Domains names are at the heart of every business’s web presence. They define how companies are recognized online and reinforce their identities in a memorable way.
Domains serve as anchors for virtual storefronts, billboards for brands, and indicators of trusted resources. Protecting intellectual property, supporting new service and product launches, and boosting marketing campaigns are just a few of the many uses businesses of all sizes find for domains. U.S. eCommerce has grown quite a lot over the past few years, which serves as both an indicator of how web presence is increasingly more important than physical presence and of just how much domain names matter.
The problem, as anyone who has ever overseen a domain portfolio can attest, is managing those names.
When managing a domain portfolio, there are many technical considerations to ponder, such as understanding and using the Domain Name System (DNS), deciding who oversees the portfolio, and which stakeholders will undertake which duties. There are also financial impacts to consider and matters of corporate reputation at play, which make proper monitoring and maintenance of your portfolio essential.
But where do you begin when it comes to corporate domain portfolio management?
As the complications pile up, and further complexities — such as how the domain names intersect and interact with your existing brand names and corporate trademarks — develop, how do you get and keep a handle on everything? It all starts with a plan.
You should think of your domain portfolio as a living, breathing corporate entity. It should evolve with the times, adapting as the Internet namespace grows and changes. On a basic level, your strategy should address the following:
The first step is to complete a thorough domain asset review and inventory. Before you can do so, you’ll need to determine who is responsible for purchasing new domain names at your organization.
One of the biggest issues when it comes to domain name management is the fact that domains affect many different corporate stakeholders.
Your marketing department could be working on a campaign that requires a new domain name to correspond with a brand, product, or promotion. Your legal department may need a domain to match an existing or anticipated trademark. And your IT team will have networks and servers that need to respond to the name servers that will ultimately be put in place.
Getting these three perspectives aligned and sharing in the decision-making process isn’t easy because it often involves assembling a team of people who aren’t used to working together. Without a strong alignment, certain elements may fall between the cracks, creating redundancy or, worse, critical oversights with serious implications. Too many people getting involved often lends to assumptions that others will handle specifics that could get overlooked entirely.
If a corporation’s trademark and domain name portfolios aren’t managed by the same department, there also needs to be coordination between departments for consistency. This means you need to find all corporate entities that have previously registered domains, as well as those subsidiaries that have been acquired or sold over the years.
You may uncover domains that a subsidiary purchased, as an example. As part of your inventory, make a note of when the domains are up for renewal and which registrars were used.
Next, you should determine what your overall corporate objectives for your domain name collection will be and how far from these objectives you currently are.
If your company is an online retailer, you might want to have your names match your key product lines and brand names, particular geographic areas where your products are sold, or registered trademarks.
That last approach is complicated by the fact that the overall domain name space is more dynamic than the trademark space. Additionally, there is no central registry for domain names as there is for trademarks, and since a trademark does not guarantee you a matching domain name, you’ll need to keep careful track of domain availability. Bear in mind that not all trademark disputes resolve in favor of trademark holders, especially when it comes to newer domain extensions. According to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), cybersquatting cases are on the rise, so understanding which of your preferred domains and extensions are available and promptly securing those that are is essential.
Another key choice to make is deciding whether you will mostly be protecting your brands or promoting them.
An example of a protection plan is purchasing popular “legacy” top-level domains (TLDs) such as .com, .net, and .biz, to start with, along with “abuse” domain extensions such as .sex and .sucks, plus any common misspellings of your domain name. For example, if you mistype “googel.com” you will be brought to the correct Google search page because the company purchased this similar name.
A promotion-based plan would encompass a larger domain name collection and involve registering multiple spelling variations, creative spellings and abbreviations, shortened versions of your brand name (including creative conjugations), TLDs, and country code domains.
Having multiple registrars in control of domain ownership introduces some additional challenges for domain portfolio managers. First, domain transfer procedures remain seemingly complex and mysterious. The process of finding and fixing errors in the transfer process can consume a great deal of time and technical expertise. This includes obtaining the necessary auth codes to move a domain from one registrar to another and entering these codes correctly and in the appropriate places.
What about unavailable domains?
Here is a very typical situation. Let’s say your marketing department attempts to register a new domain name containing your company’s trademark. However, the domain is currently being used by a third party that appears to be selling the same goods as your company. After extensive research and efforts by legal counsel, it turns out that the domain name was registered for official company use by someone in one of your own offices. This brings up our next point:
What third-party uses or domain registrations could cause legal action from your company? Or what uses could cause your company to be named as a defendant in a lawsuit? The financial downside of these legal actions could be significant.
Corporations may and often do use multiple registrars (and therefore need to connect with multiple WHOIS sources) or hosting providers, making their domain portfolios harder to track across the business and its subsidiaries.
Using multiple registrars means that there needs to be someone keeping track of these domain renewals so the domains don’t expire without anyone being aware of it. Some of the world’s largest corporations have dealt with embarrassing and untimely expirations.
By transferring your domains to one registrar, they’ll be easier to keep track of and manage. At Register.com, we’ve got years of experience helping businesses and corporations with their domain portfolios. Contact our teams today to discuss how we can help you, too.