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Six Proven Domain Name Strategies Used by The Top Brands

Top Domain Name Strategies Revealed

You finally got your brand launched, and sales are flowing in.

I think you will agree with me when I say that building a brand and company that is profitable is a huge success.

Your original domain and brand helped you achieve this success.  So, there is no need to upgrade or add additional domains as your business grows.

Well maybe not…

In some verticals, several of the top domains and brands are owned by the same company.

Acquisitions, back end software, and the dominance of digital marketing are several reasons why utilizing multiple domain names are becoming essential for maintaining share, sales, and clarity of message.

Regardless of the reason if you are only using one domain name your businesses could be at a serious disadvantage.

In todays post, I am going to explain the top domain name strategies utilized to dominate an industry, provide clarity and increase conversion and sales.

 

So, how many domain names should a company own?

Isn’t it better to run everything through your primary domain name that way you build upon your SEO?

We get these questions quite often in our business.

Advances in the internet have made it much easier to scale and develop a richer brand experience.

For some brands, the simplicity of one domain is perfect.

As companies expand their product offerings, they may need multiple domains to maintain this clarity.

Making someone go through 5 steps to reach the product page or brand reduces conversion.

Consumers attention span is actually shrinking which means you need to quickly communicate and connect your solution to your customer’s needs.

Planning out your marketing and domain strategy early on gives you the flexibility as you grow.

 

Domain name strategies

Here are the top six high-level domain name strategies.

  1. Single branded domain strategy
  2. Multiple branded domain strategy
  3. Microsites domains
  4. Marketing domains
  5. Single use Marketing Campaign (think Coke commercial)
  6. 301 Redirects

While these can be broken out in many different ways, for simplicity I am going to focus on these six.

So how should a company decide on which strategy to use?

Most companies grow organically from the seed stage to full out unicorns with multiple products.

So, when is the right time to start thinking about your domain strategy?

Really the earlier, the better, however, it also depends upon your branding strategy.

The longer you wait, the greater the chance that any natural brand extensions will be taken.

The first step should be to acquire the power position for your brand online.

Your domain strategy should provide clarity and make it easier for your customers to be converted, establish leadership and communicate your message.

When adding a service or product takes away from your primary product or creates additional steps and confusion it is time to consider adding a domain name.

Let me explain…

Your domain strategy is closely tied to your industry and competitive landscape.

Most of the time this is a very natural evolution because of your marketing needs and acquisition strategy.

Here are some factors that will create a need to utilize multiple domains.

  • You have a new brand or product
  • You need to clarify your marketing message
  • A separate funnel is necessary for a marketing campaign.

Lets take a deeper dive into how actual business uses each strategy.

 

Single domain name strategy

Most brands start off with their primary branded domain.

If they cannot acquire the perfect domain or an “exact match” domain they will utilize an offshoot.

For Example, Snappa.com launched as Snappa.io, however, realized they needed to upgrade their brand to grow.

You can watch an interview with Christopher Gimmer here.

Snappa

The brand naming process now starts with domain name availability.

You can read more about how to choose the perfect domain here (my CONVERT formula)

Businesses using a single domain name strategy need to be focused on acquiring the best domain name for their brand.

I sometimes call this the “power position” because it may not always be your “exact match domain” (more on this later).

A primary goal is to provide clarity for your brand while avoiding confusion with other brands (many not in your vertical) that are also fighting to control the keywords of your brand.

The closer your domain is to your brand the great the impact to your marketing dollars.

How many companies can control the power position?

Only one…

Think about the keyword Delta and what comes to mind?  Every other company with Delta in their domain name will need to spend a little extra effort to make sure they don’t drive traffic to Delta.com

A significant part of our sales is to companies looking to upgrade their brand domain to their perfect domain name.

Here are several more examples of companies acquiring their power position:

  • Dave.com –  launched as Dave.com
  • ButcherBox.com – launched with GetButcherBox.com
  • Trip.com – rebranded from GogoBot.com
  • RTS.com – shortened their domain from RecycleTrackSystems.com
  • Rate.com – shortened their domain from GuaranteedRate.com
  • Bic.com – Societe Bic just acquired Bic.com (founded in 1944)

In most of these cases, it required a significant investment.

If you read the interviews, none of them regret building and upgrading their brands’ domain name on the position of strength.

You can read my in-depth article on how domains are assets here.

