Registration numbers not the only success measure for new TLDs

Published on March 19th, 2014

Adrian KinderisBy Adrian Kinderis

Like many, I’ve been watching the rollout of the first 150+ new Top-Level Domains (TLD) with interest.

Since the delegation of شبكة. back in October, we’ve seen all sorts of TLDs launched – from brands like .monash to generics like .build.

There has been intense scrutiny within our industry on the zone file registration numbers of these delegated TLDs to measure whether or not they are successful.

To be fair, this is not a surprise. We’ve been conditioned by past generic TLD launches to focus on registration numbers. Whether it was .mobi, .travel, .info or.co, all previous TLDs have been measured on registration volume – and more worryingly against the benchmark of .com.

Despite being the new TLD program, many in our industry are still persisting with their old TLD ways of thinking.

How will these same people measure the success of .brands and .geos? Remember, it’s a whole new ball game which requires a different way of thinking because the goal posts have moved.

Early numbers mean nothing

The fact that .guru has 40,000 domain name registrations and .graphics only has 4000 means nothing. It’s like comparing apples and oranges.

Outlandish claims like those seen by .CLUB Domains CEO Colin Campbell that .club will overtake .guru in week one are symptomatic of our industry’s naive focus on raw numbers over qualitative results.

Even my own marketing team is guilty of getting caught up in the hype of zone file number reporting. I had to remind them via Twitter recently that there are many ways of determining a top performing new TLD.

The fact of the matter is, raw numbers mean nothing and a focus on use, engagement, purpose and sustainable revenues are far better measures of success.

What is success?

New TLD operators should be judged on their whole-of-business operational performance to take account of stakeholder engagement, customer satisfaction, strategy planning and financial modeling.

Don’t get me wrong, domain name registration numbers matter. It’s just that you can’t determine the success or failure of a new TLD by comparing it to other TLDs. You can only judge a TLD against its intended purpose and strategy.

Think about .brand TLDs for a second. Registration numbers mean nothing and their entire model is based on how their TLD is integrated into the organisation’s digital strategy. Geographics and IDNs also have a very different proposition than traditional generics.

In attempting to measure success, I’d suggest onlookers focus on:

1. Use: Is the namespace being used in a meaningful way and is there evidence of usage and development with the domain names? Are registrants building businesses and content within the namespace?
2. Sustainable revenues: Who is registering domain names and what is the prospect for renewals? Will the TLD retain registrations or do registrants see it as a fad?
3. Trust: Will end users come to trust the namespace and the content hosted within it? Are these registrants helping to establish trust in the namespace?
4. Purpose: What’s the mission and purpose of the namespace (question 18) and are the registration numbers and content living up to these aspirations?
5. Audience: Is the registry operator targeting a clearly defined audience? Is that audience responsive to the product being offered?

Ask yourself, in the first month of general availability for a generic TLD, would you rather have 10,000 parked domain names registered by domainers with little likelihood of long-term renewal, or would you opt for 100 domain name registrations by major global brands in your target audience who use your namespace to host their entire website?

A strategy reliant on defensive registrations and parked domains is doomed to fail – and is completely ignorant of the new market dynamics within the industry.

In any case, it’s still far too early to accurately measure the long-term viability of any new TLD. But a focus away from registration numbers and an emphasis on use and purpose would be more appropriate.

TLDs like شبكة. haven’t even started their marketing and awareness campaigns yet and the impact of name collisions is holding back many operators from fully implementing their strategic plan to deliver their mission and purpose.

Remember, the game has changed and so have the goal posts.

By Adrian Kinderis
CEO, ARI Registry Services

Super Bowl 2014 advertisers target hashtags for customer engagement

Published on February 5th, 2014

Adrian KinderisAdrian Kinderis, CEO of ARI Registry Services, says Super Bowl 2014 was the year of the hashtag as marketers directed their consumers to Twitter to continue the brand conversation online.

By Adrian Kinderis
Tuesday 4 February 2014, direct from New York

This week, I had the fortune of crossing off a major item on my bucket list – attending Super Bowl. In spite of my team’s absence from the game, it was still a huge – albeit early – highlight of 2014 for me.

Super Bowl is the ultimate merging of my passion for sports and marketing. It brings together people from all walks, catering to the millions of people who tune in to be entranced by the game or the ads, or like me, both.

For three hours on Sunday night, marketers globally tuned into the excitement that emanated out of New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium for NFL Super Bowl XLVIII 2014.

Neither the brilliance of the Seattle Seahawks nor the creative genius of the marketers let me down.

Let’s not underestimate the significance of the occasion.

With more than 100 million viewers tuning in, this year’s Super Bowl was one of the highest rating programs in the US, making the advertising slots some of the most valuable in the world. Advertisers coughed up $4 million on average for each 30-second slot, translating to $133,000 per second!

As I do every year, I investigated how advertisers used this prime marketing opportunity to engage viewers, deliver a compelling message, and most importantly generate a call to action.

Here’s what I found.

#Dominate

Just like the Seattle Seahawks, hashtags and Twitter handles absolutely dominated the calls to action seen in the 85 ads aired from the 44 different advertisers.

More than half of all ads (64%) included a Twitter hashtag or handle as their call to action, compared to only 41% which referred to a domain name to direct viewers to a website.

These results are markedly different from what we saw in previous years.

Yearly change

Looking back over the past few years, we can clearly see an upward trend in marketers directing viewers to Twitter to encourage brand engagement and interaction.

In last year’s Super Bowl, domain names were the preferred call to action, with 40% of ads containing a traditional web address. We only saw 34% of ads featuring a Twitter handle or hashtag.

This gap was even larger in 2012, with 49% of ads containing a domain name and only 9% a Twitter handle or hashtag.

