Since June, shorter .uk web domains have been available for the first time, allowing the registration of ‘yourbusiness.uk’ alongside ‘yourbusiness.co.uk’. With the majority of British consumers citing online presence as the most important asset for businesses in the next five years, it’s imperative that businesses keep up with changes within the domain industry in order to grow their customer base.
Other imminent changes include the introduction of over a thousand new top level domains like .bbc, .cymru and .shop, some of which have already launched. Here’s what you need to know:
What’s available and what’s changing?
New domains generally fall into five categories – generic, geographic, brand, IDN and community. Generic domains include .shop or .bank; geographic domains represent cities or areas such as .wales or .london, while branded domains are exactly as they sound – the likes of .nike or .google. IDN stands for Internationalised Domain Names, including non-latin scripts, and community domains include .islam and .kids. Some of these are on the market, some are open for pre-registration, and hundreds more will launch soon.
> See also: Is .London the best new domain for businesses
All countries are assigned an official country-code top level domain (ccTLD). Some, including France (.fr), allow registration directly before the two-letter country code, while others, such as Britain (.co.uk) or Australia (.com.au) historically have not. In Britain, this changed on 10th June.
What domains are right for my business?
Ask yourself what signals you want to send your customers and prospects. If your customer base is largely in the UK, it’s worth noting consumer polls show 59% of Brits prefer to buy goods or services from a British supplier if possible, and three-quarters believe that .uk is the most appropriate domain ending for a British business.
With an established namespace such as .com or .uk, there are benefits in terms of consumer trust and recognition, while domains such as .guru can appeal to a particular type of customer. There are also practical indicators – a .uk domain suggests a website in English with prices in British Pounds, while a .photography domain makes it clear you’re catering to a certain niche.
How do I get the ones I want?
For new .uk domains, over 10 million existing .uk holders will have the exclusive right to the shorter version of their current domain. The others are available to register on a first-come, first-served basis through most domain resellers (registrars).
Many registrars offer pre-registration promotions, which can be a good way of keeping an eye on the domain you’re interested in but unfortunately bring no guarantees. Existing .uk customers should check their rights to the shorter .uk address and note that they have five years (until 10th June 2019) to decide whether or not to register.
How do I protect my brand?
For new top-level domains, consider registering your trademark at ICANN’s Trademark Clearinghouse. This allows brands to submit their trademark data into a central database and register in new domains’ ‘sunrise’ periods before anyone else, or be notified if a domain name matching their trademark has been applied for.
> See also: First new generic top-level web domains released
If you believe someone else is using a domain name to take unfair advantage of your brand, you need to check what protections are in place from the registry you buy your domains from. For .uk domains, Nominet has a well-respected dispute resolution service (DRS), which usually can provide a quicker and cheaper resolution than going through the courts. For other new gTLDs you will have to investigate the dispute mechanisms on a case-by-case basis.
Will new domains affect my SEO?
Search providers are unlikely to treat new gTLDs differently to what’s already on offer –returning results based on content relevance. It’s likely that search providers will wait and see how people are using new domains and react accordingly. If you’re planning to switch to a new domain, make sure you follow best practice to retain search rankings, such as implementing '301 redirects' and telling Google that your site has moved.
By Antonia Seymour, Chief Commercial Officer of Nominet