When is the right time to upgrade your domain?

Domain names are assets and part of the foundation for your brand.  They interact with the very DNA of your brand in multiple ways.

For example, Dave.com wanted to avoid having to say TryDave.com or GetDave.com.  They wanted the clarity and trust that came with Dave.com.  You can read about their story here.

Your domain name has a very real impact on your SEO abilities, conversion and leadership positioning.

The decision to upgrade your domain name should be an equation between price and opportunity.

I like to say, this is kind of like a manufacturing company buying a new machine.  Yes, it is an investment, however, the increase in productivity will allow for an increase in profit and manpower savings.

Your perfect “power domain” name is a similar asset that will increase conversion, SEO, and positioning.

Acquiring your power domain is a very real business decision with a hard ROI.

Here are few examples: (thanks go to James Iles for doing these interviews)

  • Hive Teams rebranded to Hive.com experienced a 45% increase traffic.  This was just by updating their domain name.

Teamwork Growth Chart

Check out this chart that Peter shared.  This has to be one of the clearest examples of the direct correlation to owning an “exact match” and power position domain for their brand.

The next time someone says your domain name does not matter, show them this graph.

There are other examples like Lawn.com, Gold.co.uk, Stafff.com however for brevity I chose TeamWork.com because it is the clearest example that has been shared with the public.

If you have an example you would like to share send it over, and I will update this article.

Make it effortless for your customers to interact with your brand.

Creating clarity for your brand is priceless.  Segal and Gale publish a report showing that brands that communicate simplicity generate higher revenues and goodwill.

Most companies will never have the opportunity to upgrade their domain  If a domain is a working asset why would they sell it?

For example, do you think Nitro.com will ever sell this domain to GoNitro.com?

Nitro Boats

I truly understand the struggles that business face when this decision comes up.

Most, however, are viewing this as an expense.

Domain names are assets that will appreciate in value because of the global demand for quality domains.

A brand may only have one opportunity to acquire the perfect domain name for their brand.

Your first domain strategy should be to control your brand online with the power position.  That could be an “exact match domain”, a shortened version or a category defining domain name.

Key Takeaway:

Most companies may never need more than one domain for their brand.  In this case, the strategy should be to acquire their power domain that helps them increase conversion and establish a leadership positioning.  There is a real ROI to owing your “power” domain.

Using multiple domain names

It is becoming more and more common for a business to use more than one domain.

There are several strategic reasons companies use multiple domains.

This will vary by vertical and business objective.

To recap from above, here are some of the strategies on why companies use multiple domains.

  1. Multiple branded domain strategy
  2. Microsites domains
  3. Marketing domains (think funnels, book launch, free material)
  4. Single use Marketing Campaign (think Coke commercial)
  5. 301 redirects

In Some verticals, it takes multiple brands to keep and grow your market share.

Multiple domains are also important for marketing campaigns because they ensure your unique marketing message does not compete with your main company message.

Multiple domains are also used to narrow the customer focus and product selection.

Simplicity and clarity of message are keys to conversion.

If you have multiple messages, it can very easily create an overwhelming experience.

This is one reason why companies will use a different domain for marketing campaigns.

Acquisitions also are a big driver in a business having multiple domains and brands.  For example, look how Walmart just acquired Jet.com, Modcloth.com and Bonobo.com.  These brands will continue to live separately from the Walmart brand.

This is not for every business, and there are logical SEO implications behind multiple domains/brands.

The main point of this article to understand how and when they are used effectively

Examples of companies and verticals that utilize multiple domains

Here are a few examples of businesses the use multiple domains.

This is not only an approach for big businesses.

Recognize any of them?

  • Adobe
  • Click Funnels
  • LULU book publishers
  • DNACenters.com
  • Shutterfly
  • StoryBrand
  • IBM
  • TN.com

Stock Photo industry

The stock photo business is huge industry however you would be surprised at many brands are owned by the top three companies.  It is estimated that the annual revenue is somewhere around $1.8B annually.

This is a big business with intense competition.

These three companies own nine of the top domains and brands (they might own more that I missed).

Getty Images

Baby.com

 

Adobe

Fotolia

Shutterstock

 BigStock

 

Here is a look at the Google Search for “Stock Photos”

I cropped out the ads and pictures to show you the companies ranking for this high-value organic search term.

Shutterstock owns two of the top three positions.