Facebook Dis-Like

Perhaps the most significant observation was that Facebook was seemingly left on the bench for Super Bowl 2014, with only 9% of ads directing viewers to a Facebook page.

Google+ didn’t even make it out of the locker room, with not a single mention. Shazam was the surprise dark horse of the pack, picking up two ads, while YouTube was seen in a total of three ads.

What does this mean?

Clearly, generating a social conversation about your brand or product online via the use of a hashtag dominated the strategic thinking of marketers in this year’s Super Bowl.

I suspect this is a reflection of the fact that a Super Bowl ad offers marketers a chance to extend the reach of a compelling thirty-second TV spot well beyond the night it airs. Hashtags keep the conversation going beyond the little blue bird, used to generate trending topics across Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, and of course Twitter.

However, I still firmly believe that the mainstay of any direct response marketing strategy should always be a domain name and website. We still saw 41% of ads containing a domain name and that’s because these marketers recognised that a call to action which directs consumers to your website is a proven method to generated return on investment.

While encouraging a conversation on a hashtag has its place, I believe the most successful ads were the ones where marketers also used a domain name call to action to complement their social media efforts.

Super Bowl 2015

It’s my prediction that the upward trend with hashtags will carry on and next year marketers will continue to use the combination of domain names and hashtags for their calls to action.

However, what will change will be the domain names themselves!

Domain names will remain the authoritative source of truth on the Internet. After all, they represent the trusted directory service of the Internet. What will change is the domain name landscape and the creative options marketers have at their disposal.

Right now, the first of hundreds of new Top-Level Domains such as .menu, .build and .luxury are being launched offering marketers an additional option in their arsenal of calls to action.

One of the benefits of new Top-Level Domains for marketers will be the ability to integrate tailored domain name calls to action for every campaign with greater ease and creativity.

Major brands such as Hyundai, Microsoft, Volkswagen, Toyota, and Ford are leading the way with these new domains and have applied for their own .brand suffixes. While they were unable to integrate their new Top-Level Domain into their TVCs in this year’s Super Bowl, it is encouraging that in the coming years we could see domain names such as product.microsoft or promotion.ford on our TV screens.

These new domains will give marketers a new level of creativity with their calls to action. They’ll enable advertisers to deliver a highly personal experience and allow viewers to intuitively navigate to relevant content.

It will be interesting to analyse the impact new Top-Level Domains will have on advertising once they start to become mainstream over the next few months. From what I’ve seen from those preparing to launch, I’m anticipating some innovative approaches applied to the marketing for Super Bowl 2015.

By Adrian Kinderis
CEO of ARI Registry Services

Marketers place trust in domain names for AFL Grand Final

Published on October 2nd, 2013

Adrian KinderisAnother year, another grand final and another win for domain names. Adrian Kinderis, CEO of ARI Registry Services, says domain names are the premiers as Australia’s marketers again show a preference for using .com.au as the preferred call to action in AFL Grand Final ads.

By Adrian Kinderis

It surprises me that our local marketing industry hasn’t yet embraced the AFL and NRL Grand Finals as the marketers in the US do for the Super Bowl.

Where’s the hype like you see for the Super Bowl? I think our footy finals represent the premier stage for high-reach, large-impact television advertising in Australia. We should see the country’s best marketers sporting their wares.

They certainly have a good reason to. More than 3.6 million Australians tuned in on Saturday for the AFL Grand Final, representing more than 80% of all free-to-air viewers for the time slot.

As I do every year, I wanted to see how advertisers in Australia use the AFL Grand Final to engage viewers, deliver a compelling message, and most importantly generate a call to action.

Here’s what I found…

The statistics

Like in previous years, domain names were the primary call to action seen in Grand Final ads. Out of the 34 ads aired during the game, 40% included a domain name while only 9% referred to social media.

This is remarkably consistent with what we saw last year with almost identical figures (38% and 9% respectively).

The other significant calls to action exercised this year included of telephone numbers (14%), search (9%) and mobile apps (7%). Interestingly, 21% of ads did not include any call to action.

Within domain names, marketers clearly showed a preference for .com.au in their ads, with more than 70% directing viewers to a .com.au website. Again, this is almost identical to last year.

What does this mean?

Clearly, social media has its place, but it’s not in Grand Final marketing.

Despite all the hype and importance of social media to modern day brand communication, domain names still remain the primary call to action. While we saw NAB make effective use of a Twitter hashtag in their Footify campaign, they largely stood alone on this front.

To me, this suggests that marketers still believe that the website remains a foundation of any direct response lead marketing strategy, especially when a 15- or 30-second ad slot costs up to $100,000.

However, it was interesting to see the rise of search which tallied a 7% rise in the number of ads directing viewers to use a search engine like Google to find their website. The Australian Defence Force and Holden were the major brands utilising this method.

I’ve been a vocal critic (as you can read in my recent Marketing Magazine blog) of this emerging trend, and these statistics confirm my observations that marketers are relying on search in greater numbers. It is narrow minded, short sighted thinking and it needs to change.

Future trends

It’s my prediction that marketers will make a big splash for the 2014 AFL and NRL Grand Finals.

It is clear that domain names will continue their dominance and I don’t expect any changes here. Domain names will remain the authoritative source of truth on the Internet. After all, they represent the trusted directory service of the Internet. What will change is the domain name landscape and the creative options marketers have at their disposal.

By early 2014, the first of hundreds of new Top-Level Domains such as .melbourne, .sydney and .afl will be launched, offering marketers an additional option in their menu of calls to action.

One of the benefits of new Top-Level Domains for marketers will be the ability to integrate tailored domain name calls to action for every campaign with greater ease and creativity.

In Australia, local brands such as the AFL, TAB, iiNet, ANZ and RMIT are leading the way with these new domains. While they were unable to integrate their new Top-Level Domain into their TVCs in this year’s Grand Final, it is encouraging that in the coming years we could see domain names such as sponsor.afl, product.tab or promotion.rmit on our TV screens.

