchase is fundamental if you want to ensure your brand is fully protected online.
3. Track domain expiration.
We just talked about purchasing domains, now we’re going to talk about keeping them. Domains do expire and they do need to be renewed. It’s not just a one-time purchase. Usually, whoever manages your domains is also responsible for ensuring that all of the domains that have already been purchased get renewed.
The simplest way to do this is keep them in a spreadsheet that includes the expiration date, which makes it easy to review. You don’t want to end up with a Marketo situation on your hands. Nor do you want to lose all of the brand protection you’ve acquired simply because of operational lapses. Making sure this step is continuously completed is critical for success in brand protection.
Bonus pro tip: It’s a good idea to review the domains you own every time they come up for renewal. Blindly renewing them is not the best plan of attack. You may realize some are no longer relevant and can let them expire. This will save you time in the future and money in the present.
Hopefully these actionable domain ownership brand protection tips make you feel a bit more comfortable. If you feel like you need more guidance on how to protect your brand, check out part two of this blog on listings – coming soon!