So should they only use one domain?

Google Stock Photo Search Results

LULU.com

Lulu.com utilizes multiple domains for their branding and product strategy.

Picture.com

DNA testing and solutions

DNACenter.com

DNA Centers

Ancestory.com 

Archive.com

Intuit

When Intuit acquired Mint.com they continued to operate the Mint.com domain and brand separate from the Intuit website.  They also separate their other key products with their exact match domains.

Mint.com

Furniture.co.uk

They purchased this domain because they understand the power of how a category defining domain builds trust.

Currently they are using this domain only for their advertising and forwarding the traffic to BedroomFurniture.co.uk

They purchased this domain for $650,000 USD.

Here is why Graham Haynes decided to purchase this domain.

“Simply, authority. When you buy online, sub consciously you make a judgement on the company behind the website. Having the exact match domain gives you instant authority, which would take a lot of marketing dollars to achieve with a newly registered name”

Furniture

Key Takeaway:

Multiple domain names are used by some companies to differentiate products lines. Other businesses use multiple domains for regional advertising and branding.  In verticals with heavy competition, multiple domains help to lock in the top spots in search, keeping the competition from getting clicks.  Your product road map, vertical, marketing and growth strategy will dictate if this is a good approach for your brands.  This is also a great approach when companies need to create separate brands to fill a related niche.  Although more complex, this domain name strategy can provide significant advantages.

 

Marketing companies use different domains?

So, we talked about using multiple domain names as a strategy to develop separate brands.

Another major reason to own multiple domain names is to create clarity for you marketing message and funnels.

Although you have one primary product and brand using multiple domains can help keep your main domain focused on conversion.  For example, look at how Clickfunnels and Storybrand use multiple domains.

This approach helps to keep focus and clarity for your primary product.

In the example of ClickFunnels the objective of the other domains is to funnel them to the ClickFunnels platform.  They use the other domain names as ways to engage future clients and help them raise their hands.

ClickFunnels.com

If you have read many of my posts, you will know that I have used ClickFunnels as an example several times. Russel Brunsen (founder) is one of the best marketers out there and has grown his company from 0 to $100M in total revenue (still looking for the source).  I use ClickFunnels for my funnels and other businesses and am an affiliate.  Russell understands conversion.

Below is his domain name strategy.

Notice how each domain is hyper focused on providing clarity and conversion.

Check out how the main Click Funnels website provides extreme clarity to his product offering.  He could have easily added the other products to this page.

Clickfunnels

Here is an example of his ExpertSecrets.com funnel.

By using a separate domain name he can stay on message for this book.

Who doesn’t love a free book, right?

Expert Secrets

StoryBrand

StoryBrand.com is another favorite brand of mine.  Their message of creating clarity, so people engage has worked with impacted hundreds of companies.

Here is how they use domain names.

StoryBrand

 

Key Takeaway:

Multiple domain names are not just for product extensions.  Marketing companies utilize multiple domain names to provide clarity for their marketing messages and to get clients to raise their hands by entering a unique funnel geared toward them.  This domain name strategy can have a significant impact on your ability to engage and convert your ideal client.

Microsites

Microsites have a number of benefits such as highlighting a particular campaign, introduce a new product or target specific buyer personas.  Companies use them to show leadership for their products while providing information.

The goal of your microsite should serve some kind of purpose and actually help your users. Typically, these are not just pitching products however used for education and information and engagement.

Here is how Circle S Studio defines a microsite:

“A microsite is a smaller, simpler website that is primarily built to focus on a specific subject, product or campaign. For example, a construction firm can build a microsite for specific new project. Here are some of the benefits to building a microsite.”

Here is a recap of the benefits from their site.

  1. Increased awareness
  2. More focused content
  3. Faster development
  4. Cost efficiency
  5. Search Benefits

Here are a few examples

Baby.com & Babycenter.com (JNJ)

Baby.com

 

ResilientSystems.com (IBM)

IBM

Tablespoon.com (General Mills)

Tablespoon

pgeveryday.com (P&G)

Proctor and Gamble use a microsite as a way for their customers to interact with their brands.

P&G

 

Key Takeaway:

Microsites are another domain name strategy.  This can showcase leadership while providing education and information that leads back to your products.

Category Defining domains provide leadership and great brands:

So how do category defining domain names fit into the multiple domain strategies?

