The dot brand observatory executive summary

The dot brand observatory supports brands, agencies, consultants and IP specialists to understand better the world of branded top level domains.

Overview

The dot brand observatory is the comprehensive research program about branded Top Level Domains. 557 brands from multiple geographies and industries, have successfully applied to be granted with the right to use their brand name at the top level of the Internet Domain Name.

Our research programme blends multiple aspects of domain names, in order to support our members in their decision making process and in the elaboration of their dot brand strategy and operations. We address questions such as :

  • Are these brands offering a better customer experience ?
  • Are brands using dot brand domains to communicate differently ?
  • Do brands have a consistent and optimised search engine approach ?
  • Are they using their traditional technological content and hosting solutions?

We support brands in elaborating their own dot brand strategy by providing

360 degree analysis

Our research is a 360 degree analysis of branded top level domain names. We analyse the global landscape, the naming strategies of the brand, their marketing approach, as well as the the technological and technical side. The analysis is exhaustive as it covers 98% of the second level domain names created by brands. The date is regularly updated and the observatory is refreshed every two months to keep members up to date with the latest statistics and analysis. The latest analysis was carried out in December 2016.

Dot Brand Context

A slow start

Out of the 600 initial dot brand applications, a few have been abandoned before golive. Most of them are progressively going live, which means that the brand name is added to the database of record of the top level domain names, managed by IANA, and that the management of the zone file of registry is delegated to the brand. Brands generally did not rush to get their registry go live.

Why are a large number of dot brand registries so slow in launching? There is a combination of reasons:

  • The application process has been dragged out by ICANN across four years. Some dot brands have lost interest, others have experienced staff turnover such that the original champion for the gTLD has been reassigned and the new personnel may not share the original vision
  • Many enterprises secured their dot brand for defensive purposes, including the protection of IP, and so are in no hurry to activate their registry
  • It does not suit all applicants to be pioneers
  • If the introduction of the dot brand does not solve a problem, why rush ahead?

From pioneers to prudent

The landscape of dot brand registries is relatively underpopulated, compared to the number of domains owned by the applicant brands and the global growth of new gTLD. Brands can be organised in four main categories :

  • The Passive: Brands who have delegated their new dot brand, but are not considering to use it for any purpose or reason
  • The Prudent: Brands who are have created domain names that are not used for any purpose or simply redirect to exist content
  • The Positive: Brands who launched campaign mini-sites, and who are using them for specific purposes and testing different strategies
  • The Pioneers: Brands who launched main websites, communicated about it and try to drive traffic

Frameworks

Our research presents three global frameworks for a dot brand i.e. main typologies of customer facing domains.

  • The core framework features the hosting of major sites, central to the operations of the brand. These sites are usually complex. The pioneer brands use that framework.
  • The added value domains framework consists of mini or micro sites, used to promote certain specific values, partners or campaigns.
  • The cloud of domains framework consists of sites with no content, usually redirecting to some other digital assets – minisites, legacy domain names or dot brand domain names.

The frameworks are not mutually exclusive and brands usually combine two or threee frameworks.

dot brand framework for analysis of TLD structure

Multi-criteria Analysis

We identified five key characteristics to describe the global landscape and the individual brands. These characteristics are a combination of traditional marketing, such as SEO applied to a top level domain, and of specific metrics for top level domains, such as volume of domains or naming strategy and taxonomy.

Bill Gates said in 1996 : “Content is king”. This is also true for dot brand Top Level Domains. Branded TLD are closed and brands have a very specific objective when they register domain names. While brands are globally testing and trying to understand how dot brands can support their global strategy, the websites published in the dot brand space are relatively small. An increasing number of large websites is appearing. blog.google is the central point where Google talks about their news, which will most certainly generate significant content.

More on Content in dot brand

Brands are still in the early phases of launch and generally taking a conservative approach to how they develop their dot brand TLD. It is often the case that we see dot brand registires launch a small scale test site or campaign specific micro site, where the desire is to understand traffic flows and avoid risk whilst learning the benefits and pitfalls of running a branded top level domain. More on popularity of dot brand .
SEO is the process of increasing the visibility of your website so that it can be found when people are searching for your products and services. There are many different factors that effect the search ranking you will achieve with your page and these factors change on an ongoing basis. The basics to get right are the quality of content on your pages, the quality of inbound links to your site.

In the dashboard we measure efficiency from an SEO perspective by looking at the ranking of the domains when performing searches in Google and Bing for the second level domain, and the SLD + brand. – e.g. for lifetothefullest.abbott, we are searching for life to the fullest and for life to the fullest abbott.

More on SEO for dot brand domains .

With a dot brand, brand owners can create shorter, efficient, memorable domain names. They own the whole namespace, therefore they can create their own taxonomy and rules. We see different brands taking different approaches according to their own brand strategies and the markets they operate in. Some brands include keywords, sub brands, localisation etc.

