Posts Tagged ‘SEO’

.brands – Nobody said it was easy

Tuesday, January 13th, 2015

Tony KirschBy Tony Kirsch

I’ve got enormous respect and admiration for the passionate individuals who are still championing .brands for their organisations in the new Top-Level Domain (TLD) program.

I have the pleasure of assisting quite a few of these on a daily basis and I’m sure their experiences aren’t isolated with other applicants across the globe.

Put yourself in their shoes.

Delays, some stupid process called Digital Archery, GAC Advice, names collisions and negative media – just to name a few of the confidence-sapping issues destabilising the program for applicants. This is without mentioning the difficulties of confidently influencing such an enormous change with their key stakeholders.

Sure, they knew there would be challenges at the forefront of digital innovation in online brand strategy. However, in the words of Coldplay’s Chris Martin in The Scientist: “Nobody said it was easy. No one ever said it would be this hard.” (If you’re at NamesCon this week and can provide a guitar and a little liquid courage, I’d be happy to do a very ordinary rendition for you!!).

I’m sure the recent reports about the high costs of switching to a .brand had some applicants thinking their new TLD plans are a car crash waiting to happen.

That said, there are still rewards at the end of the new TLD tunnel for those applicants that have the intestinal fortitude to persist with the rigmarole. It’s not all gloom and doom and with the right strategy you can be singing Queen’s We Are The Champions with your shiny new TLD in your hands. (No, there isn’t enough liquid courage in the world to have me attempting a Freddie Mercury ballad).

Why make the switch

It’s naïve and short-sighted to think switching to a .brand will be anything but expensive and complicated. Attaining any form of real differentiation is difficult and takes immense effort. But what’s your key advantage? Isn’t it simply because YOU CAN (and others can’t)?

You’ve all heard the benefits of a new TLD, from improvements to SEO, message recall, domain name asset management and trademark protection. But how does a new TLD set you apart from the competition?

We know that organisations across the globe spend their entire lives competing on pure product and service improvements to get ahead. Yet despite how far we’ve come in a globalised digital world, it’s hard to differentiate yourself in today’s highly competitive market – and when you do get a half a percentage point gain, it’s only days later when your competitors catch up and copy your innovation, eroding any advantage you may have attained.

Products and services are prone to replication. Differentiation at the brand level is where the most significant gains can be made.

And this is where a new TLD provides an unmatched competitive advantage for the savvy brand.

New TLDs and brand differentiation

The ability to do something that the majority of your competitors can’t do is the holy grail of business success.

If you look at the long-term impact of a new TLD for a brand, it’s one of the ultimate differentiators of all time.

We know that first round applicants are likely to have a huge leg up on their competitors for anywhere from two to five years, which is a competitive advantage luxury you will never get anywhere else.

The only problem is; how do you get there?

Examples

While there are no previous .brand examples to demonstrate as case studies, we can look at brands which have performed more traditional digital asset rebrands as examples.

Take www.carloans.com.au for example. In June 2013 the company rebranded (moving away from beep.com.au) and the business saw an immediate increase in website traffic and customers, a decrease in marketing spend, 40% reduction in AdWord spend, and overall growth of 60% to generate turnover in excess of $100 million.

The company’s Director Shaun McGowan said of the rebrand: “Our business is not unique and we have many competitors. In this marketplace, you need a competitive advantage.”

Clearly they found their competitive advantage and achieved it through a successfully deployed transition strategy.

The strategy to switch

You need to have a long-term and a short-term return on investment strategy for your .brand asset.

Obviously, the end goal for your long-term strategy is where you completely deploy your TLD across the organisation and achieve full brand differentiation.

But what can you do now that achieves success whilst building towards your end goal?

My advice is that you launch your .brand around a project that has its own ROI and in doing so, also try to launch it so that it’s working in alignment with either a new product or project. Importantly, in the short-term it must be launched to be complementary to the existing core brand.

Too many people have the misguided mindset that a successful .brand strategy involves turning your .brand on and your brand.com off. It’s simply not the case because it would be too expensive, with a high degree of risk and cause terrible confusion for customers and stakeholders.

Success is about how you launch a .brand in parallel with your existing digital brand that will be complementary to your current operations, but with the ability to achieve long-term goals without the need for drastic corrections.

The question is; what do you do between now and then? Do you sit on the fence and do nothing, or do you take a strong leadership position to become one of the organisations that embraces new TLDs and reaps the rewards of changing the face of digital?

The decisions you make today will ultimately dictate how you get to your long-term goal.

