What's in a domain name?
Posted: March 14, 2012 | 9:40 ET by Tessa Wegert

Your brand may have set up shop on Facebook, YouTube, and Pinterest, but nothing's quite as critical to your marketing strategy as your good old-fashioned domain name. All roads lead back to your Web address and the brand and product information there. It's what consumers associate with you online, not least of all because you've been promoting it for years.

You probably wouldn't dream of changing your existing domain name, but what if you were offered the chance create any suffix you desired? Might you consider making a switch?

Last month ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, began allowing organizations to apply for new generic top-level domains (gTLDs) word-based suffixed like .shoes, .tech, or .time, along with trademarks and foreign language words. The logic is that such new domains would provide a more accurate representation of the companies that use them, and perhaps even make Web browsing more intuitive. If a consumer is looking for a particular brand's boots, for example, she could go directly to that brand's .boots domain as opposed to searching through the site.

There are, however, some concerns. Will so many new suffixes confuse consumers? Might cybersquatters buy up all possible combinations and hold brands ransom for exorbitant fees? If brands refuse to pay, how can an online shopper be expected to know which sites are real as opposed to a scam?

Before mass panic sets in, here's what marketers need to know.

-Average Joe need not apply. An evaluation fee in the amount of $185,000 USD is required for each proposed suffix, and it's expected to cost about $25,000 USD to maintain one once it's approved.

-Change won't happen overnight. According to ICANN the bidding period for submitting new suffixes will remain open until mid April, after which the company will begin to address such issues as potential trademark infringements. All told it's likely any new domains will not begin to appear online until next year.

If your company is in a position to consider a new suffix, take a very close look at the pros and cons before signing up. When it comes to domain names, there's something to be said for not messing with a good thing.

Read more Interactive Strategist
Tessa Wegert is a veteran media strategist with a background in media planning and buying, content development, ad copywriting, and campaign management. As a prominent industry writer she has been covering digital marketing and technology for leading newspapers and trade publications for over a decade. Connect with her on Twitter (@tessawegert) and LinkedIn.
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