I’ll start by sharing that I love Google and many of the services the company offers. I’ve read several articles about Google Domains, and it’s good to see Google making a play in the domain space. I think Google’s entrance will cause domain registrars to increase their attentiveness to customers, make it easier to use their services, and may lead to more competitive pricing and service upgrades. Essentially, other domain registrars are going to have to up their game, which should benefit customers.
Despite the fact that a major player like Google is entering the domain name registration business, I believe it will be difficult for Google to compete with the top established companies in the space. In the next few years, I believe Google Domains will likely become a top 10 domain registrar, but I think the company is going to run into some challenges that will make it difficult to compete with the world’s largest and best known domain registrars.
Here are some of the issues I see that may make it difficult for Google Domains to compete with the companies that have major market share:
Customer Service – The largest domain registrar in the world is GoDaddy, and I think the company’s customer service teams is one of its strongest attributes. Customers can call GoDaddy at all hours (and in many languages) and get a response to their query. Many other registrars also have account managers for their high revenue accounts, and these relationships are strong. Customer service and technical support staff is important, and Google Domains will need to ramp up in a big way to provide the support of other registrars. I don’t know if they will make that big commitment.
Technical Aspect of Domain Name Transfers – Transferring a domain name is not the easiest thing in the world for people who aren’t familiar with the domain space. I’ve sold many domain names to “end user” buyers (ie companies who Google would likely want as customers), and there are regularly transfer issues. If prospective customers find it difficult to transfer domain names to Google, it will be hard to gain market share. Additionally, there seems to be other issues transferring out the new gTLD domain names.
Lack of a Differentiating Factor – From my perspective, domain registrars generally offer very similar products and services. The most important aspects of a registrar to me are customer service, security, and price. I don’t know how Google can exceed the services offered by established companies, and if they can’t, there isn’t much of a reason to transfer my domain names or begin registering my domain names there.
Pricing – Despite the low cost of an annual domain name registration, I think people are price sensitive in this business. One way GoDaddy was able to take market share away from the biggest players was their low cost domain registrations and coupons. For most people who are deal savvy, the cost of registering a domain name with a coupon can be less than $1.00. I can’t imagine Google Domains is going to go the coupon or discount route.
Brand Recognition – Yes, Google does have better brand recognition than just about any company in the world. The double edged sword, however, is that there are many people in the tech space who don’t exactly love Google or like giving Google more information. Many small businesses rely on their web developers to help them choose a hosting company and domain registrar, and they might have difficulty convincing this crowd to use their services.
Large Portfolio Registrants – Many of the largest domain name registrants have deep domain industry ties. Some even own and operate their own registrars. There aren’t many massive domain portfolio owners, and it won’t be easy getting them to transfer their domain names to Google.
One thing to keep in mind is that Google Domains is brand new and some of these factors may change. The company may hire a large customer service and technical support staff to rival competitors in the business. The company may work with ICANN and other groups to make domain name transfers much easier, and the company may also offer cheaper or free domain names as a means of getting new customers to use their services.
It’s going to be interesting to watch Google Domains and what the company offers and promotes. The company has the ability to disrupt the domain name business, but I think it is going to be difficult for Google Domains to compete with the largest companies in the registrar space.
They have to start somewhere, large portfolio accounts aren’t exactly high margin in the .com space. We will see how the GTLD’s go into renewals, there are many who are trying to unload their GTLD’s before renewals right now, as they got in over their head, and not many end user sales, and that 1 year comes up quick.
Google is a brand that relates to the internet, they have access to traffic, and they are getting their foot in the door.
I guess they want to sell domains to real businesses in order to then get them to spend on adwords. Maybe they’ll also offer a hosting package along with a domain name?
I don’t know if that’s much different from what some other registrars already offer.
My mind hurts when you consider most small businesses fail yet they are a target. Like that guy said, a sucker born every minute…it may not be so much about renewals but rather the hope.
As far as their customer service goes, I have no idea how Google’s service is, all I ever deal with is scammers who pretend to be them.
Their brand is incredible, imagine a header saying buy a domain here on their search page, it’s like taking candy from a baby. It WILL have a huge impact.
