When the Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) rolls out their new domains in January 2013, businesses across the world will be faced both with new opportunities and challenges. On the positive side, businesses who put in applications for certain Top-Level Domains (TLDs) that offer more description to their business (e.g., .cars), more direct exposure to their brand (e.g., .pepsi), or regional detail (e.g., .scot), will have more opportunity to connect with their target audiences in a more memorable way. Regional TLDs may also offer geo-targeted SEO value as other location-specific domains currently do. However, challenges include the high cost of applying for such a new TLD as well as the threat of cybersquatting as the number of available domains increases.

Cybersquatting occurs when specific brand-oriented domains are registered by individuals who intend to hold the domains and sell them to the brands at a high price later. Opportunities for the practice are far less available now than they were when companies were only starting to branch online. However, with the expansion in domain names, businesses will be faced with the decision to buy new domains reflecting the same address if they want to expand or move their web presence or alternatively, protect their brand. 

Individuals buying domains could develop a site by the same name on a new domain and compromise a company's online efforts. Such a site could confuse customers and cause unwanted disruption to brand identity and any ongoing SEO and internet marketing campaigns. The cost associated with protecting a brand through buying new domains alone is problematic, but it may be a small price to pay to avoid bigger issues.

Takeaway for Businesses and MarketersBusinesses are left with several decisions to make regarding the new ICANN TLDs:

  • Will the company benefit by using a new TLD that describes the business' sector or type of work (e.g., .green), brand name (e.g., .nike), or location (.e.g, .scot)?
  • Does the company want to move to a new TLD in the future? If so, what is the potential harm to the brand that a cybersquatter could cause?
  • What will the cost be for the company to buy multiple domains to protect the brand?

If a company suspects cybersquatting, they can do several things to determine if that is indeed what is happening:

  • Check what is live on the domain. If the domain takes you to a functioning site that has no relevance to your company, then it is not likely a cybersquatting case.
  • If the domain takes you to a site that has an error, is under construction, or can't find server, there is a greater chance that a cybersquatter is controlling the domain.
  • To fight a cybersquatting case, businesses in the US can seek resolution through the arbitration system of ICANN and trough litigation under the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA).

Contact me directly at rbuddenhagen@webimax and @ryanwbudd if you have questions regarding how cybersquatting impacts your business, or simply visit WebiMax.com to see how internet marketing can assist your business.