If you take this year’s TVCs as an example, it is possible that in the future we could see the TAB use a domain name call to action tailored specifically for the Grand Final, such as www.grandfinal.tab or even specific content like www.firstgoal.tab. This would allow the TAB to deliver a highly personal experience and enable viewers to intuitively navigate to relevant content.

Also, brands that have not purchased their own .brand domain can purchase domain names under .melbourne or .sydney to create targeted campaigns that have a direct affiliation with either city.

It will be interesting to analyse the impact new Top-Level Domains will have on advertising once they start to appear on the Internet from next year. From what I’ve seen from those preparing to launch, I think we’ll see some innovative approaches applied to the marketing for the 2014 Grand Final.

By Adrian Kinderis
CEO of ARI Registry Services

Looking internally for the success of your TLD strategy

Published on October 2nd, 2013

Adrian KinderisTony Kirsch, Senior Manager of International Business Development at ARI Registry Services, discusses the importance of getting internal support for the success of your .brand Top-Level Domain strategy.

By Tony Kirsch

Last week, I had the privilege of presenting at the Digital Marketing & gTLD Strategy Congress in London on how to create a TLD strategy and activate your path to market for launch.

Some of the best and brightest minds in the industry attended and it was encouraging to hear from major brands such as Phillips, Microsoft, Google and KPMG, as well as a variety of other applicants.

While in my previous blog I discussed why a .brand TLD strategy is important, let’s now delve deeper into engagement strategies and why this is the key to a successful .brand.

Why do I need internal engagement?

Internal engagement is a critical element of a TLD strategy because your .brand TLD is going to impact every aspect of your organisation. From technology to marketing and even customer service, everyone in your organisation needs to be engaged in your TLD strategy at differing degrees.

While you may have already engaged key decision makers during the process of applying for a new TLD, many haven’t sought the necessary strategic input across the organisation – something that is extremely challenging for multinational enterprises (and for some of their consultants!!).

You have to appreciate that how one department approaches your .brand TLD might be different to another department.

However, done correctly, your TLD strategy is the perfect mechanism to align key department’s .brand aspirations with your organisational goals.

Who should you engage internally?

Ideally, the critical areas of your business to target are your C-Suite executives, IT infrastructure and systems teams, digital, brand, legal and marketing departments. This is where the key decision makers lie who can make or break your .brand.

You should also consider bringing in the finance department, PR and internal communications teams, and any agency support your organisation receives from digital, branding and advertising specialists.

Finally, don’t forget that even though you are a .brand, you’ll need to engage your Registrar too (if you haven’t already done so).

Remember, engaging with some internal audiences might be a challenge because there are still people out there that don’t know anything about new TLDs.

Change management

Adopting a .brand is a massive change for any organisation.

It’s important to remember that change is never easy and often clouded in risk as people intuitively resist transformation.

This is why your TLD strategy serves two purposes: 1) To provide purposeful direction in the launch of your TLD; and 2) To act as a mechanism to engage internally and gain the support of your key stakeholders.

The reality is that you’re not only taking ownership of your .brand strategy, you will also be seen as the change facilitator. Leaders of large change programs must take responsibility for generating the critical mass movement in favor of the change. This requires more than mere buy-in or passive agreement; it demands complete ownership of the entire change process.

The five steps

I detail these steps in far greater depth during our TLD strategy workshop sessions. At a high level, below are the five key elements you should consider as part of internal engagement for your TLD strategy:

1. De-risk

A successful TLD strategy will need to take a ‘whole of business’ approach if it’s to be effective. Remove the target from your back by involving key stakeholders early and de-risk your .brand TLD investment.

2. Get support from your TLD advisors

Get support from your trusted TLD advisors to guide you through the process. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel.

3. Secure budget

You’ve made an investment in a core piece of Internet infrastructure. Now it’s time to activate this investment. Engage internally to make a business case to secure budget.

4. Get internal resources

You can’t do this yourself. Collaborate and consult with key stakeholders in all departments to share the load. It’s often far more effective to have others champion the cause for you.

5. Align with corporate goals

Does your .brand TLD strategy reflect your organisation’s mission, vision and values? Now’s the time to engage every department to get collective buy-in.

Your plan

You’re building something from scratch and you need to get your plans in place. Internal engagement is the key to successful project planning and management.

Think about the construction of a house. You would never build a new house without detailed plans.

Similarly, with the creation of your TLD strategy, you should facilitate constructive internal engagement so you can build a plan that provides visibility across all facets of your business operations – and provide a digital platform for your organisation for many, many years to come.

By Tony Kirsch
Senior Manager – International Business
ARI Registry Services

Tony Kirsch is widely recognised as an industry expert within the new TLD program and is employed by ARI Registry Services, an International Domain Name Infrastructure Services organisation based in Melbourne, Australia.

Tony has advised some of the world’s largest firms and Governments on their new TLDs and his in- depth understanding of the program’s intricacies is widely sought after in order to assist the creation of companywide processes and strategies.

Bring your .brand to life

Published on September 20th, 2013

Adrian KinderisTony Kirsch, Senior Manager of International Business Development at ARI Registry Services, previews his upcoming presentation for the Digital Marketing & gTLD Strategy Congress on why your TLD strategy is paramount to making or breaking your .brand.

By Tony Kirsch

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
― Benjamin Franklin

With the first new TLDs slated to be delegated in only a matter of weeks, effective development of your TLD strategy is your most important asset to guide you on the path to the successful implementation of your .brand.

