Today, harried law school applicants looking to meet the March 1 deadline for law school applications have been navigating to LSAC.org, home to the Law School Admissions Council, only to be met with this page:
Rather than this one:
The website has experienced intermittent problems today, frustrating visitors and undercutting the reputation of the LSAC as applicants take to social media platforms to vent.
This is a prime example of why having a strong, stable domain name strategy - one that ensures that your company delivers consistent, expected, and authentic content to its online audiences – is critical. Failing to provide your services through a reliable, online storefront has very real consequences, as LSAC and law school applicants learned the hard way.
Veteran California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein has been a staunch activist against assault weapons throughout her tenure on Capitol Hill, but a domain name featuring her name will soon tell a different story. Dimitrios Karras, the CEO of the California gun parts and accessories store Ares Armor, registered SenatorFeinstein.com and will use the site to promote gun rights, reports The Daily Caller.
The basic page already features articles supporting gun rights and links to petitions to charge Feinstein with treason, but the headline suggests that more content is coming, reading "COMING SOON! Senator Feinstein's Biggest Fan Page!" Elsewhere on the site, Karras says "gun owners strike back," filling what he thought was a void for opponents of Feinstein whose comments on official Facebook pages were often scrutinized.
Karras calls the registration and counterintuitive use of Feinstein's name "funny" and "an entertaining thing," suggesting levity, but it's clear that the matter is important to him. His business is based on the firearms industry, and new legislation against assault weapons, as Feinstein has promised, could affect his livelihood.
Karras registered the page in early January, along with domain names related to other politicians, including California's other Senator, Democrat Barbara Boxer. Because he is using the site as a gripe site and not assuming Feinstein's likeness, he is within his legal rights in terms of domain name ownership, and he sees this as a way to bring attention to the issue and allow both sides to discuss the issues openly.
This, of course, is not the first time someone has used a politician's name to voice a contrarian point of view, but Karras's move is especially relevant given the increased attention that firearms legislation is receiving following a spate of gun violence in 2012. His ultimate vision for the site remains to be seen, but Feinstein could have avoided this situation by proactively registering this intuitive domain name.
New York-based startup Artsy has garnered attention from the media and investors for its Pandora-esque artwork discovery engine, but now issues with its Syrian domain name are causing the company problems. In the midst of the violent conflict in Syria, the company's principle domain name has suffered outages, and on Friday, Artsy announced plans to move operations to Artsy.net.
Founder Carter Cleveland had to endure a lengthy legal and governmental struggle to use the .SY extension, the country code assigned to Syria, to begin with. As detailed by TechCrunch, Cleveland was represented by a Syrian law firm in the country to help him deal with changing regulations and red tape from abroad.
In a press release issued Friday, Artsy explains that the company initially chose Art.sy, "because it is the shortest spellable English language domain that begins with the word 'art.'" The catchy name and simple domain name attracted media attention and helped grow the Artsy brand.
Now, however, Artsy might suffer from having chosen a domain name that was better for branding than operations. The Syrian extension brought Artsy significant attention, but it ultimately proved unreliable. With hundreds of new gTLDs on the horizon this year, reliability will be paramount. New gTLDs will present unprecedented domain name branding opportunities, but that is ultimately moot if they aren't stable.
Interestingly, Artsy.com is currently listed for sale by Domain Brokers, and it seems that it would be a wise investment for a company by the same name that exists solely online, especially after having to shutter Art.sy. Compete data shows that Art.sy hit a high of approximately 21,000 unique visitors in October, while Artsy.net is not even listed on the site. Artsy.com it should be noted, pulled just over 1,500 unique visitors in November, significant for a parked page.
For now, it appears that Artsy will exist solely on Artsy.net, but it will be interesting to see if the company ever purchases Artsy.com. How this situation will affect Artsy's traffic and business, if at all, remains to be seen, but it should at least drive some new traffic to Artsy.net.
We talk a lot about domain name sales, but what about actual name sales? One Florida man decided to link the two by auctioning his last name off to the highest bidder for a full year. Jason Sadler, who owns and operates a successful marketing firm through which companies pay him to wear their names and logos on t-shirts, took personal branding one step further when he sold his last name to Headsets.com for $45,500 for the year.
On January 1, he will legally change his name to Jason Headsets.com, a move that he has documented in detail on his website (where he also explains that he will donate a portion of the proceeds to charity). He hosted the auction and chronicled the process, which resulted in bids from 25 different companies, on BuyMyLastName.com. Ultimately, Headsets.com and PawnUp.com duked it out until the final moments of the auction, until the former won the bid.
Mike Faith, CEO of Headsets.com (which sells, you guessed it, headsets for telephones and other devices), explained to CNN Money that the decision to participate in the auction was an easy one. Calling the purchase a "one-year inexpensive gamble," he said that $45,000 is "not expensive for the marketing value," considering that Faith's company generates $30 million in sales each year.
