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Jeff Sass

5 Ways Domain Names Foster Community and Brand Equity

Jeff Sass
5 Ways Domain Names Foster Community and Brand Equity

Domain names, while often taken for granted, can mean much more than we give them credit for. They communicate an element of brand identity and make a clear statement of brand differentiation — even if we don’t acknowledge it.

Studies show that a generic top-level domain name (gTLD) is a great way to foster a sense of community. The “holy grail” of domain name extensions is something short, memorable, and meaningful; it contributes value to the words or letters to the left of the dot.

Arguably, that’s why Google recently used the domain “abc.xyz” for the announcement of Alphabet, its new parent company. As a representation of the actual alphabet, abc.xyz makes good sense, from both a user’s standpoint and a business perspective.

With the recent introduction of hundreds of new domain extensions, there are more opportunities than ever before to find the ideal domain name. Here are five ways to use gTLDs to help grow your online community:

1. Communicate Community

Many new domains represent industry verticals — so the right domain name can help express and build your business’s community. In some cases, this can be very controlled. For example, in order to register a .REALTOR domain name, you must be a licensed realtor. If you really are qualified for it, however, a yourname.realtor web address (and email address) is a perfectly organic way to advertise that community membership.

Other available domain extensions, such as .CLUB, easily represent the notion of building a community around a common interest or passion. After all, physical clubs are formed for the same reason. Moreover, the word “club” is understood around the world.

Any business interested in building a true community around a product or service can use a .CLUB name to express that. Examples include the growing music site TheDrop.club (founded by Twitch founder Justin Kan); the recently launched iPhone app Glitter.club; and the fan sites that many celebrities and sports figures have launched (e.g., cricket superstar ViratKohli.club, singer Demi’s Lovato.club, rapper 50 Cent’s 50InDa.club, and NBA Miami Heat player Tyler’s RealTJohnson.club).

2. Keep Ahead of the Joneses’ SEO

As new websites and industry norms develop, Google and other search engines must stay one step ahead in understanding the architecture, as well as the intent, of these new sites. While it’s impossible to say anything with certainty about the search parameters Google places on its spiders, if something can be asserted with confidence, it’s this: It seems that Google reads a domain such as “coffee.club” as “coffee club” — meaning that it may also view general domain names as the sum of their parts, similar to alternate text for meta descriptions and titles.

Google’s search algorithms have been sought in vain for years, and that’s not likely to change any time soon. They remain more enigmatic than ever, especially considering the constant deluge of new search metrics and best practices within the industry. That said, the more specific and meaningful your domain name is, the more likely it is to be relevant to your content — and relevant content is still “king.”

3. Take Your Pick

Domain registrars boast an abundance of options to meet your business needs. If you’re looking to create a new domain name with one of the new extensions, you can do so at sites such as GoDaddy, 1&1, Network Solutions, Domain.com and Namecheap. Whether you’re seeking a name for a new venture or an established business, make sure you first familiarize yourself with all of the available options and choose an extension that truly complements your site’s objective.

The notion of a be-all, end-all “portal” is somewhat dated now. There are many ways you can use domain names in addition to your main web address — for example, they can serve as shortcuts to specific parts of your business (e.g., yourname.news linking to your press section or yourname.club linking to your loyalty program). You could also use a clever domain for a marketing campaign, like McDonald’s in Germany did with the URL www.BigMac.rocks, which directs customers to a creative microsite.

4. Make It Memorable

You can use a memorable domain to point to your social community. For instance, you might use a domain name like yourname.club to redirect users to your Facebook page. An example is www.treatadog.club, which uses a customized .CLUB domain name to help build its social community around branded — and shareable — memes and other content with which users can engage.

Consider AshleyBridget.com, which sells jewelry targeted at young girls. This company uses the URL AshleyBridget.club to redirect customers to www.Facebook.com/ashleybridgetco, where it does the bulk of its business.

While the URL for the company’s Facebook page is fairly long and not particularly intuitive, its .CLUB domain name is short and easy to remember, and it removes the extra step of searching Facebook on the part of the user. In the future, if the company decides to move its core engagement strategy away from Facebook, it already owns the .CLUB domain name and community, and it can then redirect users wherever it wants.

5. Use the Killer App: Email

One thing that’s easily overlooked is the fact that every email address requires a domain name. Now that you have a greater opportunity to find the perfect domain, remember that your clever domain name becomes your clever email address. That, in many cases, will be the first or only brand interaction that many people have with your company, so it’s important to consider email when determining your domain name. What does your email address say about your brand?

Regardless of the tactics you may employ to get the biggest bang for your buck, the most important component of a domain name is that it remains strategic, on-brand, and aligned with your company’s broader course. In the end, domains should be much more than an afterthought — they’re key drivers that help express your brand’s direction.

With nearly 20 years of experience in the Internet and mobile spaces, Jeff Sass is the CMO of .CLUB Domains, LLC, which operates the new top-level domain .CLUB, which is ideal for clubs, associations, teams, loyalty programs, fan clubs and anyone with a passion interested in a memorable, descriptive domain name. As a self-proclaimed gadget geek, early adopter and experienced entertainment and technology executive, Jeff’s career thus far has spanned the worlds of traditional film and television, along with computer games and mobile technology. Jeff writes about marketing, mobile, social, startups and digital media/content creation. Jeff is an avid social media enthusiast who podcasts and writes for several blogs. He is a regular speaker at conferences, events and schools on topics ranging from social media to mobile to entrepreneurship.

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