More on taxonomy of dot brand .

The volume of second level domains is a characteristic that is of interest to many people as it gives an idea of the usage to which the brand will be put. There is a large range of approaches. Some brands have only one or two domains currently and a small number of others have registered over 1000.

More on volume for top level domain name .

Together with the framework, these five key characteristics enable to describe the global landscape for registries. They also enable us to describe and characterise brands individually. The dot brand observatory created a bespoke methodology to assess every dot brand domain on an objective and measurable base. All our criteria are reported on a scale from 0 to 10, where 0 means that there is low value, and 10 means that the value is high. This is reported in the dot brand profiles, accessible in the dot brand dashboard.

The detailed case studies provide in-depth insights for specific brands. The review of every one of these five criteria is one of the ways used to describe dot brand.

multi-criteria analysis for dot sener by the dot brand observatory

Top 5 brands

Top 5 Popularity of domains

As of December 2016

Rank Domain Name Alexa Ranking
1 banco.bradesco 3 125
2 mabanque.bnpparibas 3 375
3 blog.google 12 341
4 domains.google 18 641
5 mabanquepro.bnpparibas 40 790

Top 5 Volume of domains

As of December 2016

Rank dot brand # domains
1 MMA 1741
2 Neustar 504
3 中信 198
4 NRA 143
5 Citic 142

Our members  have full access to rankings and details

Content of the observatory

observatory dashboardUnderstand the global landscape and drill down into your area of focus with our Interactive Dashboard. View charts that comprehensively analyse the spectrum of dot brand activity, including pages on global status, geographical and vertical split, popularity, content, SEO and taxonomy.
dot Brand Top Level Domain Names Profiles

Elaborate and benchmark your strategy based on your peers’ approaches thanks to our Top Level Domains Profiles. We provide comprehensive and actionable data on every dot brand registry. Review what strategies brands are using and compare their approaches. The criteria include naming, technical, content and marketing data.

Second Level Domains profilesPlan your roll-out based on data from our Second Level Domains Profiles. We show all the active websites and their characteristics including the technology used – CMS, webservers – the traffic via Alexa ranking, the search optimization of their sites, the language, length and type of second level domain. All, this is available via our online dashboard or as a downloadable PDF.

Elaborate your launch tactics, and create your project plan, by looking back at our historical data. We have captured data consistently since November 2015, so you can see how the most successful brands have progressively activated their second level domains.

sener communicates about the launch on their social mediaTake an in-depth look at some of the most notable dot brand activity to date. Our Brand Case Studies include full analysis of .CITIC, .SEAT and .WEIR, .LECLERC and others to come. They include social media and communication beyond the dot brand operations, looking at the launch, the communication strategy and SEO. This gives concrete and illustrated means to initiate thoughts and benchmark your own brand’s or customers’ strategy. Understand the territory, prepare your project, and learn from others experience. 
sld-and-tld-searchOur thematic analysis looks at how dot brands address a certain number of specific subjects – length of domain names or search. They enable you to understand how to shape your strategy and your operations, and provide you with benchmarks from other brands. Get inspiration and validate your intuitions with our thematic analysis.

Methodology

Brand scope

Brands were defined through a manual review of each application, comparing every one against standard industry classifications and checking to see if draft policies were for a “single registrant” (closed) registry. It is close, but not identical to the list of Specification 13 agreement.

Specification 13 of the ICANN registry contract provides dot brand TLDs with certain modifications to the standard Registry Agreement, that are specific to brands. Specification 13 requires that:

  • The TLD string is identical to the textual elements of a registered trademark
  • Only Registry Operator, its Affiliates or Trademark Licensees register domain names in the TLD ;
  • The TLD is not a Generic String

Timing

The dot brand observatory was launched in February 2016. More sites are coming online in the dot brand space daily, and a refresh of the research data is run every two months. The current analysis was carried out between 1st and 15th October 2016.

Analysis

The analysis starts with the collection of all the domains registered by the brands, mainly using the zone files.

Every domain is then “pinged” to capture the answer of the HTML Header. The response is then analyzed to see if the domain is simply redirected to a path of the same domain, or to the www server. The domain can also respond with a “200” code, which means that the domain is up and running, or with an error.

Domains are checked for both “SLD.TLD” but also for “www.SLD.TLD”. Some brands make the use of www. mandatory.

The actual non nic websites are then analyzed one by one. We perform a screen copy of every site, look for similar content or sites, look at the inbound links, the technology used to build and run the website. We check the level of popularity using out of the shelve tools such as Alexa and look at the performance of the sites in the search engines. This analysis is highly manual and tailor made by our analysts to provide the most accurate and comprehensive results.