Les, thank you for that nice introduction. Thanks also to Helen for all the incredibly organized work in putting this event together. Hi. My name is Sheila Bergeron, and I’m the Marketing Manager at the Canadian Internet Registration Authority. CIRA. We’re the people who manage the .CA extension on the Internet. I was asked by Helen to speak tonight about domain names, digital marketing, and strategy. Since we’re a small group tonight, sharing ideas over drinks, I’d like to keep the presentation informal so please feel free to stop me and ask any questions throughout the evening. For reference, topic of the night:Domain Names and Digital Strategy, and will focus on the linkage between domain names and your digital strategy, making your digital presence Canadian, and the upcoming launch of new generic domain names and what it will mean to digital practitioners.
We all know the Internet’s a busy place. I suspect most of us in this room have responsibility for some or all of our organization’s web presence. I want to chat and have a conversation with you today about domain names, their impact on your web presence and online marketing and the coming industry deregulation and the impact it will have on you. I want to start by giving a few definitions:ccTLD: Country code top-level domain. A country code top-level domain is a two letter suffix for Internet domain names that corresponds to a country, territory, or geographic location. .CA is the ccTLD for Canada.gTLD: Generic top-level domain. A generic top-level domain is a suffix attached to Internet domain names, made up of three or more letters that identifies it as associated with a domain class. Common examples are .com, .net, .org, and .biz.
References:http://www.llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.co.uk/http://www.internetnews.com/bus-news/article.php/296361/Long+Domain+Names+How+Long+Is+Too+Long.htmhttp://www.webpronews.com/seo-factors-to-consider-when-choosing-a-domain-name-2013-02http://www.eurodns.com/eurodns-news/article/are-cctlds-important-in-the-world-of-seo#.UV7ElVfer-IBeyond the obvious – domain names this long are difficult to remember – there are other ways domain names factor into your online findability, branding and marketing:Historically, some SEO experts dictated that organizations chose domain names that include their target keyword phrases. Google has changed how they view domains that include keywords, making such an approach less effective. Selection of a domain name is key to an online brand. I know of one Ottawa company that changed their business name to be consistent with their domain name, to ensure a consistent brand presence. Typically the advice given is to select a name that’s memorable, unique, relevant, short and to avoid hyphens. As search experts these are things you know better than me. But this brings up a larger question – with so much to address in developing a digital strategy, why should you spend this much time worrying about a domain name. After all, it only costs $10. Cost effectiveness. Given the difficult economic climate and the tight budgets of many government departments and not-for-profits in Ottawa, if there is a cost effective yet successful mechanism for enhancing your digital presence, why wouldn’t you use it?It’s what I call the hydro phenomenon. No one thinks about their domain name until it’s gone, just like no one thinks about hydro until the lights don’t turn on, in which case you realize that it’s quite core to your business. Case in point….
Reference: Edmonton Journal, editorial cartoonist Malcolm Mayes.In late 2007/early 2008 then premier of Alberta Ed Stelmach threatened to sue Dave Cournoyer, a 24-year-old University of Alberta political science student and blogger, in an effort to secure the domain name edstelmach.ca. You see, none of the 117 staff in his Public Affairs Bureau thought to register it. At first Cournoyer forwarded the URL to his own blog, but after Mr. Stelmach’s threatened lawsuit he instead redirected the site to a Wikipedia entry for Harry Strom, Alberta's last Social Credit premier.Dave Cournoyer went public with the lawsuit threat and it created quite a firestorm, right in the middle of the 2008 Alberta provincial election campaign. This is just one of many examples (StephenHarper.com being another).
This is a more current example. Just last month a feminist group calling itself the Australian Cat Ladies bought the domain name australianchristianlobby.org. The Australian Christian Lobby group is arguably the most influential religious-based lobbying group in Australia.Now, this is why an organization’s digital strategy needs a plan for the portfolio of domain names and why a domain name is a central component of an organization’s digital strategy. The ACL does own their local country code domain, acl.org.au, but didn’t secure their .org domain name. Now the ACL has no plans to buy back the domain name. Have they made a mistake not securing it? Two arguments can be made. The first, buying up a whole portfolio of d.n. can be extremely expensive, particularly for a not-for-profit. The counter argument is that with a strategic approach to d.n. cost can be mitigated, but the reality is that the Cat Ladies site got 260,000 views in the first day and started a media frenzy in Australia.