It looks like the trend today is on making up a word such as Zenefits.com or Trulia.com.

That can work if you have a huge marketing budget

Category defining domains provide massive value because of how they instantly connect with consumer intent and communicate leadership.

Let me explain…

Take the example of someone searching for reputation management.

These companies understand SEO, that is what they do.

Look at what company owns the first position in search:  ReputationManagment.com.

Reputation Managment Google Search

Need Reputation Management help?

Terakeet uses Reputation Management as a new service and product to their existing brand.  They could have easily layered this into their main site at Terakeet.com.

Instead, they direct their traffic to ReputationManagment.com.

This provides their customers with a deeper and richer experience that is super clear and focused on what they offer.

ReputationManagement.com

Surveying.com

Trimble utilizes the category defining domain Surveying.com for their SECO brand of surveying and global positioning equipment.

It quickly communicates what solution they solve, provides expertise and makes it super easy to remember.

Surveying.com

Here is a list of large companies who use category defining domain names.

 

Lock in your domains early.

Having a domain name strategy will give you the clarity to lock in your domains early.

Domain names have global appeal while the supply of good domain names is limited.  If another brand locks them in first, you may miss out on the perfect domain for your brand.

Check out how Garrett White keeps a similar theme to his brands and product extensions.

 WakeUpWarrior.com

 WarriorOnFire.com

301 Redirect:

301 Redirects are a little known and utilized domain name strategy.

A 301 redirect is a way to tell the search engines that a page has permanently moved.  It also communicates that you want them to index the new page and drop the old one.

This is a way to send search engines and users to a different domain name from what they requested.

A 301 redirect, when done correctly, will pass 90-99% of the link rankings and power to the new redirected page.  If you are re-branding to a new domain name, it ensures the search engines do not duplicate both versions of your site (new and re-branded domain).

You can read more about this strategy at Moz and at BruceClay.com.

This can be a viable strategy for brands to acquire domain names with backlinks and then harness the traffic thru a 301 redirect to their site.

Neil Patel has another good breakdown here.

What about SEO?

Utilizing multiple domains is certainly a hot topic online and among SEO experts.

One question among SEO experts is, does a company have the resources to spread out over multiple domains.

This is particularly the case with link building, which is one of hardest tactics of SEO.

If you dominate the ability to build links, this may be an excellent opportunity to add another brand that provides clarity for your product offering.

In the examples above you can see many companies successfully using multiple domain names.  Having a unique domain allows for each brand to stand out with their unique message.

In some of the marketing examples they are not looking to dominate a single search engine results page.  They are seeking to provide a deeper experience for their client that increases conversion.

Domain names do impact SEO.  You can read a detailed breakdown here.

Lastly, rankings don’t always equal revenue so make sure your sites convert.

Domain strategies impact the value of a domain name

Domain names sell for higher prices when they can be used for multiple strategies.

For example, category defining domain names can now be used for branding, microsites or marketing campaigns.

Who would have thought BlueJeans.com would be a video conferencing company.

Domains names targeting strictly marketing campaign will have a lower value because there are more options to choose from.

Domain names that are utilized to create amazing brands will always have the highest valuation.

You can read about the “Six Fundamentals of Domain Valuations” here.

Summary:

In conclusion, develop your domain name strategy early on for your business.

Think about the user experience and the best way to interact with them.

How do you provide clarity to your message and product offering?

Map out your marketing strategy and use this as a basis for determining your domain name strategy.

Here is a recap of the top six domain name strategies.

  1. Single branded domain strategy
  2. Multiple branded domain strategy
  3. Microsites domains
  4. Marketing domains
  5. Single use Marketing Campaign (think Coke commercial)
  6. 301 Redirect

In each strategy, your goal should be to acquire your power domain.

The “power domain” is the domain name that provides the maximum return on your marketing, PR, leadership positioning, and conversion.

I can tell you this, we have never had a client regret building their business with their perfect domain name.

If you like this article, please share it on the links below.

About the Author

Chris Zuiker

Since 1998, I have been involved in helping brands increase sales and conversion. As a senior domain broker, I quickly realized that most companies are devaluing their brand and limiting conversion with subpar domains. So, I created a simple process to explain the value of a premium domain that helps my clients establish a leadership position, increase conversion and save money on marketing. Download your free copy today at https://www.mediaoptions.com/domain-strategies-ebook
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