Your strategy will be the most significant weapon in your Top-Level Domain arsenal to drive the launch of your .brand, and you’ll only get there with preparation and engagement. For the vast majority of .brand applicants, ICANN have recently informed you that you have passed your application. You’ve come this far. Now it’s time to get the traction and key stakeholder buy-in that is required to justify the investment to date, and support the initiative into the future.

No matter the motivation for applying for your .brand TLD, effective use of your ‘slice of the Internet’ has the potential to be a significant competitive advantage… when activated and incorporated into your digital presence carefully and strategically.

So what is a .brand TLD strategy?

Your TLD strategy is fundamentally about integration; firstly within your organisation, secondly into your existing digital environment, and thirdly, with all of your external stakeholders.

Other new ‘generic’ TLDs (i.e. those available for sale) will be greenfield business – and in most cases have a significantly different value proposition to their target markets.

Large organisations on the other hand, have invested heavily in the development – both online and offline – of their brands over many years. Simply moving to a .brand without clear direction, and a reason for users to find your .brand compelling to try it, will result in the rapid and public death of your .brand.

Remember that Internet users, even the most innovative ones, are not all that forgiving. Your TLD strategy should demonstrate immediate reward and give them incentive to follow you in your .brand TLD journey.

Great responsibility

If you’ve read this far, it’s because you recognise you are part of a bigger movement.

As a .brand applicant, you are trailblazing the frontier of a new Internet and the whole world is watching. Your individual success adds to the collective success of the new TLD program, and your participation in this evolution means our shared responsibility to get it right rests heavily on strategy and execution. This will be the cornerstone of much of my presentation, in collaboration with NetNames and Philips, at the Digital Marketing and gTLD Strategy Congress in London next week.

One size fits all

I’ve had the pleasure of working with some of the world’s largest brands to deliver strategic guidance in recent months and the one consistent theme from the workshops I’ve been conducting is that there is no one-size-fits-all TLD strategy solution. As a .brand, you must recognise you need a tailored approach to activating your TLD in line with your corporate vision and success is all about tailoring your strategy to deliver on your specific needs.

Use momentum to build your TLD

As a .brand applicant, you will own your own piece of the Internet; this is your digital asset that separates you from your competitors and demonstrates to your customers that you are leaders in innovation. Drive the momentum of your launch activities to generate ambassadors of your .brand and invite them to join this historic movement.

Then, importantly, don’t get lazy after launch as it’s important to understand that launch success does not equate to ongoing success. Your .brand TLD strategy should have multiple stages of activation to continue breathing life into your .brand, and thus ensure it evolves into your future global digital footprint.

Are we there yet?

The distance between today and launch may seem miles away, but the horizon of this Internet evolution is right in front of us and I can assure you there is lots of work to be done. The key is engagement, education… oh, and a little bit of courage and passion too!

By Tony Kirsch
Senior Manager – International Business
ARI Registry Services

Tony Kirsch is widely recognised as an industry expert within the new TLD program and leads Global Strategic Consulting for ARI Registry Services, an International Domain Name Infrastructure Services organisation based in Melbourne, Australia.

Tony has advised some of the world’s largest firms and Governments on their new TLDs and his in- depth understanding of the program’s intricacies is widely sought-after in order to assist the creation of companywide processes and strategies.

Who are the true multi-stakeholders in ICANN?

Published on September 19th, 2013

By Donna Austin

Adrian Kinderis

During ICANN Durban, I attended the ccNSO 10 year anniversary celebrations.

ICANN Chairman, Dr Steve Crocker, was on hand to congratulate the ccNSO on their 10 years and revered them as the “true multi-stakeholders in ICANN”.

Post Durban, I was reviewing notes and I came across a similar statement made during a ccNSO session that ccTLDs “represent the best functioning multi-stakeholder model” in the ICANN ecosystem.

Is this entirely accurate? Is the ccNSO really the golden child of ICANN’s multi-stakeholder model?

While there is no doubt that the ccNSO has been instrumental in influencing policy development and championing change for their cause, are they really ICANN’s “true multi-stakeholders”?

Let’s recap

When I first started attending ICANN meetings back in 2001 representing the Australian Government as the coordinator of the GAC, ccTLDs were pretty much sitting outside the tent. There was considerable distrust between the ccTLD community and ICANN at the time and regular meetings between the ccTLD operators and the GAC could be rather frosty events.

In 2005, when I joined ICANN staff as policy support for the ccNSO, relationships were slowly mending and both the ccTLDs and ICANN were recognising the mutual benefits of having ccTLD operators inside the ICANN tent.

So against this background, it is a tremendous achievement that the ccNSO is now well-established and an important contributor in the ICANN community.

However, the ccNSO has a stronger focus on collaboration, information sharing and best practice adoption, rather than a true aspiration for the Policy Development Process (PDP) that underpins a multi-stakeholder model. This is in large part because the participation of a ccTLD registry operator in the ccNSO and ICANN – and adoption of any policies that might be developed – is on a ‘voluntary’ basis.

ccTLDs are not bound by ICANN consensus policies and operate largely unfettered without interference from ICANN.

I don’t deny that within their respective countries or territories ccTLDs engage in multi-stakeholder style consultations and policy undertakings, but I do not agree that they are the ‘true multi-stakeholders in ICANN’.

While the ccNSO thoroughly deserves plaudits on a highly successful 10 years, I question whether they are the preeminent representation of the multi-stakeholder model.

The GNSO

Instead of the ccNSO, I would argue that the GNSO is the prime example of the multi-stakeholder model operating at its full capacity. It might at times look like a dog fight, but that’s the beauty of the model.

The GNSO has a long history of undertaking policy development processes and perhaps the most contentious and the one that still lingers is the PDP that recommended the introduction of new gTLDs.

I used to think it was inappropriate for those that stood to benefit from the new gTLD process to be involved in the policy development process that recommended the introduction of new gTLDs. But what I’ve come to appreciate and understand is that the only way for the ICANN experiment to succeed – at least in the short term – was to ensure that those who had a dog in the fight were involved in the process.

