In today’s internet era, it’s no secret that online presence is a critical part of any brand’s marketing strategy. And its importance is growing – a recent Nominet survey found that within five years, the majority (52 per cent) of British consumers think that online presence will be the single most important asset to a brand, ahead of its logo, brand name or even physical presence (e.g. shop front or office).
With this in mind, business leaders, entrepreneurs and marketing managers need to stay up to date with the latest changes within the domain industry, in order to target and grow their customer base. And this year, several major changes to the online world that marketers should be aware of are taking place.
New shorter .uk web domains (without the ‘co’) have been launched. For the first time, people are now able to register a domain such as ‘www.moreaboutadvertising.uk’, alongside existing options such as ‘www.moreaboutadvertising.co.uk’. This is the biggest shake up to the .uk namespace since it began.
As well as this change, over a thousand entirely new generic top level domains (gTLDs) – including the likes of .bbc, .cymru and .wales – are set to hit the market, with some already available.
What do these changes mean for businesses and marketing online, and how can you prepare?
What’s changing in the UK domain space?
From June 10 .uk web domains (without the ‘co’), meaning you can now register ‘www.yourname.uk’, became available alongside existing options such as ‘www.yourname.co.uk’. Separately, ICANN, the global body that oversees internet domain names, is progressing applications for new generic top level domains (gTLDs) – a new set of internet address endings such as .shop, .berlin, or .bbc – some of which have already launched.
What are the different options available with new top level domains?
New gTLDs generally fall into five categories – generic, geographic, brand, IDN and community. Generic domains include .shop or .bank; geographic domains represent cities or areas such as .wales or .london, while branded domains are exactly as they sound – the likes of .nike or .google. IDN stands for Internationalised Domain Names, including non-latin scripts, and community domains include .islam and .kids. Some are on the market, some are open for pre-registration, and hundreds more will launch over the next year.
Which domain should I choose?
Ask yourself what signals you want to send your customers and prospects. If your customer base is largely in the UK, it’s worth noting consumer polls show 59% of Brits prefer to buy goods or services from a British supplier if possible, and three-quarters believe that .uk is the most appropriate domain ending for a British business.
With an established namespace such as .com or .uk, there are benefits in terms of consumer trust and recognition, while domains such as .guru can appeal to a particular type of customer. There are also practical indicators – a .uk domain suggests a website in English with prices in British Pounds, while a .photography domain makes it clear you’re catering to a certain niche.
Do I need to get them all?
No – history has shown that there is usually one predominant domain. 45 per cent of all domains are .com with 41 per cent being taken up by country-code TLDs (excluding .tk). In the .uk namespace, .co.uk accounts for about 93 per cent of all .uk domains. Few domains launched in the past have taken off in the same way – for example .biz has had far lower uptake than expected.
How do I get the one/s I want?
For new .uk domains, over 10 million existing .uk holders have the exclusive right to the shorter version of their current domain. The others are available to register on a first-come, first-served basis through most domain resellers (registrars).
You can buy other new gTLDs as they launch through your preferred registrar.
Will pre-registering guarantee the domain?
Many registrars offer pre-registration promotions, which can be a good way of keeping an eye on the domain you’re interested in but unfortunately bring no guarantees. If you are an existing .uk customer, you should check your rights to the shorter .uk address and note that you have five years (until 10th June 2019) to decide whether or not to register.
What do I do if someone else registers my brand?
If you believe someone else is using a domain name to take unfair advantage of your brand, you need to check what protections are in place from the registry you buy your domains from. For .uk domains, Nominet has a well-respected dispute resolution service (DRS), which usually can provide a quicker and cheaper resolution than going through the courts. For other new gTLDs you will have to investigate the dispute mechanisms on a case-by-case basis.
For new top-level domains, consider registering your trademark at ICANN’s Trademark Clearinghouse. This allows brands to submit their trademark data into a central database and register in new domains’ ‘sunrise’ periods before anyone else, or be notified if a domain name matching their trademark has been applied for.
How will they affect SEO?
Search providers are unlikely to treat new gTLDs differently to what’s already on offer –returning results based on content relevance. It’s likely that search providers will wait and see how people are using new domains and react accordingly. For .uk domains, Nominet doesn’t expect these to be treated any differently to .co.uk domains, and as always we’re working with Google and other search providers to ensure quick and effective indexing. If you’re planning to change your site’s primary domain, we’ve pulled together some guidance here.
Antonia Seymour is chief commercial officer of UK domain name registrar Nominet