Should Hotels Purchase Brand-Specific Top-Level Domains?
Would you replace your website's .COM extension with your own brand name? Should we change from www.bluemagnetinteractive.COM to bluemagnetinteractive.BLUEMAGNET? I know, it's likely to cause carpal tunnel syndrome simply trying to type that all in, but now we could do just that thanks to ICANN!
What exactly are generic top-level domains?
On June 19, the Internet Corporation For Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN)--the non-profit group responsible for approving new top-level domains (TLDs) such as the recent .TRAVEL, .MOBI, and the contriversial .XXX for "adult" sites--made the announcement that they would be approving new generic TLDs. Even though they're called "generic" this just means that they can be just about anything: .HONDA or .CAR. For instance, instead of going to hilton.COM/hhonors, if Hilton Worldwide chose to purchase their brand name as a TLD, they could essentially have a URL such as hhonors.HILTON. Or a specific hotel could purchase .HOTEL and have something like hiltonchicago.HOTEL instead of hiltonchicago.com.
How's .TRAVEL working out for you?
Every so often, in what has been described as an ICANN pure money-grab by may industry experts, new-top level domains are released into the wild for the public to purchase. Remember when the .TRAVEL TLD was announced? When was the last time you saw marriott.travel ranking above marriott.com in the search engines? Yet, because of this "what happens if we don't buy it" mentality, those in the travel industry quickly scrambled to scoop up the .TRAVEL TLD...and then had no idea what they were actually going to do with it.
How about .MOBI?
Similarly, when .MOBI was released, many companies jumped on the .mobile bandwagon because they were afraid of what would happen if they didn't purchase it. There was this fear that someday in the distant future if the company wanted to launch a mobile site, they would need the .MOBI TLD in order to do so. Unfortunately, those who are not familiar with the TLD system don't understand that it's perfectly acceptable to have a mobile website hosted at www.radisson.com/mobile/ instead of purchasing www.radisson.mobi. And chances are, consumers are already more likely to type in radisson.com than radisson.mobi anyways.
Why individual hotels should NOT purchase brand-specific TLDs
- They are expensive!
This isn't like purchasing a .BIZ version of your domain. Start saving those hondos, because you'll need to shell out a whopping $185,000 per TDL. You want to purchase .HILTON and .HHONORS? That'll be $370,000 please. This may be fine for the big brands like Apple or Microsoft who have plans for strengthening brand awareness, but don't expect many small businesses or organizations to fill out an application just yet. Blue Magnet will do just fine without .BLUEMAGNET; we've got better ways to invest in our company's future.
- Consumers may get confused
Let's face it. People just understand .COM. They know it and trust it. Think of the last time you clicked on a .BIZ, .NET, .TRAVEL or .MOBI top-level domain. You probably can't remember many times if any. The dot-COMs are the tried and true standbys of the commercial world. It's familiar, it's accepted, and it's what people default to. Purchasing and using your brand name as a replacement for .COM--unless for branding purposes--really only serves to confuse your customers. We'll be sticking with bluemagnetinteractive.com/blog instead of blog.bluemagnetinteractive, thank you!
- No extra SEO benefit
You may think that purchasing .HOTEL for your hotel will help you rank above your competitors for keyword searches like the ultra-competitive "New York hotels." Not the case, says SEO expert Danny Sullivan:
"...the new names will almost certainly mean nothing special to search engines. They won’t have any super ranking powers. If you managed to get .money, that doesn’t mean you’ll rank tops for money-related terms any more than people with the existing .travel domains do well for travel — because they don’t."
- Trademark headaches
If you are Monster Mini Golf of Lafayette, IN, and you purchase .MONSTER to promote your website, will the Monster Cable company raise a stink about trademark infringement? Expect some big trademark battles between major companies with similar names all grabbing for the same TLDs. For unique brand names this may not be as much of a problem; however, consider if Paris Hilton were to purchase .HILTON as her TLD? Who decides the winner? After all, only one entity can own that particular TLD. And I'm pretty sure Paris and Hilton Worldwide probably won't be too keen on sharing a single website together, unless the hotel company is looking to drastically revamp its image. In the end, it's likely that ICANN will have the final say in awarding specific TLDs to various applicants. Just think of how many companies in our industry would love to get their hands on .HOTEL or .SEO.
With all that in mind, there is one reason a large brand may benefit from the new generic top-level domains: branding. If you are Hilton or Marriott or Pepsi or Nintendo, you may find benefit in the branding opportunities that come with the TLDs .hilton, .marriott, .pepsi and .nintendo. For the rest of us though, stick by your .COMs!