The sale and the press it has already generated will surely result in additional visitors to the company’s website. The sale involves very little work for either party and is another example of creative marketing of domain names that could inspire similar stunt marketing by other firms.
Financial website Forexpros.com has purchased Investing.com for $2.45 million and rebranded itself under the new domain name, as TechCrunch reports. The sale of Investing.com makes it the second largest known purchase of a single domain name this year, after CardLab's $4 million deal for GiftCard.com.
Forexpros, based primarily in Europe and the Middle East, describes its vision for Investing.com as a "one-stop shop for financial traders and investors around the world." The company looks to use the intuitive, generic domain name to increase traffic and attract Internet users with mostly free content that might otherwise be behind paywalls on competitors' sites.
The sale of Investing.com ranks as the 26th most expensive domain name sale on record, and it should come as no surprise that the majority of domain name sales that came in above it were for generic terms as well. Of the top 25, only FB.com, purchased by Facebook for $8.5 million in 2010, has a brand connotation, proving that in the world of domain name sales, strong generic domain names continue to nab top dollar.
When used correctly, generic-term domain names can be extremely valuable for companies in terms of branding, traffic, and revenue. Investing.com is already up and running with extensive content, and time will tell whether or not Forexpros' big purchase will pay off.
Most observers probably consider Old Spice's "Believe in Your Smellf" ad campaign to be a success. In the patented Old Spice tradition kicked off by the “Man Your Man Could Smell Like” ads, these spots have driven buzz on social media and clocked millions of YouTube views. But if you consider the ad campaign from a domain policy perspective, there have been a number of missed opportunities to further capitalize on this buzz to drive consumer engagement.
The primary faux pas came on the part of Wieden+Kennedy, the ad agency behind the campaign. The agency owns the domains Smellf.com and BelieveInYourSmellf.com, but isn't doing anything with them. Wieden+Kennedy clearly took the time to acquire the domains, but neither one resolves to a working website.
On the most popular social media sites, the agency doesn't appear to own any handles related to “Believe in Your Smellf” or “Smellf.” The “Smellf” username across Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter is owned, closed, and suspended, respectively. “BelieveInYourSmellf” is too many characters to be a Twitter username, but is still available on both Facebook and YouTube.
Considering its pedigree and size, Old Spice’s parent company Proctor & Gamble should have a formal domain policy in place. The bottom line is that Proctor & Gamble should own the domains associated with its product's ad campaign, and in this situation, they do not. A formal domain policy would help the company avoid situations like this, increase efficiency, and help Proctor & Gamble take all of the opportunities that this campaign presents. Should the company stop working with Wieden+Kennedy, it should make sure that it has the domain names in its own name.
Another issue is the non-use of the aforementioned domain names. Ideally, the sites would host content related to the "Believe in Your Smellf" campaign, but they should, at the very least, redirect to OldSpice.com. Social media pages should follow the same guidelines. YouTube.com/OldSpice is a popular, active channel, and if Proctor & Gamble doesn't want to divert traffic from that page, it should simply redirect YouTube.com/Smellf, which comes up as a "closed" page.
All companies should have an established, formal domain policy to prevent situations like this one. In order to protect their trademarks and brand reputations, companies must ensure that they own all relevant domains. Otherwise, they are susceptible to both cybersquatting and missed opportunities for both consumer engagement and customer conversion.
I have a confession to make. I’ve never read a comic book. I’ve flipped through the pages of graphic novels once or twice out of curiosity, but growing up, I was way more interested in coming-of-age novels about slightly awkward teenage girls than I was in picture books about dudes in spandex. You can probably imagine why.
What’s weird about my utter disinterest in comic books is the fact that I absolutely LOVE movies (and the occasional TV show) based on comic books. I grew up on Batman movies and am not ashamed to admit that I adored the Adam West TV series as a kid. And I’ve been delighted at the recent onslaught of superhero movies over the past few years, most recently The Avengers and all the movies that led up to it. I’ll probably be seeing The Amazing Spiderman this weekend, in fact.
So you can see how my interest was piqued when I saw a post on the Unleash the Fanboy blog describing how Marvel has registered a handful of domain names referencing upcoming movies – including some that, honestly, I don’t even recognize (who is Thanos? Seriously, someone explain), but others for movies I am seriously looking forward to seeing. Many of these movies, however, are in the very nascent stages of script writing and likely won’t be arriving at theaters for years.
Right now, Marvel is redirecting most of these domains back to its homepage at Marvel.com. So what does it accomplish by registering these domains so early? Aside from stoking the fan fire and building buzz around future movies, Marvel is also ensuring that down the line, when the plans for these movies are more concrete, the company won’t have to worry about securing the domains. If Marvel waited until the movies were already well into production (and thus all over the media), it would run the risk of losing out to squatters or domain speculators, who may in turn try to charge Marvel a high fee to sell the domains.