The development of the new gTLD program has been the process – while often times messy – that has led in large part to the maturation of ICANN and the expansion of the GNSO into a more diverse and dynamic set of interest groups. The process has also brought considerably more interplay across ICANN’s structure of supporting organisations, advisory committees, the ICANN Board and staff.

As ICANN contracted parties, there is also much more at stake for the gTLD registries in these PDPs as the outcomes will have some impact on their business. All gTLD registry operators sign contracts with ICANN acknowledging that they will be bound not only by consensus policies that exist at the time of signing the agreement, but any consensus policies approved at a later date.

So it’s understandable that some of the policy debates that take place within the GNSO are very robust, hard fought and lengthy. Finding consensus in such an environment should be applauded and exalted by ICANN and time should be taken by those new to ICANN to understand and appreciate the machinations of the process.

The GNSO should be ICANN’s flagship. It is the central policy organ that is so important to the bottom-up, consensus driven, multi-stakeholder model that is ICANN.

As Jonathan Robinson, Chair of the GNSO Council, noted prior to Durban:

“… ICANN’s multi-stakeholder model is complex, dynamic and necessarily evolving.”

Those of us that have been engaged in this community for a long time will understand the multi-facets of the SOs and ACs that collectively are the “true multi-stakeholders in ICANN”.

After 12 years of following this circus, I am finally starting to get it.

By Donna Austin
Policy and Industry Affairs Officer
ARI Registry Services

Search is not the solution, it is the problem

Published on September 19th, 2013

By Adrian Kinderis

Adrian KinderisIn a special feature article first published by Marketing Magazine, Adrian Kinderis, CEO of ARI Registry Services, investigates recent trends in advertisers directing their customers to conduct search-based queries to find their products or services.

By Adrian Kinderis
Tuesday 27 August 2013

I’m a businessman, but I’m also a consumer, and I’ve become increasingly frustrated with advertisers sending me to search engines to go looking online for their product or service as their call to action.

I often find myself distracted by the other search results (you never know what you’ll find!) when conducting these searches. Other times, I’m insulted that they expect me, the customer, to go searching for them, the advertiser.

But what baffles me the most – from my business perspective – is the exorbitant costs expended by advertisers to drive customers on a hunt to find them in such a competitive landscape, especially when they can be directed to the exact destination in one click.

My findings have illustrated that search is not the solution to advertisers’ reaching their customers and driving conversions; search is the problem.

What we know about search

Recent studies indicate the growing dependence on search engines, revealing that 91 percent of us use search engines online, and 59 percent rely on search engines.

While there’s no denying the increasing use of search engines globally, the emerging trend from marketers to use search as their call to action in place of direct web addresses has become more and more prevalent in above the line marketing. Open the newspaper or turn on your television and you’ll find it’s not uncommon to see the term, ‘search <product name/campaign>’ in advertising.

But is the tail wagging the dog? Do marketers believe their customers aren’t savvy enough to navigate the Internet using domain names, or are they just encouraging us to become slaves to the search bar?

No certainty

Above the line marketing has reached new lows if advertisers believe consumers are more likely to search for keywords like “Colorado Serious” to find out more about a four-wheel drive. When I typed that in, I discovered that there was a serious virus in Colorado infecting locals! Similarly with an Audi ad I recently saw; when I typed “Audi A3” into my search bar, Audi wasn’t the top-ranking search result.

Further, what happens when your immediate advertising campaign finishes? You do not own that search keyword and unless you plan on paying for it well into the future, any residual engagement you create through your campaign will be lost – potentially to a competitor. You must continually invest in your keyword to own it and that can be financially draining overtime.

In spite of the stats that drive marketers to believe search is where it’s at for customer conversion, there is no certainty that for all the money spent on search engine rankings – in addition to the ad production and placement – that the promise of being the top-ranking search result is achieved.

Competitive environment

Granted, advertising in any format is a competitive landscape, but do marketers believe that keyword searches are a more effective means of driving their audience to their campaign?

Search is a highly competitive environment and recent court cases have ruled that competitors are permitted to purchase your keywords.

Clever competitors may even try to artificially inflate your cost per click (CPC) price by under bidding you and forcing you to pay more for each click. CPC is not a set fee, it’s volatile and an advertiser pays above immediately what an under bidder pays.

Lack of control

The crux of the problem I have with advertisers using search as a call to action is that not only is it expensive, but the outcome can be fallible due to the fact that search results are controlled by a third party and can be influenced by anyone else to your detriment.

Even worse, there is no control over what may appear next to your brand in your keyword search terms. What if a major breaking news story occurs on the same day as your campaign and the story involves terms that match your keywords? The consequences of negative stories being tied to your brand could be disastrous. Like Colorado Serious… four-wheel drive, anyone?

Not efficient

Search engines have made us lazy. Many of us have become slaves to the search bar and its auto-fill convenience. Have you ever googled Google rather than typing the domain name into the web address bar?

Search should help us find content, not replace the web address bar as an online navigation aid. Often, typing a domain name into an address bar will be far quicker than the multiple steps required to search for a website.

However shameful it is, using search engines to navigate the Internet is a reality for many. I believe some advertisers have attributed this to be a user preference, rather than recognising this point as a wider Internet navigation problem.

In my eyes, search is an unnecessary two-step process. Why should Internet users search for advertisers to only end up at their corporate website or microsite anyway? Search can only introduce unnecessary risk to the equation.

100% visibility on poor performance

Because the data indicates the vast majority of Internet users rely on search, marketers see search engines as a channel with which their audience is familiar and regularly use to navigate the Internet.

