Having spent many years involved in digital marketing campaigns, on one side of the fence or the other, I'm surprised at the frequency with which domain name registrations for campaigns, brands or general marketing activity get over looked or - all too often - don't get considered at all.
From their Fulton Street Headquarters in New York, Maple.com, a new food start-up launched recently. Having raised $4m in seed capital and a further $22m since, the business is well funded to attack what is becoming quite a crowded marketplace. As much as I adore food, the interesting part of the launch was the name. Maple.com is a great brand name; a common short term which is memorable and something that can be associated with food, in fact the only real downside is the number of other businesses around the world that use the name Maple, but in securing maple.com they're secured the prime digital real estate for that term.
For a digital business the name is key - something that will standout, be easy to remember and, at the heart of digital planning, be easy to find; something that requires an equal mix of creative naming, the right domain name(s), great content and SEO. I state this as there is one element from that recipe that consistently either gets omitted from planning or not seen as an asset with value, which is the domain name.
Let me put this in the context of bricks and mortar. If I was trying to secure a store location with the optimum potential footfall, I'd know I would have to pay a premium to get the store I wanted. If I was to try and obtain the same store in an area with close to 100% occupancy, the analogy would be far closer to the reality of trying to obtain a short, memorable, dictionary term domain name. Short and easy to remember domains are the equivalent to those high footfall locations and are highly sought after assets. To use .com, which represents around 118m of the 158m registered domain names worldwide, as an example. A new .com domain is registered nearly every second, so it should be no surprise then that every single two, three and four letter option is already registered. As are all the first and surnames listed in the US and UK census' (the US names were all registered as far back as 2006) and you would struggle to find available a dotCOM of any of the half a million dictionary terms contained in this years Oxford English dictionary.
So what am I saying? Should brands go out and splash their entire annual marketing budget on highly sought after domain names? No. I am saying brands should be realistic in their planning and be consciously aware that the digital address, much the same as a real world address, holds a tangible value and forms an integral part of the mix that enables a brand to become, and remain, easy to remember and easy to find. That digital address could be a dotCOM, or one of the over 3,000 other options, including the hundreds of new domain suffixes such as dotLondon, dotClub even dotXYZ, which can provide some incredibly creative and engaging address options. Whatever the required domain name, the brand, content, SEO AND domain name(s) need to align to make the total investment work. In some instances that will mean paying a high value for a sought after domain name, in others it will mean a $10 domain registration.
The notion of paying for a domain name often gets clouded by the issue of cyber squatting in its multiple forms, which is an issue we should not ignore or take lightly, and there are ways to deal with legitimate cases. But if you're in the position of a maple.com, please remember to include the domain name in the planning process and - if you're after something short and memorable - consider that the domain(s) you ideally would like, may well be registered already.