The introduction of the new Generic Top Level Domain (Gtld) extensions (.trademark, .common name, .geographicname) should mark a turning point in the (recent) history of domain names.
However, opinions diverge to a great extent. Looking forward, some predict a true success (the number of domain names would jump from 200 million to 800 million over a period of 5 years), while others just see this as a minor commercial event that will soon be forgotten, like the previous .biz, .tel and other similar extensions.
Quite legitimately, a great number of companies remain unconvinced. However, certain prospects should give them food for thought:
1st prospect: “The end of the existing search system is near” (Google)
This is what Google’s Vice-president for Search – Amit Singhal, just declared!
As reported in French newspaper Les Echos: “Google’s new search algorithm called ‘Hummingbird’ departs from the logic ‘keyword’ approach and opens up to search requests stated in natural language. Quite clearly, a revolution is coming up in the sphere of referencing.”
Google’s aim is to be able to respond efficiently to search requests (which implies better interpreting what the information seeker actually wants) while maintaining a more natural dialogue with the Customer.
2nd prospect: Microsoft is working on a new version of Bing
It would seem that the Google search engine has reached such a high degree of sophistication and complexity that any additional change becomes a truly delicate and risky operation to perform. This is why Microsoft considers that there is a window of opportunity to try and battle it all up with Google:
The risk is all the greater for Google in that Microsoft has the means to achieve its ambitions and is already pursuing a strategy to further develop its service offers to customers to continue to sell its software programs. It therefore seems that the Microsoft business model is totally different from the Google model (which relies chiefly on the sale of keywords).
3rd prospect: Baidu, the impregnable Chinese citadel
For the record, China has 570 million Internet users… And Baidu has become the 6th website most visited worldwide. It is now clearly competing with Google, whose penetration in China is not facilitated by the local Government:
This is rather a matter of competition, in that the service is nearly identical, which is not the case for Microsoft, whose purpose is to change the model in its favor.
4th prospect: The Russian Government supports the launch of Spoutnik
Yandex (a website of Russian origin which is not supported by the Russian Government) currently holds 60% of the Russian search market, with Google ranking 2nd.
Last week, Rostelecom announced the launch of a new search engine focusing on the Russian territory:
If search engines as we currently know them are bound to change (and consequently what is true today will no longer be true in the future) and a great number of Russian, Chinese and other governmental players or companies (Microsoft) are willing to put an end to Google’s near-monopoly, then there are two ways to look at things:
- The fatalistic approach – these changes will necessarily affect the current referencing of your trademark
- The aggressive approach – there will be opportunities to optimize your referencing at a lower cost (in particular if you are quicker to respond than your competitors)
We believe that the second approach is best, so that the TMCH issue should be considered from two different angles, as follows:
a) Register the trademark with the TMCH so as to have the upper hand on strategic reservations to be made
b) Define a strategy to cover possible domain names (outside your trademark) that you could leverage to strongly drive your referencing
and obviously identify the search engine(s) where you may wish to appear prominently (as we have seen that search engine managers will probably soon follow very different strategies).
If the future search engines are to give a single response (or just a few ones) whenever the request has been clearly understood, then it is essential to rank high in such responses!!
If the Internaut uses your trademark to find your website, his/her search should obviously lead to your site, and there is all reasons to think that this should not pose any particular problem if all basic actions have been taken to protect your referencing, including:
– Reserve the domain names that match your short and medium term business strategy
– Monitor all reservations made by third parties
– Respond to the use of domain names that re-route users to active and confusing websites
– Watch out for anything that may detrimentally affect your natural referencing
– Check for anything that may lead to an abnormal and undue increase in your Adword budget
So the most critical issue is rather to make sure that your name will come up when web users will be searching for a product manufacturer or a service provider without first having any preconceived idea about the result of the search?
A simple benchmarking survey shows that most companies that work on this issue generally take one or two major lines of actions:
- Create active pages based on domain names whose title matches an even partial definition of their product offer. As an example, a chain of fast-food restaurants offering a children menu may consider selecting such domain names as www.menu.kids or www.miam.kids, while a chain offering a basic menu may consider using www.burger.cheap or www.burger.ville.cheap., etc.
- Create active pages based on domain names whose title matches a business purpose. For example, a retailer that sells trendy products – and not luxury products – and would like to have its offer perceived as near luxury items, including in terms of their prices, would go for such names as www.trademark.luxury or www.product.luxury (e.g.: www.shoes.luxury).
This clearly shows that domain names may be leveraged as a means to conveying a marketing message, but also to being seen on the Internet and hence capturing new customers and creating value.
The TMCH issue is thus not just an administrative question to be decided, but rather a true strategic issue, on which IP owners should at least ask themselves the right questions…