So, how do you incorporate domain names into your digital strategy? Here are some key considerations to help you determine:How do you plan to get traffic to your website? Option 1 – a discoverable domain name, findable by users doing a search on a keyword related to your name. For example, slideshare.com. Option 2 – A brandable domain name, which establishes a unique identity. For example, google.ca. There is no right or wrong answer to this question. The answer to this depends very much on your strategy. Are you depending on organic search results? What’s your marketing budget to “brand” your domain name?Use multiple domain extensions to protect your brand.You’d really only need to register five gTLD extensions (.com, .info, .net, .org, .biz) to protect your brand identity. If necessary, you can narrow this list down based on the industry you’re in. For example, are you a not-for-profit? You may want to think about a .org then. If necessary, you can also retain the top-tier extensions (.com) and ignore the second-tier (.biz). How easy is your name to spell? Are misspellings common?If so, you may want to consider registering some of the more common misspellings. Think like your target audience. Selecting the right name for your domain is intrinsically tied to the overall success of your online marketing. This is why success hinges on your ability to think like your customers; how do they search the web? What do they call you? Where do the discrepancies lie?References: http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2009/05/02/the-effective-strategy-for-choosing-right-domain-names/http://www.linkedmediagroup.com/domain-name-strateg/
So, the next obvious question becomes, why are ccTLDs (country code domains, like .CA) important and how do they fit in?Generic TLDs, which include .COM, .ORG, .NET, etc., are the obvious choices when a business wants to be ranked internationally. Although choosing a ccTLD may limit chances of ranking highly in other countries it will ensure sites rank higher for the country relating to the chosen ccTLD. In fact, the ccTLD version will possibly rank above the same website with a .COM extension in the local version of Google because Google’s aim is to provide pages that are geographically relevant to the audience. As such, the question becomes, what is your target market? International or domestic?Despite .COM being king, users are still inclined and feel more confident engaging with a website local to their country. In fact, other than in North America, the cc’s are typically #1 in terms of market share in their respective markets. We can see from this chart that this is in fact the case. Most European cc’s for example are #1 in terms of market share in their respective countries.
We can see this trend persisting on an aggregate basis globally…
And in the Canadian market, where over the last five years .CA has risen 10% in terms of market share and .COM has dropped the corresponding amount.
This online branding approach is borne out by further research CIRA conducted. We can see here that Internet users strongly prefer .CA for online shopping for simple reasons – legal oversight, lack of duties, shipping, etc.
That’s why many multinationals for their online branding and marketing strategies, are moving to cc’s and country-specific websites. An assortment of Canadian website examples is shown here. Other multinationals, like Rolex and Nintendo, have .CAs which forward to their .com sites. CIRA launched French characters in .CA domain names in January. Since the launch, upwards of 20% of the registrations have been large multinationals registering their brand names to secure their brand identities and make their digital presence more Canadian.
French accented characters in .CA domain names is a new product extension, having launched in January, 2013, which adds another factor to consider in your digital strategy – are you targeting Francophones with your messaging? In launching French character .CA domain names, CIRA was very cognizant of the digital presence of current domain holders. Our initial proposed policy, which we consulted on in the fall of 2011, proposed having a 12 week Sunrise period where existing .CA Registrants would have the opportunity to register any available variant of their current ASCII domain name. This would be followed by a 12 week Landrush period that would allow any interested party to submit an application for an IDN domain name that was not previously registered or applied for during the Sunrise period. Many commenters in the public consultation expressed concern over the increase in phishing and user confusion that this approach might create. They also expressed concerns about the cost implications for domain name Registrants who might feel compelled to register every variant of their domain name to protect their brand.As a result of the feedback received, CIRA amended its policy to utilize the “bundling” of character variants. According to this “bundling” approach, the Registrant of a particular domain name has the exclusive right to register all of the variants of that domain name, and no other Registrant can register any of those domains.
ccTLDs, like .CA, are also an important choice from a digital branding perspective, since .CA is the only domain that shouts, “I’m Canadian”. FutureBrand, a large, European-based creative and brand strategy agency, conducts produces a yearly global study of country brand perception. In 2011 and 2012, Canada scored #1 on this index. This shows us how strong the Canadian brand is, both in Canada and around the globe. Of course we know this – that’s why we put a Canadian flag on our backpack when we travel abroad. And of course that’s why Americans put a Canadian flag on their backpack when they travel abroad!