Strategy to success

Mark my words. It might be tricky, but someone is going to get this right. In fact, I know they will because they’re working on it as you read this.

The brands that get it right will be positioned as the leaders in their space because it is one of the few differentiators you can ever achieve that is not easily replicable.

It’s worth remembering that (almost) all applicants applied for a new TLD because they recognised the opportunity presented, even if they didn’t have a strategy for actually achieving it.

Much like the film clip to The Scientist, the new TLD process starts off happy and ends happy. It’s just a bitch in between.

Tony Kirsch
Head of Global Consulting
ARI Registry Services

P.S: You could be forgiven for thinking the words to Coldplay’s The Scientist were actually written as an anthem for all new TLD applicants. Give it a listen for a laugh and tweet me your thoughts: @TonyKirsch_ARI.

Grand Final marketing dominated by .com.au domain names

Wednesday, October 8th, 2014

Adrian KinderisBy Adrian Kinderis

This year’s AFL and NRL Grand Finals set viewership records for the number of people who tuned in to watch the matches.

A whopping 4.6 million people watched the Rabbitohs beat the Bulldogs on Sunday night, making it the highest rating television program this year. Meanwhile, the AFL Grand Final saw 4.2 million people tune in, which is no mean feat either.

Clearly, our footy finals represent the premier stage for high-reach, large-impact television advertising in Australia.

As I do every year, I wanted to see how advertisers in Australia use the AFL and NRL Grand Finals to engage viewers, deliver a compelling message, and most importantly generate a call to action.

Here’s what I found:

The stats

Like in previous years, .com.au domain names were the primary call to action seen in the ads for both Grand Finals. Out of the 55 ads aired during the games, 41% included a .com.au domain name while only 12% referred to a .com domain name.

Domain names were clearly the best on ground in terms of advertising call to actions. While social media holds a prominent place in advertising nowadays, it was left on the bench during the Grand Finals, with less than 10% of ads referencing either Twitter or Facebook.

This is remarkably consistent with what we saw in 2013 and 2012.

Telephone numbers, mobile apps and search were the remaining calls to actions seen, while a quarter of ads chose to run with no call to action.

Implications

As I’ve reported over a number of years now, domain names – and in particular .com.au domain names – remain the mainstay of marketing calls to action.

The most interesting observation is the decline in use of social media in advertising. Despite all the hype around social, it appears marketers have reverted back to the tried and tested formula of domain names. Social has its place, it’s just not in Grand Final TV advertising.

To me, this suggests that marketers still believe that the website remains a foundation of any direct response lead marketing strategy, especially when a 15- or 30-second ad slot costs upwards of $100,000.

Social as a call to action

It seems the novelty of social has abated and Australian marketers are now integrating social as part of a wider digital strategy, instead of splashing it around in every advertising campaign.

On almost all occasions, social was introduced in conjunction with the domain name and not instead of it. This shows that marketers now have a greater appreciation of the role domain names and websites play in generating awareness and education, and the role social media plays in encouraging engagement and conversations.

Social has a place; it just isn’t the only place for a brand to exist.

Search as a call to action

One trend I have been following closely this year is the emergence of search-based calls to action. I was pleased to see that there was a stark drop in search calls to action in the advertisements at this year’s Grand Finals.

Brands such as Holden, ANZ, BMW, Harvey Norman and many others are increasingly ditching domain names in favour of directing viewers to use a search engine like Google to find their website.

I’ve been a vocal critic of search-based calls to action (as you can read here in my blog) because I think they’re ineffective, unnecessary and provide competitors an opportunity to steal your customers.

For instance, in the NRL Grand Final, Holden directed viewers to search for ‘VF Changes Minds”. This is difficult for viewers to remember during an ad break and if they do get a chance to search for the term (as I did), they’ll also be exposed to a competitive environment and view search results from news stories, Holden dealers and automotive forums.

There’s no guarantee that searching for “VF Changes Minds” will result in someone visiting the Holden website and I think the practice is a wasted opportunity for customer engagement.

2015 Grand Finals

It is clear that domain names will continue their dominance and I don’t expect any changes here come 2015.

.com.au is Australia’s home on the Internet and it will remain the authoritative source of truth for Australian businesses online. When given the chance to engage with more than 4 million Australian TV viewers, a .com.au domain name is the perfect call to action.

What will change by 2015 is the domain name landscape and the creative options marketers have at their disposal.

Right now, the first of hundreds of new Top-Level Domains such as .melbourne, .sydney and .afl are being launched, offering marketers an additional option in their ‘.menu’ of calls to action.