Why would they dedicate valuable space for that? Many people have no idea what a domain name is (yes, they know what CNN.com is but don’t know what it’s called), let alone what to do with one if they had it.
I am not saying they will (would seem tacky) but what they have is the power to do it on the inside, search result control!
E, they are going to crush it, I say top 5 easy and higher as the years pass.
The position and industry they are in allow them to potentially do anything well.
If they focus on support like GD the potential is there to be at the top. GD wanted to be #1 in the rar space so we see ads and sponsorships etc galore. Is Google that serious about it or not we will see. Thing is they can be #1 if they truly wanted to, it is a matter of want. They may be willing to accept with little dollars they get a nice steady rev stream and market share vs. huge push and investment for more.
Very good point – thanks for sharing.
I think GD and UniRegistry have great opportunities given G’s entry into the domain registry space; as they have genuinely customer centric service as their killer competitive advantages vis a vis Google; whose corporate culture is focused on algorithms, not human beings.
Unless G makes a major commitment to timely, personal, human delivered customer service – which I dont think its leadership appreciates sufficiently to support – G will broaden the demand for domains, but GD and UniRegistry can prevail – if they differentiate themselves from G in their marketing featuring their experienced personal ‘customer care’ culture – in stark contrast to G’s impersonal ‘user forums’.
As a small biz person, I value handholding, a responsive voice, because my daily experience now is full of frustratrations represented by the algo, zendesk type of inadequate customer response.
I would do Apple “1984” vs IBM ads to highlight the G’s omnipotent, unfeeling, ‘cold’ calculated culture – vs the ‘warm and fuzay’ of GD (got personality through its iconic ad stars in Superbowl) and UniRegistry’s genuine culture of ‘we treat the customer like we like to be treated ourselves’
I was a beta “user” of Google registrar, but I hesitated, because I don’t know all the ways I want to take my future domains and sites, and Google already has tabs on a lot of aspects of anybody’s business(es). Unrelated to the registrar, I know people who have had penalties and delistings from Google, because Google sees too close of a relationship between sites. For example, lets say you want to build a network of sites, and a private blog network to help SEO. In the registrar scenario, Google would easily see these unrelated domains are owned by the same owner. They already penalize you if they see that several sites are hosted on the same IP, and refer to another also-owned site. There are flags for the same theme, the same look, etc. If host 1 has 3 domains that all have links/back links to SITE ONE, some have had SITE ONE delisted. So SEO pros build a matrix of different host companies, different host ips, different domains, different registrars, with only one from each, linking to a primary domain/website. If Google is your registrar, you are giving Google even more inside info, which may have SEO/ranking consequences, if history repeats.
In the last 48 hours, in an effort to minimize hassles in my life, I resigned from the perpetual disruptive and owner-hindering decisions of the new and decidedly NOT improved Moniker and moved over 1400 domains to Uniregistry. 2014 was an utter nightmare at Moniker; the days as my favorite are long gone. I have a lot at Godaddy too, plus a smattering at other registrars, because of aftermarket buys, but having domains concentrated on only a few registrars can simplify domain management. I just couldn’t see moving them to Google, with the delisting issues that can and have arisen in the past for others (when Google doesn’t like to see an ownership relationship between domains/sites creating backlinks for a benefitting site).
I generally agree with your assessment.
At least Google knows how to make a profit using normal accounting methods. Why is this Godady IPO taking so long to happen?
Godaddy’s service has gone downhill after discontinuing email support and their chat support is so-so at best. Yes you can call them 24 hours but you have been spoiled by Executive Accounts.
Godaddy dropped their drug testing requirement for new employees after a lot of veteran employees left and they had trouble hiring enough people to replace the people who left. Now I talk to customer service reps who don’t even have a clue about basic issues. The only reason more good employees haven’t left is management keeps dangling a carrot in front of their noses with the “stock options” misleading them all. Once the IPO doesn’t happen or it does happen and people realize they will barely make any money off of their options, there will be a lot more defections.
I think for these reasons, other competitors such as Google have a great opportunity to take significant market share if they play their cards properly.