However, just because their website analytics reports show most of their traffic originates from Google doesn’t mean it should be promoted as the preferred way to navigate to your website. With ROI as the major focus of digital marketing, are marketers simply trying to justify their budget because the data is available? Isn’t that just spotlighting poor performance?

Bring back the slash

Marketers went a little crazy with the use of slash extensions on their domain names in advertising, but there are clever ways to use them. For example, featuring the entire url, including the http://www. is often not the best way to encourage memory recall or positive brand association in advertising, and the same can be said for using domain name-slash something-slash something. Treating your audience as savvy consumers is one thing, but don’t make it difficult for them to remember who you are and what you’re selling.

With the introduction of the new Top-Level Domain Program into the marketplace, a new world of options will be available to marketers. Not only will it support the expansion of the Internet, it offers customers a more memorable, direct solution to finding your product/service/campaign, and will allow greater conversion. Imagine directing your customers to holden.car/colorado, or even better, colorado.holden? All the benefits of web analytics and customer recall, minus the expensive keywords and competitive landscape.

Marketers are adding to the wider web navigation problem by not raising greater awareness and education among their audience about their corporate online mainstay – their website and domain name. Remember, you own your domain name and all the traffic and IP rights associated to it. This is in contrast to search terms, where you are building equity into an asset you will never truly own.

It all boils down to the basic marketing principles of message recall, brand recognition and trust. Control the message and send your customers straight to your website via a domain name. No detours required.

Not only are websites and domain names far cheaper to set up and maintain, they’re yours to own forever and cannot be influenced by your competitors.

By Adrian Kinderis
CEO, ARI Registry Services

Navigating online in Arabic key to greater regional Internet participation

Published on March 6th, 2013

By Adrian Kinderis

Adrian KinderisIn a special opinion editorial first published by ITP Magazine, Adrian Kinderis, CEO of ARI Registry Services, explains why nurturing an end-to-end Arabic online experience will be important to address the needs of the next 90 million Arabic Internet users.

By Adrian Kinderis
Dubai, UAE – Monday 4 March 2013

The next time you’re driving down the D89 Airport Road to Dubai International Airport, take a moment to look at the advertising billboards. In particular, look at the domain names used in the call to action.

You will notice a number of Arabic advertisements aimed entirely at an Arabic audience that strangely feature domain names written in English.

How can we expect the Arabic community to navigate to online content using domain names written in a foreign language? Furthermore, how many real world and e-commerce transactions are missed because an Arabic speaker was unable to navigate online?

The problem is that while there have been advancements in Arabic content and applications, the very infrastructure used to navigate online has not kept pace – namely the regional domain name market.

We know the next billion Internet users won’t come from English speaking countries. The same can be said for the Arab region; the next 90 million Arabic Internet users will expect to navigate the Internet in their native language.

The writing is on the wall – and it is in Arabic script. Arabic is the fastest growing language online with growth of more than 2500 percent between 2000 and 2011. Arabic is also the fastest-growing language on Twitter.

These roadside billboards offer an insight into the challenges faced by Arabic speakers online and highlights the limitations of the regional domain name market and the options available to businesses wanting to register domain names. It shows there is a disconnect between an increasingly online-orientated society and the accessibility of participation.

Is it no wonder that many local Internet users rely on Google to navigate the Internet? Why should they have to rely on a third party to seek out the content they are looking for?

What we need is an end-to-end Arabic online experience for the Arabic speaking community. This means an Arabic keyboard to type in an Arabic domain name to visit Arabic content.

The solution is Arabic Internationalised Domain Names which eliminate the reliance on traditional Latin scripts and instead allow Arabic speakers to navigate in their own language. Non-Latin Arabic script domains will be a significant factor in helping the next wave of Arab Internet users navigate to online Arabic content.

There are a number of countries already hosting Arabic script domains, including the United Arab Emirates (امارات.), Oman (عمان.) and Qatar (قطر.). These national digital assets are of enormous value to their respective countries and the citizens who access the Internet through them. However, they are being underutilised and are limited to the boundaries of the individual countries – stifling region-wide participation.

However, later this year, a new Arabic script domain name is set to revolutionise the Internet in the Arab region.  شبكة. (.shabaka – translates to .web in Arabic) will establish an entire corner of the Internet completely dedicated to the Arabic language, culture and society.

Unlike the national Arabic scripts currently available, شبكة. will be the first cross-border Arabic Top-Level Domain extension open to all Arabic speakers across the region. It will provide an emotive connection between Arabic culture and the community while opening an online channel to intuitively connect Arabic speakers to online Arabic content.

Initiatives such as  شبكة. will help bridge the gap between Arabic content and Arabic speaking Internet users. It will help provide the platform needed to fuel greater Arabic orientated online entrepreneurism and innovation.

Furthermore, there are commercial incentives for Arab-based organisations to help break down the accessibility barriers. To put a price on this, the Gulf Cooperation Council predicts B2C e-commerce sales in the region will reach around $15 billion by 2015. Savvy business leaders would be wise to recognise this commercial potential.

The big question is, who is responsible for facilitating this end-to-end Arabic online experience? The beauty of the Internet means it will be a collaborative approach from the business sector generating the Arabic content, to policy makers raising greater awareness and the industry providing the technology and platform.

I strongly believe that this will go a long way to removing the barriers to greater Internet participation in the Arab region.

It is my prediction that in the near future we will see a greater number of Arabic advertising billboards targeting Arabic speakers with Arabic script domain names such as شبكة. directing viewers to engaging online Arabic content.

The dawn of the end-to-end Arabic online experience is upon us.

By Adrian Kinderis
Adrian is CEO of ARI Registry Services, a global domain name technology company. Adrian discussed the topic of developing a robust Internet in the Arab region during his keynote address at the ‘Multi-stakeholder Internet Governance in the Arab world’ forum on Monday 4 March 2013 at the Radisson Royal Dubai.