This is also borne out by our research. When asked, on an unaided basis, why they registered a .CA domain name, .CA holders overwhelming said, because it’s Canadian. This then becomes an important factor to consider in incorporating domain names into your digital strategy. To reach the domestic market, it makes sense to put a distinctly Canadian face on your digital presence.
So…all this is great but why should you care this much about domain names? After all, development and implementation of a digital strategy involves a lot of components. This is an ad campaign done by .PH – Philippines, a few years ago, that does a really good job of showing why this is important to your online marketing and branding.
So…this approach is very feasible in the current environment. Get your generic (.com) and cc (.CA) and use both. With only 23 generics available, many of them reserved (e.g., .travel for travel agents, .aero – air transport industry, .cat – Catalan language, .gov – US government, and the very popular .XXX) you’d really only need to register five gTLD extensions (.com, .info, .net, .org, .biz) to protect your brand identity. But, the domain space is changing. This is a snapshot of what it looks like now.
These are some fairly good estimates of what the market will look like in a few years. As you have probably heard, the industry is deregulating. ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, is the central body which coordinates and delegates domain extensions, has been spearheading this deregulation, more commonly known as the new gTLD program. The brand applications include .AMEX, .Allstate, .Dupont, .CalvinKlein.The generic applications include .bike, .bingo, .blog, .design, .music. There are also 49 place specific applications like .brussels, .capetown, Concurrent with this program is the fast tracking of what are called IDNs or Internationalized Domain Names. This is really jargon for domain names with accents or in characters other than ASCII/Latin characters. This includes scripts such as Russian / Cyrillic and Chinese. This is a huge focus for the next batch of domain names coming online to allow the next billion people the access to the Internet that we take for granted. In fact, 103 of the new gTLD applications are IDNs.
Reference: http://www.adweek.com/news/advertising-branding/brands-facing-dot-com-domain-identity-crisis-148291Obviously, given this explosion of new domains, registering all extensions to protect your digital identity will no longer be feasible. This is an infographic for Ad Week that lays out the costs for a brand if they wanted to defensively register all the new domains.
Some new gTLD applications aren’t really Canada specific:.marketing, .media, .mls, .news, .online, .place, .rip, .style, .sucksSome are:.QUEBEC, .Rogers, .Shaw
This is the beginning of a new digital landscape. It gives your brand the opportunity to grow its digital footprint and to build a domain portfolio that works for you. Dot place, dot trend, dot industry, dot meme – dot allsorts. Obviously, with this increase in options, a more formal digital branding and naming strategy is required. You can go sector focused, like .shop or .fashion. Location based, like .Quebec. But with these new options comes new threats:YourBrand.sucks.YourBrand.shop (phishing). YourBrand.discount (counterfeit). Given the sheer volume of new gTLDs, registering your brand in all of these is clearly not feasible, particularly for us not-for-profits in the room. So…how to protect your brand, maintain your SEO findability and develop a feasible strategy?
