.Brand Domain Names: Does Risk Outweigh Reward?

In a post on Google’s Webmaster Central blog a couple of days ago, there were several questions asked and answered about Google’s treatment of websites that use new gTLD domain name extensions. I had already understood how Google treats new gTLD extensions, but I wasn’t really sure about how Google would treat .brand domain names, such as .Google or .Barclays domain names.

In the aforementioned blog post, a question about .brand domain names was posed and answered:

Q: Will a .BRAND TLD be given any more or less weight than a .com?
A: No. Those TLDs will be treated the same as a other gTLDs. They will require the same geotargeting settings and configuration, and they won’t have more weight or influence in the way we crawl, index, or rank URLs.

If a .brand domain name doesn’t have any more weight than any other TLD, what is the advantage of using it? I would imagine  there could be added trust with a .brand domain name because a consumer should know that the brand operates the extension and it’s less likely to be a phishing site or a site offering counterfeit goods. However, at least at this point in time, I don’t think consumers would know enough about the new extensions to understand this yet.

With that being said, I think there are quite a few disadvantages for a brand to use a new gTLD extension:

1) If the brand decides to shift from a .com to a  new gTLD extension, it  runs the risk of causing search engine issues if the transition isn’t handled correctly. It’s not an easy process to change urls, and  if a mistake or mistakes are made, it could harm search engine rankings.

2) If the brand keeps its high ranking .com (or .whatever) url and builds websites on its .brand domain names, it needs to have sufficiently different content on each website to avoid a duplicate content penalty.

3) If a brand keeps its  legacy domain names and adds new .brand urls with different content and the .com (or .whatever) continues to rank highly, what is the point of using .brand domain names at all?

4) The brand could risk confusing consumers if it  tells them to look at the extension and be sure it’s a .brand because their other non-.brand domain names should then look suspicious to consumers who see this message.

5) It is costly for a .brand to apply for and manage a .brand extension, especially if there isn’t a risk that another brand could take it and make it their own.

All of this said, there certainly is a possibility that Google could change how it ranks .brand domain names in the future like it could change other ranking factors. I wouldn’t bank on this and I wouldn’t make decisions based on this.

In my opinion, if Google were to treat .brand domain names with a higher level of trust, switiching urls would be a less risky proposition. For example, if Google would automatically rank .Barclays domain names above Barclays’ .com domain names for the same content, the above risks would be mitigated greatly. However, since Google says it doesn’t treat them differently, I think the risk appears to outweigh the advantage, especially in the short term when web visitors aren’t all that familiar with the new extensions.

I am very interested in hearing what you have to say about this, especially from people who are proponents of .brand domain extensions. What am I missing?

Elliot Silver
Elliot Silver
About The Author: Elliot Silver is an Internet entrepreneur and publisher of DomainInvesting.com. Elliot is also the founder and President of Top Notch Domains, LLC, a company that has closed eight figures in deals. Please read the DomainInvesting.com Terms of Use page for additional information about the publisher, website comment policy, disclosures, and conflicts of interest. Reach out to Elliot: Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn
  1. My first thought was that .brands should have more weight. But thinking more about it, that would be bad. Very bad.

    There can be various types of third party sites which publish important information about the brand and its offerings which could and would be drowned out from public view if that were the case. We definitely don’t want a world like that at all. We probably more or less all make use of such sites and have benefited from them and consider some of them important.

    Regardless of the legitimate concerns you have raised, it is still an advantage of sorts simply to be seen having the TLD. Call it status, cache, whatever you will.

    Additionally, you can completely ignore the search element and simply consider the issue of advertising. Completely regardless of search related concerns, being able to advertise with “.brand” is an entire issue in itself which can make it worth it just to have the TLD even for that purpose alone.

    Finally, on a related note, I will accept the industry’s commendation and appreciation for having invented the term “bTLD” for the domain publishing and investing industry in a previous recent thread to refer to this phenomenon of “brand TLDs” as distinguished from truly generic “gTLDs.” Unless of course someone can prove someone else invented it before me, which so far has not been shown. Nothing fancy, perhaps just a talk show gig and book deal will do. 🙂

  2. This is an interesting exercise and I appreciate to be requested to participate. Please no insult if we disagree on certain points (JC tu me lis là?) 😉

    1) I agree with 1: there is a risk shifting but I guess one can afford to pay for SEO if he can pay to acquire his .BRAND new gTLD. Changing URLs is difficult too, in particular if you have a lot (most of the time, you do). This requires SEO expertise and it would definitely harm ranking, until it stabilizes again. This could take months/years, years possibly since the age of a domain has weight in SEO.

    2)I agree too: as a .BRAND I would not offer same content on both domains.

    3) .BRAND applicants also buy uniqueness with their new gTLD. You can’t have that with a “.com”. I guess keeping the “.com” makes sense and using it to redirect to the new domains makes sense too. Many will probably keep it during a certain time. Regarding SEO, I think it is important to say that some Brands don’t care about it, their positioning on Google does not require much work neither.

    4) .BRANDs are pioneers here, they need to act to train their consumers: informing them is a good way to do it.

    Regarding Google changing its ranking in the future for .BRANDs, I don’t understand it because it means it would work on each .BRAND TLD. Why would a brand receive this privilege: because it paid ICANN to acquire its TLD? I think this would be unfair to other Trademarks. I see intelligence in changing the algorithm for generic strings: someone who decided to register a “.club” domain name sends a clear sign to a consumer that the website will be about a “club”, more than a “.com” (same for “rugby” or “wine”, etc…). In this I hope Google changes its mind.

    Something missing here maybe: I read a lot about reducing the risk of phishing in having a .BRAND TLD. I am happy to read more here because I don’t see where the risk is reduced at all.

  3. It’s really not risk versus reward because that would mean you have a choice. Big brands don’t have a choice because they know the only way to be 100% in control of the brand is to switch over to their .brand gtld. If they do it now or later is up to them but eventually they will have to do it.

  4. Hi Elliot,

    I’ve been following closely the SEO discussions, and Google seems to favour brands in their rankings. This will be another signal to them confirming that this is the brand’s real estate and not a copycat.

    It’s a bad idea to both run a .com and .brand site. Brands need to make a decision if they want to move forward. At what speed will depend on many internal factors. They shouldn’t be afraid of the switch regarding traffic loss, since when done correctly they will only lose 10-20% of the traffic the first 4-6 weeks, but from then on it will all be recovered.

    The big question though is how confused their users will be. The communication task is heavy. Of course it will help if the other .brands have. already moved forward and paved the way.

    On the upside they can look forward to having their very own territory, the ability to communicate clearer and stand out from the crowd

  5. The new gTLD’s are great for ‘branding’ they is why lately a lot of companies have ditched .com for a new gTLD. The future is here. The best place to buy/register new gTLD’s is uniregistry.com .. email me at miguel@uniregistry.com and I’ll give you a 25% discount. Uniregistry is a domain name registrar designed for domain investors.

  6. I don’t see Google changing its algorithm to favor .brand domains. It’s either the big brands switch to their newly acquired gTLDs or use them for advertising and redirect the domain to their .com website.

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