As stated in a report last week from eMarketer, “domain names are a core component of the internet and a critical aspect to a brand’s digital presence.” So when the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN)— the Grand Poohbah of internet domains—decided to start allowing controversial domains such as .wtf and .fail, our search team knew this would be a red flag for our clients. They would be concerned (and rightly so) that critics could buy these domains, and put their brand’s name in front of it.
So how can brands (or celebrity brand ambassadors, like Taylor Swift) protect themselves? Does it make sense for marketers to proactively purchase these controversial domain names?
Here are our recommendations for brand protection:
Buy some alternate top-level domains (TLDs). It’s a good insurance policy and will protect against negative content potentially being mistaken for your brand, and/or domain “squatters” (holding your brand name for ransom).
Buy the most common extensions, but don’t go crazy. Here’s what to buy: Common global extensions such as, .com, .net, .org, .co, .website, .info; less common, but potentially negative and expensive extensions: .adult, .porn, .xxx, .fail, .wtf (some of these can cost up to $2,000 per year), and misspellings of your dotcom and visually similar domains.
Buy it, but don’t use it. Just because you bought it doesn’t mean you have to use it. You want to own it so no one else can.
Don’t panic. Search results will most likely never show domains like this over an actual “.com” with authority and relevant, quality content.
But it’s always better to be safe than sorry.