Domains as brand strategy: What does a URL say about you?

This article is sponsored by: .eco

I’ll bet all the money in my wallet that you’ve got a .com web address.

For years, businesses have had to choose from a dwindling selection of available .coms simply because .com has been the defacto business web address. That’s finally changing and it’s good news for green businesses.

You’ve likely already seen new top-level domains (TLDs) in the wild, like .nyc, .organic and .shop. I first learned about the greenlighting of hundreds of new TLDs a decade ago when I was working at the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). They’re like the United Nations of the Internet.

As committed environmentalists, my business partner and I applied to run the .eco domain, primarily as a way to keep it out of the hands of greenwashers. Our top priority was, and still is, to make .eco a community of businesses, governments, non-profits and individuals working towards an environmentally sustainable future.

But as we learned more about TLDs we also understood the power of these new, descriptive web address endings as branding tools.

How branding with domains works

Here’s why new TLDs are branding magic. For starters, you’ve got a shot at URLs you’ve dreamed of but whose .com versions were taken long ago. Your friendly, neighborhood SEO expert will tell you that short, pronounceable and meaningful keyword URLs can deliver considerable SEO value because they signal to site visitors that they’re heading in the right direction.

SEO expert Rand Fishkin said, "The URL is one of the most prominent elements searchers consider when selecting which site to click from search results."

For instance, if TOMS Shoes could select any domain name on the planet, it likely would be shoes.com. That URL is taken, of course. But, as I write this, shoes.eco is up for grabs. Arguably, shoes.eco is the better URL because it tells customers two key things about the TOMS brand. First, TOMS makes shoes. Second, the company is a legitimate environmental good actor. That’s a requirement of using a .eco domain name.

To activate their .eco domains businesses, organizations and individuals must pledge a commitment to environmental action. By requiring .eco users to publicly list their enviro actions during the activation process, consumers know they can trust the .eco emblem. Most TLDs, even other green domains, don’t require users to show that kind of transparency.

Highlight your values: TLD branding in the wild

Whether you want to convey hipster chic with a .nyc domain or wellness with a .organic address, domain extensions are the newest tool in the brand marketer’s toolbox. They’re a shortcut for communicating brand values.

<p><span>Sandra Capponi, co-founder of Good On You</span></p>
An early .eco adopter, Good On You, helps conscientious shoppers make ethical fashion choices. Shoppers find the app at GoodOnYou.eco. "We saw a lot of value in using a .eco domain for Good On You," said co-founder Sandra Capponi. "It immediately demonstrates our commitment to environmental sustainability."

Koala is an Australian brand of eco-friendly cleaning products. When it secured its .eco domain, it took the opportunity to rebrand from Koala-co.com to Koala.eco. For many businesses such as Koala.eco, new TLDs offer the chance at a URL upgrade and a better way to tell their brand story.

As consumers become more discerning about making environmentally sustainable buying decisions, a domain such as .eco helps tell a green business’ brand story by conveying more about a business and demonstrates environmental values more than a .com ever could.

Adding TLDs to your branding toolbox:

  1. The easiest way to brand your business with a top-level domain is to choose one that aligns with your core business values.

  2. Score higher legitimacy marks by choosing a top-level domain that consumers trust.

  3. Swing for the fences and apply for your own branded domain name when ICANN opens the next round of TLDs. The American Automobile Association has a web presence at aaa.aaa and the Australian Cancer Research Foundation has its home at home.cancerresearch.

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