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Domains Should Be Complementary, Not Complicated

One of Rightside’s missions is to help registrars, resellers, and domain specialists grow their business. As the domain industry once again convenes at NamesCon, it’s important to discuss what we’ve been doing (what worked, what didn’t) and still must do to build global awareness for new domain names. From a technological perspective, I think the tools and services being offered have never been faster, more stable, or secure. What I want to explore is not on the technical side of the business, but on the marketing side, and that’s the opportunity presented by complementary domains.

It still surprises me how businesses are under-utilizing domains as calls to action, missing opportunities to engage customers and create new experiences for them to consume brands. I’ve whizzed by billboards on the highway advertising lengthy, drawn-out URLs (or worse, QR codes) that passengers, let alone drivers, have no hope of actually processing. The same can be said about TV and radio ads. If the domain isn’t recognizable and memorable, it hasn’t done its job.

Enter complementary domains

The proliferation of new TLDs gives businesses a novel way to strengthen their brand while streamlining the audience’s path to reach them at the same time. “Complementary domains” simply means differentiating the URL through the top-level domain, while keeping the domain name itself static. The Los Angeles Times’ web properties are a good example of this strategy, splitting various pages into LATimes.VIDEO, LATimes.SOCIAL, and LATimes.NEWS.

A company’s online presence is often spread across several different platforms. While the nuts and bolts of their business may still live on their primary website, content like blogs, video, photos, portals, and other social media are almost always hosted somewhere else. That “somewhere else” usually means the loss of control over the brand, with the company name getting stuck after the slash at www.youtube.com/user/ or www.twitter.com/. Complementary domains give businesses the ability to maintain more control over their brands and create a better experience for their customers.

From the perspective of audiences and end users, complementary domains make it much easier to navigate websites and find what they’re looking for. Every page nested inside a maze of menus and submenus is a potential drop-off point for users, and long-string URLs aren’t intuitive, memorable, or convenient. Organizing a sitemap to take advantage of complementary domains is user friendly, avoids friction, and keeps audiences more engaged with the content.

Why registrars and resellers should care

Complementary domains offer registrars and resellers an opportunity not often found in the average customer transaction today. Usually, a user will register a single domain per website, linking to any third-party social platforms through buttons or widgets. Complementary domain strategies can turn that single domain sale into three, or five, or more.

This gives the industry the ability to merchandise domains in a new way. Bundling domains together, rather than selling them piecemeal, locks in revenue and increases the likelihood of customers asking for additional value-added services. From a marketing perspective, a campaign executed around several interconnected TLDs can offer more design space and raise the ceiling for success.

Maybe it seems like an oversimplification to say, “Why sell one domain when you can sell five?” but as consumers start catching on to the value of complementary domains, it’s a situation your sales teams will run into more and more often.

Pulling together

I’ve written before about the need for the industry to work together to grow all of our businesses, and I want to expand on that now with regards to complementary domains. Fortunately, what I’m outlining below are all steps that can be good for us individually, as well as collectively.

  • It starts with developing products that are easy to use and offering services that lower the barrier for non-technical users to register domain names. Every customer with a positive experience buying their first domain name is a walking billboard that can get those around them online, too. It needs to be simple for users to purchase a single domain if we’re going to make a case that they should purchase several.
  • Beyond getting users primed to buy domain names, we also need to empower them to utilize domains to their full potential. Registrations are a fine metric, but demonstrating traffic and usage is another key indicator for the health of the industry. Each component of a complementary domain strategy has different requirements. Since not everyone has the coding ability to add features to websites themselves, we need to continue to enrich the ecosystem of products and services in our app storefronts paying particular attention to the needs of average users.
  • Producing educational content about domains will still be a big part of our jobs going forward. On top of the continued proliferation of user-focused blogs and informative posts, we also need to develop more interactive content. Podcasts and videos are great ways to augment educational efforts and can reach hard-to-engage social media audiences.

Enhancing our industry’s visibility beyond the confines of the domain community is another goal we should all strive for in the coming year. Recently, Rightside’s driven our own outreach efforts by developing an educational eBook for digital marketers (let us know if you want to use it), and making connections at events like Web Summit and Seattle Interactive Conference. Each person we reach that’s never heard of gTLDs before is another potential customer for all of us.

More about complementary domains

You should check in with the Rightside crew at Booth 24 at NamesCon next week. We’re excited to talk about complementary domains and the role we can all play to help advance the industry while growing our respective businesses. We’re at a really crucial point in the domain business, and we hope the partnerships coming out of the conference will help pave the way for continued growth in 2016.

By Taryn Naidu, Chief Executive Officer at Rightside

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