Only last week we launched the .melbourne Top-Level Domain and savvy brands such as the Bank of Melbourne, Melbourne Festival, Flower Drum Restaurant and The Marriner Group have become some of the first businesses to adopt a .melbourne web address. Check out www.live.melbourne for more information.

Come Grand Final time 2015, we expect many more major brands to be sporting a .melbourne, .sydney or any other type of new domain name alongside their .com.au web address.

There are many benefits for adopting one of these new domains, from potential improvements to SEO and message recall, to being able to get the exact match name you always wanted.

It will be interesting to analyse the impact of new Top-Level Domains next year and I hope to see a .melbourne or .sydney domain featured next in year’s Grand Finals.

By Adrian Kinderis
CEO of ARI Registry Services

Still think .brands might be a waste of time? Google doesn’t!

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

RyanBakerBy Ryan Baker

Like many, I’ve been watching the rollout of the first 150+ new Top-Level Domains (TLD) with interest.

The new Top-Level Domain (TLD) program was designed from the outset to enhance competition and foster innovation.

It was a great result for the wider industry to see approximately one-third of the applications received by ICANN submitted by some of the world’s largest companies seeking to own and operate their own .brand TLD.

Even with organisations such as Apple, Citibank and IBM applying for their respective TLDs, scepticism remained on the potential for .brands to succeed.

Where would the utility come from? How would customers embrace such a change? How would large organisations be able to incorporate this into their marketing mix?

Finally perhaps most ominous, what will it mean for search and will there be any advantages for .brand applicants?

While it’s still very early in the process, a few trailblazing true innovators have given us some preliminary answers and the news is extremely positive.

Evidence of real success

French insurance giant AXA recently launched their .axa TLD to the world and offer the best evidence to date that .brand TLDs have a definite future in the digital marketing landscape.

Less than two weeks after registering annualreport.axa and rapportannuel.axa in their .brand TLD, AXA now appear on the first page of Google search results. When searching for “axa annual report”, the .axa domain is the third result in English and “axa annuel rapport” appears in the fourth position for French searches.

Beyond just Google, Bing shows the result at number two and Yahoo at number eight.

This is a truly impressive result given the number of applicable web properties for this topic and the short amount of time the domain has existed. Yes, this has a lot to do with the relevance of the content – as it has been and will continue to be.

However, the domain is clearly reinforcing some level of credibility here and despite being new, hasn’t negatively impacted the rankings of the page.

The AXA annual report example also illustrates other key benefits of .brand TLD ownership. Using differing language versions of the same domain, they have been able to provide customised content for differing user bases.

With these included, the list of tangible benefits .brand TLD operators can realise immediately from their new asset are compelling:

1. Control

Being completely in control of domain name allocation within their TLD. No more competition for domain names in the open market, as well as the ability to define intuitive parameters for users to find content (eg. annualreport.axa for English, rapportannuel.axa for French).

2. SEO

Globally applicable search benefits. While the sample size is admittedly small, the reality that Google, Bing and Yahoo are actively embracing .brand TLDs for their authenticity and showing strong search results has the potential to be a huge boon to brands and end users.

3. Messaging

Guaranteed authenticity for messaging from the channel. Customers can rest easy knowing with 100% certainty that the content on annualreport.axa is sanctioned by AXA, since no one outside the corporation can register an .axa domain name. Keep in mind that it’s entirely possible for bad actors to register domains in competing TLDs with the aim of confusing end users, and a .brand is a new and extremely strong tool to combat this confusion.

AXAdomain

AXA’s .brand strategy actively combats bad actors.

While we’ve already seen three new .brand applicants sign registry agreements (.sharp and Google’s .gmail and .youtube) this month, the last several months have seen 256 total TLDs delegated, with only a handful (five total, or less that 2%) being .brands.

This is in addition to the world’s first .brand TLD, .monash for the Australian University and the recently signed .bmw and .samsung TLDs which are soon to join the digital landscape.

All in all, it’s really positive news for those innovators that took the plunge by applying in 2012.

So why wait?

There is no denying that ICANN has made the path through contracting and delegation complicated with various hoops to jump through.

The good news for .brand applicants is that there is help available should they require it. The upside is that the carrot is very real and very attainable.

Delegating and realising the benefits of a .brand TLD as soon as possible should be the goal of every brand marketer worth their salt, as .brand applicants push to delegate their TLDs and non-applicants clamour to apply to ICANN in the second round.

By Ryan Baker
Domain Name Industry Consultant
ARI Registry Services