Facebook lags as domain names and Twitter dominate Super Bowl 2013 ads

Published on February 8th, 2013

By Adrian Kinderis

Adrian KinderisAdrian Kinderis, CEO of ARI Registry Services, says Super Bowl 2013 showed a brand’s domain name and Twitter handles were the dominant call to actions for the world’s leading advertisers – a fact that bodes well for the introduction of .brand Top-Level Domains in traditional advertising mediums

There is no surprise that marketers, advertisers and consumers pay close attention to Super Bowl ads. A Super Bowl campaign provides a brand with the opportunity to shine like no other event in the world, entertaining millions through the discipline of insightful, creative advertising.

Last year one trend in particular caught my attention – the common call to action used by advertisers to drive a response from consumers. My brilliant team of data crunchers found 49% of Super Bowl 2012 ads directed viewers to a corporate website address – above all other social media channels such as Facebook (11%) and Twitter (9%).

So when Super Bowl Sunday came around this year, I was intrigued to see what my team’s analysis would yield. Would domain names still remain dominant despite the growing popularity of social media?

Interestingly, out of the 73 ads that aired this year, domain names prevailed again as the preferred call to action used by advertisers, with 40% of ads containing a traditional web address. On the social media front, it was Twitter that dominated the playing field with 34% of ads featuring a Twitter handle or hashtag – a monumental jump of more than 300% from last year. In contrast, Facebook remained ‘on the bench’ with only 11% of mentions in Super Bowl commercials and Google+ was clearly stuck in the locker room with not a single mention.

With 108.4 million viewers, Super Bowl 2013 was one of the highest rating programs in the US, making the advertising slots some of the most valuable in the world. Reports suggest advertisers spent up to a record $3.8 million for each 30-second slot, with GoDaddy, Samsung, Audi, Century 21, Hyundai and Fiat amongst the many regular players.

For $3.8 million I’m guessing advertisers were hoping for a strong return on investment – and with so much riding on the success of each ad, the call to action driving the advertising message is clearly vitally important. The fact that domain names were the most popular call to action for two years running proves that advertisers prefer to drive an audience to a website for a purer, controlled brand experience.

The reality is that social media does not present the same level of certainty as a website. Despite –the impressive growth this year of Twitter mentions, this was normally in conjunction with another call to action such as a domain name. For example, Disney and Fiat featured both website addresses and Twitter handles (one to drive a brand experience, the other to create a conversation). Super Bowl ad veteran GoDaddy advertised with just their domain name last year, but added Twitter as an additional call to action this year. This is an interesting move from an organization whose business is the sale of domain names. I’d suggest this addresses a requirement to create brand engagement at times when a domain name purchase isn’t on the cards.

Intriguingly, only 19% of ads featured a Twitter handle or hashtag as the only call to action – compared to 25% for domain names. Hyundai and Century 21 were the biggest domain name fanatics, advertising with their website addresses only in both Super Bowl 2012 and 2013, while we found a Twitter devotee in Audi, who used Twitter as their sole call to action for both years.  The case was even bleaker for Facebook, with only 4% of ads featuring Facebook as the sole call to action (Pepsi was a lone ranger here). In fact, Samsung went so far as to drop their Facebook call to action from their 2012 ads in favour of Twitter this year – perhaps a recognition of the channel’s ability to attract online conversations around the world’s biggest events, be it sport, politics or a natural disaster.

For now, it’s clear that brands still see websites as their core digital asset – the quarterbacks of a brand’s digital strategy you might say. 

What trends will we see in future ads?

Despite the increasing trend for brands integrating their content through social media channels, my prediction is that websites, driven by intuitive and easy to recall website addresses will continue to remain the primary point of brand engagement for many of the world’s leading brands. Websites provide a level of control, interaction and measurability that social media just cannot match when considering brand experience, product immersion or direct response.

To support this, many global brands have invested in their their own branded slice of the Internet to allow for greater levels of engagement between their online content and their target audiences. And they are only just around the corner…

The new Top-Level Domain program

The global regulator of domain names, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), is getting ready to roll out its new Top-Level Domain program later this year. The program will see those that applied move beyond the traditional .com to .brand in a dramatic shift that will introduce a new platform for innovation, increased simplicity and recall for the domain name landscape.

Moving from samsung.com to .samsung for example, this unique slice of Internet real estate will change the way consumers around the world navigate to find online content, as well as reducing the reliance upon unwieldy forward slashes (/) to create an online call to action.

A .brand Top-Level Domain will allow trust, leadership, customer engagement and improved message recall to shine through by providing a direct connection between the customer and the brand experience – creating your very own branded ‘walled garden’. This will deliver the same control and measurability seen in traditional domain names, but it will provide new avenues for creativity, freedom and simplicity.

What impact will this have on Super Bowl ads in the future?

For those brands who have applied, a new Top-Level Domain will have a unique differentiator within the online space at their disposal – an asset that creates memorable, succinct domain name structures that will increase customer response and engagement from traditional advertising activity.

I suspect next year’s Super Bowl advertisers will be closely watching the new Top-Level Domain program and investigating the possibility of including a .brand Top-Level Domain when it’s their time to shine on the global scale. Dell, Toyota, and Samsung all advertised this year and all applied for a new Top-Level Domain. Their chance to innovate is just around the corner.

Just imagine seeing ads driving viewers to visit rav4.toyota, achieve.dell or galaxy.samsung in next year’s Super Bowl? Seems just little bit more compelling than “follow us on Twitter”.

By Adrian Kinderis
CEO, ARI Registry Services

The favoured new TLD registrar payment model

Published on February 6th, 2013

By Chris Wright

This week, Thomas Barrett – the President of US based registrar EnCirca – published a timely article about how the registrar cash flow model could collapse with the imminent release of hundreds of new Top-Level Domains (TLD).