Even if your brand isn’t in the business of producing blockbusters, there are lessons to be learned from Marvel’s strategy. If you’re launching an important new product or service, it pays to reserve corresponding domain names early – that way, you have them for when you’re ready to use them. On the flip side, if your company typically attracts a lot of media scrutiny and you want to keep a new product or service under wraps, it may be wise to register the domains under a privacy registration and redirect them to unrelated content such as a blank page. That way, you may be able to throw inquiring minds off your trail.
Meanwhile, I’ll be counting down the days until Thor 2 comes out.
Today, FairWinds released an update to its 2008 Verizon Case Study. Back in 2008, we projected that our work to improve Verizon’s domain name portfolio would drive over 3 million visitors to the company’s websites and save Verizon over $1 million.
After revisiting the data this year, it turns out that those original projections were a bit low. In reality, we helped Verizon attract over 93 million visitors to its sites over the first three years (that’s an average of 31 million visitors per year), and drive an additional 321,000 online sales annually, which translate into millions of dollars in revenue for Verizon.
How did we do it? We took a three-pronged approach to make Verizon’s domain name portfolio as lean and efficient as possible. First, we cut out all the low-quality domains that were costing Verizon money but not driving visitors or otherwise contributing to its business. Then, we identified and recovered key domain names that the company did not already own. Finally, we helped the company redirect its domain names to the relevant content that users expect to find when they type those domains into their browsers.
But the best part of the work we did with Verizon was helping to change the company’s approach toward its domain name portfolio. Verizon regularly evaluates its portfolio to make sure that it is not carrying dead weight, and approaches the registration of new domains with a critical eye, always asking whether the domain will improve its online business. Ultimately, Verizon is able to provide its audience with safer online experiences that deliver relevant content, and increased its revenue in the process.
Great news here at FairWinds – we recently acquired the domain name DomainStrategy.com. For the time being, we will redirect the domain to this site, DomainNameStrategy.com.
We were thrilled to get the domain DomainNameStrategy.com back in 2008 for our blog because it describes perfectly the topics we discuss here. That makes it easy for readers to remember, and therefore easy for them to find us. We also had a great deal of success in getting the blog to rank highly among searches for “domain name strategy” and related terms. In all, having a keyword-rich domain name has really paid off for us. Now that we have an even shorter domain pointing into the site, it will be easier for readers to direct navigate to our blog, since they will have less to type in. And it will hopefully give us the chance to attract some new readers among people who decide to type in DomainStrategy.com looking for information on domain name strategy.
Last Thursday marked FairWinds' three-year anniversary. Since I was on vacation last week, I had some time to think about our business, the marketplace, and how both have changed and evolved with the moving Internet landscape in the last three years. What kept coming back to me was a statement made by one of our clients – FairWinds is a game changer.
While I don’t often like to blog about FairWinds in a pro-service or pro-company manner, in looking back on what we’ve achieved and where we all still need to go – I felt that this was one of those times that I should.
We founded FairWinds because, for too long, brand owners had to rely on the only available option for domain guidance and had reactive domain strategies and domain programs that were viewed as cost centers. Three years in, even with operations and offices across the US and in Zurich Switzerland, new services, additional companies being formed under FairWinds, and CADNA’s growth and success, I’m still concerned that many brand owners are still missing out on the basics. While it is clear that our efforts through FairWinds and CADNA have changed the domain space forever and have enabled our clients to save and make tens of millions of dollars through the domain name space – more can be done.
Domain names are important–more now than even just three years ago. In fact they may be the MOST important part of a company’s Internet strategy. With over 40% of all Internet traffic coming from domain names and the address bar, tapping into this is not only wise–it is essential.
Our success and work for clients such as Verizon, The Gap, Bacardi, Xerox and many, many others, speaks for itself. All of our clients work with domain registrars, outside counsel, and marketing agencies for the execution of different aspects of their Internet program. Yet they choose to partner with FairWinds in order to reach new heights online and establish market-leading domain programs.
Even companies who have yet to work with us derive value from our initiatives and our work. CADNA, the leading global voice in the fight against cybersquatting, is making the name space safer and less costly for all businesses and consumers.
Some clients may choose to work with us because of our objectivity, or our expertise, or for our leadership as with CADNA or ICANN, but at the end of the day – companies work with us because we are simply the best at what we do. We are singularly focused on the domain name space and do not let domain fulfillment get in the way.
While the formula is not overly complex— register the right set of names; only enforce names that truly count, pair names with content, and invest time and resources into using the address bar as THE vehicle for online visibility —the key to changing the game is partnering with proven leaders and experts who can transform the domain program into one that creates value for the company. Domain names are not just moderately valuable; they are incredibly valuable. They require the focus of industry veterans who understand how to ensure that brands are effectively harnessing that value.
It's not ok to simply maintain the status quo. Partnering with other players in the space who dabble a little in a lot of things cannot produce results that are comparable to those that FairWinds consistently achieves. The wrong partners will not only stagnate a brand’s online growth, they can actually hurt the business by wasting time and money, diluting brands, and ultimately costing the company sales.
I encourage those of you who believe it is time for the game to change at your company to give us a call. We can make it happen. No one else can.