Domain names have been at the forefront of the digital experience for 20 years. They provide the real estate for businesses to build their online presence and provide doorways for their customers to find them.
Now more than ever, choosing which domain names to own is a complicated and critical task for startups and seasoned businesses alike. This complexity can be attributed to the fact that most dictionary words in .com have been taken: According to the latest figures from Verisign, close to 130 million .com domain names are already registered.
To add to the confusion, the internet space now has hundreds of new generic top-level domains, also called gTLDs. As we broaden from .com, .org, .net and .co.uk to .art, .blog, .google and .walmart, we open the doors to many new opportunities.
New gTLDs are in their infancy, and we’re just starting to see their adoption take hold. Undoubtedly, .com is still king, and if you can secure your .com variation, you should do it.
But over time, new gTLDs are expected to become more relevant and could perhaps change the way that consumers globally seek out and consume content online. When well-chosen, domains can be sticky and memorable. A fine jeweler who chooses .diamonds makes an instant connection with prospective clients. Just one simple extension can speak loudly as a branding vehicle.
Some people and businesses are purchasing names in these new domain name extensions in hopes of future paydays, but others are interested because new gTLDs are hyper-relevant to certain verticals. For example, it would make sense to the customers of a store that sells dog-related products to use a .dog domain name. Just look at the designer pet products company Zee.dog, for example.
Similarly, a business that focuses on providing care to others may want a .care domain name. Dedicated Senior Medical Center, which owns multiple senior facilities, chose to register, use, and advertise www.dedicated.care.
Neither of those businesses could have registered the .com variation without first acquiring it from the existing owner, and so the new gTLDs presented opportunities for them to acquire both cost-effective and more relevant names online.
Choosing wisely -- and early.
What holds companies back from pulling the trigger and buying the right domain names today? In some cases, it’s a matter of oversight. They simply don’t know which ones to buy or perhaps haven’t even thought about the name being available until after the brand is selected or the startup decides on its company name. No matter the reason, if you wait to purchase the name you want, it will typically only get more expensive the longer as time passes.
The goal of every small business or startup should be to secure the most relevant domain names early on in the process of building the brand. This includes vertical-relevant new gTLDs and investing in the right .com, even if it means spending $500, $5,000, or $50,000 for the right name. Here are three keys to selecting domain names in a changing internet environment:
1. Investigate new gTLDs focused on a singular marketplace.
Tailored domain name extensions and variants are rising, but that doesn’t mean companies should register all the options. Founders should actively investigate and register with those extensions that make sense, focusing on their core offering.
For example, a new venture funded cash-back company DOSH launched its website as DOSH.cash. Acquiring Dosh.com should be something that the company seeks to do sooner rather than later. Dosh.com does not appear to be used today and perhaps could be purchased for a reasonable sum. While the .cash version is hyper-relevant to its business, having both that and the .com would help to protect and promote the company’s brand online.
2. Purchase a .com.
From a broad consumer perspective, .com remains the gold standard. Therefore, startups should consider owning the .com variation, as well as relevant new gTLD extensions. It may mean using a portion of one’s hard-fought startup capital on a domain, but it will be well worth it to do sooner as opposed to later.
Just look at the previous example of Zee.dog. While the .dog domain successfully captures the company’s core value and tone, the website still redirects to a .com address. This rewards the team with the benefits of the better-known address while retaining the catchy .dog name.
3. Work with a valuation company or third party if necessary.
Want a certain domain name? Resist the temptation to approach the domain name owner as yourself; instead, find an intermediary. Many domain owners are professional investors, and meeting them on their playing field makes the most sense. Working with a partner that understands the art and science of domain name negotiations can save you time and financial resources.
In the coming years, these new gTLDs will likely become more commonplace, and foresight will have its rewards. To separate yourself from the competition, think to the future. Your business’ success could be on the line.