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Reader Question: Owning .org But Not .com


From one of my readers:

“Elliot, whats your take on MatchMaker.org (made up name) and how badly the lack of .com will affect it? I am already established idea of what i want to do with that, it will be similar to your model of lowell, giving them basic [listings] for free but frills and reviews of business will come with price tag.
Basic premise of concept: Break down matchmakers by state, and maybe cities as sub category of states? I am thinking of putting everyone in for free with basic contact info (email) and just a name of company, and then notifying them that their page is up and about extra features they can get. So everyone gets a free page but after that comes extra features. While they can pay for frills of being reviewed, to add link to site, add write up about them self and what they do, background check. (due to .org directory, in public eyes reviews will seem more credible, even more then if it was .com or another category)
Whats your thoughts on monetization of it? How lack of .com will affect it or other extension affecting it?”

Depending on the industry you are in, owning the .org can sometimes be better than the .com. In the dating industry, I think the .com is much better and holds more credence, as people know it to be a for-profit industry. However, if you would form an organization of “matchmakers,” the .org wouldn’t necessarily be bad, but I think you would have to offer more than just a directory. You might have to sponsor events or offer tools to the match makers who would want to join the organization.
In terms of branding, I discussed something similar when the USPS nationally branded a .org and didn’t own the .com. People have short memories, and many will automatically assume it’s the .com – or they won’t even realize the .com and .org are different, so they just went to the .com. The USPS eventually bought the .com, but they probably got lucky because the name wasn’t what I would consider a premium generic name. I am sure they paid much more when the bought it after the fact, but the premium was only because they needed it due to traffic loss, and not name value.
With your example, the .com would already be considered a premium generic dating name (I know the actual name but refrained by request). Because of this, the .com already has inherent value, so if you brand the .org and lose traffic to the .com, it will only serve to increase the value of the already valuable .com. If you plan to grow the business and significantly fund it, I would advise buying the .com. If you plan to run it like an organization of “match makers,” where you are providing a valuable service, you may be ok with the .org, but you will still end up losing traffic to the .com.
The more you brand the .org, the more traffic you are probably sending to the .com, thus increasing the price to acquire it. My best advice would be to speak with the owner of the .com (knowing that its a parked page), and see if you can buy that. It will help you brand your business now, and will save you lots of money down the road. If he is unwilling to sell, I would also recommend making a lease to own offer, so you can hedge your bets if you decide to exit the business or rebrand. You will pay more, but at least the price of the .com won’t increase due to your branding efforts.
In your industry, there will always be “burn down value” for the .com, and much less for the .org. It can only enhance the value of your business if you have the .com, and it will prove that you own the market.

States Advertising Generic Domain Names

In the past week, I saw two states advertising great generic .com domain names, and I was impressed that their national campaigns included an intelligent domain name strategy. The South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism operates SouthCarolinaParks.com and SouthCarolinaGolf.com among many others (137 according to Registrant Search), and they used the golf domain name in their television commercial. This domain name redirects to DiscoverSouthCarolina.com, the main website of the SCPRT.
VermontVacation.com is another website I saw advertised this past week. The domain name is owned and operated by the Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing, who also owns BestFoliage.com and GreatFoliage.com, with both names pointed to VermontVacation.com. There may be better domain names to own related to the state of Vermont (VermontSkiing.com for example), but it was a smart move to purchase and brand a sensible .com domain name.
It’s great to see states using these great generic domain names to advertise their tourism departments. Generic domain names in the .com extension are easy for television viewers to recall, and when a state organization spends tens of thousands of dollars on advertising campaigns, it is nice to see that they didn’t skimp on the domain names.
Many organizations think that just by creating a commercial and setting up a website, people will find them. As I blogged about the USPS FakeChecks.org campaign a while ago, this is not always the case. The USPS learned this the hard way, and they purchased FakeChecks.com after their FakeChecks.org campaign was launched, presumably after learning that consumers were confused and typed in the .com name in error. Owning an easy to recall .com generic domain name is essential when advertising in mainstream media.

Good Commercial, Poor Domain Choice


I just saw a television commercial sponsored by the United States Postal Service, and although I am not surprised by the lack of forward thinking, I am shaking my head that the USPS just doesn’t get it.    

The advertisement (during primetime MLB playoffs) begins with a disheveled looking man walking onto a bus and choosing a seat next to a woman.    He begins by informing her that she just won a random lottery sponsored by a clearly fictitious organization.    To claim the multi-million dollar prize, all she needs to do is write the man a check to cover some random fees.    Essentially, the man is playing the part of an in-person Nigerian scammer commonly seen online.

It is a clever advertisement (and ongoing campaign) playing on the fact that these scams are much more obvious in person than online, and people need to beware when they receive suspicious emails.    I dig the message.    I think it is very important for non-web savvy people to know about these scams, know how to spot them, and know what to do when they come across one.

HOWEVER, the commercial ends with a large graphic directing people to visit FakeChecks.org for more information.    GUESS WHAT!    FakeChecks.COM is owned by someone else.    How many people do you think will accidentally directly navigate to the .com in error – especially considering some web browsers automatically enter the .com extension?    The USPS should never have used a .org domain name where the .com is taken.    If they needed to have that specific .org, they should have bought the .com for whatever it cost.    They then should have forwarded the .com traffic to the .org so they didn’t lose any eyes. The advertising campaign probably cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.    Why would they chance sending confused consumers to the wrong domain name, especially considering the message.        

This reminds me of the time Dick Cheney quoted something from FactCheck.org and accidentally directed people to FactCheck.com, owned by none other than Frank Schilling.

This has to be one of the most ironic, idiotic campaigns I’ve seen in a long time. The USPS just doesn’t get it!    

Just to be a bit more clear, I am not advocating that the USPS shouldn’t have used a .org.    I think the .org suits this campaign quite well.   I think they might have been  wise to choose another domain name where the .com was available, as people will inevitably enter the wrong extension.   In my opinion, many consumers are trained to goto the “.com” extension.   Why take a chance that some consumers will do this and end up on a site not controlled by the USPS.  

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