I would like to thank Thomas for raising this important issue and for encouraging all new TLD applicants to discuss this topic with their back-end registry provider.

Thomas is correct; the process new TLD registries choose to interact with registrars will have a major impact on the success of their businesses.

Building upon what Thomas has written, I would like to take this opportunity to provide insights from a back-end registry operator’s view and offer an explanation for why I think the post bill pay model is favoured amongst registrars and should be supported by registries.

While Thomas briefly touched on this point, I would like to expand upon it and clarify a few issues.

The post bill pay model

ARI Registry Services has spent considerable time developing effective payment processes between registries and registrars. Following considerable consultation, the post bill pay model was constructed in conjunction with some of the largest registrars around the world.

We support the post bill pay model because it is actually significantly simpler and most registrars like it. In summary, this model essentially means registrars receive an invoice from the registry operator for all billable transactions following the end of a billing period. There are no accounts and no need for funds to be transferred outside of these invoices, which significantly helps to reduce the financial risk and strain on registrars.

It’s worth noting that it can be important to make a distinction between transactions that can be reversed and transaction’s that cannot. To make it simple for everyone, ARI Registry Services does not bill registry operators for transactions that are still reversible. We will wait until these transactions become non-reversible before we issue any invoices to registry operators. We offer similar functionality to our registry operators with respect to registrar billing so that they also have the choice to do this.

Benefits of the post bill pay model

As Thomas outlined in his article, there are a number of questions new TLD applicants should be asking their back-end registry provider. I completely agree with Thomas and offer the following responses to provide clarity on the benefits of the post bill pay model:

1) Is there an “accreditation” fee charged by the Registry?

As a back-end registry provider, we don’t charge any accreditation fee.

In fact, we take this one step further. All established registrars that can demonstrate experience in integrating with registries of a similar structure to us do not need to perform technical accreditation processes with us. Furthermore, we strongly advise our registry clients against charging accreditation fees as this is an unnecessary barrier to entry for registrars and ultimately impacts the commercial success of the TLD.

2) How much does the Registry require as an initial deposit and for replenishments?

Deposits, account maintenance and funds for replenishments are abolished under the post pay billing model. We don’t see any need for these.

The benefit of the post pay billing model is that there is no need to have account balances in the registry and we can simply track the transactions and invoice the registrars.

3) How does the Registry communicate the existing balance to Registrars? 

When you move to the post pay model, all you need to do is provide a web interface that allows registry operators and registrars alike access to the billable transactions that have occurred in the current invoice cycle. Sending a daily summary of transaction totals is the preferred way to proactively inform registrars of what they have spent.

4) Is there an auto-renewal policy for non-renewed domains?

Thomas seems to suggest that registrars don’t like auto-renewal because they basically provide credits to registrants or credits to the TLD.

This is easily addressed by delaying raising a transaction for this renewal until the end of the auto-renew grace period. Alternatively we can use the post pay model and the principle of not charging for non-reversible transactions. These solutions effectively eliminate this issue so you can still support an auto-renew service without the registrar having to carry the financial risk.

5) What are the bank fees to fund your registry account?

This is eliminated under the post pay bill model because there are no bank accounts and deposits to be tracked.

6) What payment options does the Registry accept for funds?

In our post bill pay model (as a back-end registry operator), we don’t enforce any mandatory payment options. It’s relatively straightforward; we send the invoicing data to the registry operator, who in turn will load the information into their accounting systems and generate an invoice for registrars. Registry operators are free to accept payment via any of the standard commercial invoicing payment options, or indeed any other method they desire. 

7) Does the Registry have its own account for each Registrar or does the back-end provider provide a single account for each registrar for all of the TLDs the back-end provider manages?

This issue becomes a lot less of a problem under the post bill pay model because we do not require money to be deposited, and thus tied up.

Each registrar will get a separate invoice from each commercial entity (registry operator) they deal with (TLD or collection of TLDs).

8) Does the Registry provider emergency credit if funds run low?

Again, because there are no funds associated with the post bill pay model, this issue is eliminated.

Risk for registry operators

As can be seen in our responses above, the post bill pay model addresses all of the questions Thomas has raised. However, while reducing the financial burden to registrars, it does potentially expose the registry operator to more risk.

We argue that new TLD registry operators should be prepared to accept this risk given that it will make their TLD more appealing to registrars. Ultimately, if you don’t have any registrars, you won’t be able to sell your domain names.

Further, these risks are manageable and can be addressed. For example, you can conduct credit checks on registrars, ask potentially problematic or risky registrars to put money into escrow or offer a bond, track the amount of debt a registrar is accumulating, or ultimately completely cut off the registrar from the registry if bills are not paid.

There are a number of strategies available to reduce this risk to registry operators.

Promotions

A further benefit of the post bill pay model is that it offers the most flexible platform for registries and registrars to implement promotional offers, discounts, credits for marketing and other commercial pricing strategies.

Essentially, each registry operator can apply their own discounting or promotional strategy as credits towards invoices, without requiring back-end registry operators to manage these. This means registry operators do not have to rely on their registry services provider to custom build promotions into their registry system, or pay expensive development costs.

Impact on new TLD applicants

I strongly recommend all new TLD applicants to consider the post bill pay model for their registrar payment process.

As described above, this model reduces the cash flow burden for registrars, makes your TLD more appealing to them and allows each registry operator to negotiate their own terms with each registrar.

Remember, registrars will be a crucial element in the success of many new TLDs. The barriers to entry will be a key  parameter reviewed by registrars when making decisions about which TLDs to integrate with first and a post bill payment model will go a long way to reducing these barriers.

If your back-end registry provider does not offer a post bill payment model, it may not be too late to switch.

By Chris Wright
Chief Technology Officer
ARI Registry Services