Search engine operators, like Google and Bing, are remaining quiet about whether or not their algorithms will change to incorporate new gTLDs and what that change would look like – SEO algorithms rely heavily on user participation, so until new gTLDs are implemented, it’s hard for any search engine operator to predict the outcome until the market can start establishing trends. Here are some general rules of thumb to utilize:RelevanceOf the domain – Is .shoes really being used to sell shoes?To your organization – Is .charity really being used by charities and not-for-profits?+ValueDo websites housed on the domain generally hold valuable content for consumers? Is the domain becoming a “go to” to find relevant information?+PopularityOver time, if relevance and value can observed in the use of a specific top level domain, Google, yahoo, and others WILL begin to give it some weight in their algorithms.Reference: http://www.name.com/blog/general/2012/12/will-new-gtlds-change-seo-a-look-at-current-theories/
I wanted to answer also, I question I received from Helen prior to the event on the Meet-up forum:Can you address how one would determine an accredited Canadian domain registrar? There seems to be lots of confusion on this topic.As the stewards of the .CA domain space, CIRA has a certification process for its Registrars. Just as with Registrants, registering .CA domain names, Registrars must meet Canadian Presence Requirements. Most of our Registrars are certified as corporations, meaning they are active corporations with a place of business in Canada where there is at least one employee or administrative contact of the corporation who is ordinarily resident in Canada and carries out the functions of the Registrar’s business.A list of certified Registrars appears on CIRA’s website. Many CIRA certified Registrars also use this icon on their websites to demonstrate their certification.
Each domain extension, .CA, .COM, .UK is delegated by the central body, ICANN to a particular country (in the case of country code domains) or managing organization (in the case of generic domains, like .COM). Most extensions do have a managing body, like CIRA, which is known as a registry. Many other registries, like CIRA, have marketing campaigns.
Here are some examples from some of our peers, .SE – Sweden, .MX – Mexico, .UK – United Kingdom, .CZ – Czech Republic, .CO – originally the domain extension for Columbia, it has been redelegated to a third-party who is extensively promoting it as a generic alternative to .COM. That being said, the US landscape does affect .CA in ways it doesn’t impact our peers. Remember the earlier slide showing market share? Although we have been growing, our market share doesn’t match that of our peers, and our explanation as to why is because .COM is perceived to be American and thus desirable.
This is a really interesting question. Obviously, the upcoming industry deregulation will affect us. There will be a lot of increased competition but we also think that as a trusted, longstanding registry we can differentiate ourselves as more trusted. Also, the way people are searching the Internet is changing. More users are on mobile and tablets, people are searching through search engines like Google instead of through their address bar. We are currently conducting research into this to learn more about these trends and how they will impact us. In terms of finding a good domain name, the answer is – it depends on the extension you select. With over 108 million .COMs registered worldwide, long, misspelled domain names are probably required to get a registration. There are a lot of other extensions though with many more options, (like .CA has 2 million registrations, by comparison) so selecting an extension thoughtfully becomes even more important as domain names hit the mainstream and achieve critical mass.
This is a little more difficult to answer, so I’ll draw on some CIRA research to answer. From a previous slide we saw that 2/3 of Registrants registered a .CA because it was Canadian. Our research also says that 68% wanted to register a .CA to show visitors that their website was Canadian. From this, I’d say industry sectors focusing on the domestic market. Also, our research tells us that 60% of Internet users feel .CA best describes not-for-profit or community group website (versus .COM), whereas .COM best describes American or global organizations. Finally, our research shows, that 69% of Canadian Internet users agree somewhat or strongly that Canadian businesses and organizations should use .CA for their websites.
14UnaidedRegistrants/Membersn=1,192Mentions of 2% or greater %NET Canadian 62It’s Canadian 12I am Canadian/live in Canada 10Canadian recognition/presence/Identity 17Pride in Canada/Pride in being Canadian 4Shows what your location is 4It’s for a Canadian business/company/organization 17Prefer Canadian market 6It’s for use by Canadians 7Local/Local audience/Local reference 4It was available 8.com was taken 11Publicity/Promotion 3Easy/convenient/simple 1Trademark protection 7Advised from provider/always recommend .CA 1Registered both .CA and .com 5Easier to find 3Preference/wanted .CA 2It made sense/thought it would be better 4Security reasons/More trustworthy 2
Industry Changes: Current View317TotalDomains295CountryCodes(e.g. .CA)23 Generics(e.g. .COM)11 Testing
Domain Names – The Future1300Domains295CountryCode600Generic11 Testing600Brands
New gTLDs and SEORelevance+Value+Popularity=Register the domain
Questions from the group:Determining an accredited Canadian Registrar
Questions from the group• Curious about other countries domainstrategies. In your experience, do othercountries promote their domains asmuch as Canada does? Is there a CIRA-type body in every country? Is our drivefor .CA partly a feature of the US .COMlandscape?23