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Why You Need Category Domain Names
||The advantages of a category domain.
Some domain names are product category domain names ("category domains" for short). For example, "sandals" is a category word that is, it represents an entire product category.
Owning "sandals.mx" would be a big step toward owning the category of
sandals online — or at least, controlling the category (see below)
— in Mexico, certainly, but more broadly as well.
A domain containing a keyword that represents what the business offers for example, sandals can do the following:
- Help bring you to the top in online search results. (Google gives weight to search keywords in the domain name.)
- Save you money on pay-per-click ads and SEO maintenance. (If you can show up in search results without these, that can save you a bundle. Of course, a category domain cannot get you to the top of the search results
by itself but it goes along way in helping.)
- Serve as a wide funnel to collect new customers looking for products in your category, then channel them through the funnel's narrow neck to your brand or company alone.
- Bring added status to your company, products, services, value-added resource providers, suppliers, and affiliates.
- Associate category words, i.e. "sandals", in the user's mind, with your company rather than your competitors, positioning your company as the preeminent provider in that category and bringing it top-of-mind customer awareness.
- Allow you to control what is said about the category itself in this case, sandals by using the domain for a site about the category, then sprinkling ads for your products throughout the site.
Consider these examples:
- Type in "books.com" and you are redirected to www.BarnesandNoble.com, the
owner of books.com.
- Type in "litter.com" and you wind up at http://www.tidycats.com/,
which is owned by Purina, a major pet care products provider. Purina
bought the category domain name "litter" and uses it to drive
traffic to one of its product sites.
The dream of every marketer is to "own the category" for one or more product categories within their industry. Unfortunately for Barnes & Noble, it's too late for them to own the "books" category — they were too slow on the uptake in the early days when Jeff Bezos was ramping up Amazon.com.
But with "Books.com", B&N took a step towards the next best thing, which is controlling the category. (Unfortunately for them, it was too little, too late, and they are only using the domain as a redirect rather than deploying it for category identification.) When you own a product category domain, you can control what people who are interested in that category learn about it on the category website. And you can slant what they learn in your favor — or simply take them directly to your primary site.
Do you really need product category domains?
Still, you may wonder whether you
really need product category domains. After all, you already have a website and perhaps an established, well-known brand. But these days, people often search for a product category for example, computers or luggage rather than a particular brand, just to see what's available.
And surprisingly often, users will combine a category keyword directly with a domain extension (such as .COM, .MX) in the browser address window.
In the USA, the extension would usually be .COM, but in Mexico, and for many Mexican Americans, it may often be .MX — just as Google favors .MX domains when the searcher is in Mexico. Mexicans know what Google knows — .MX means Mexico it's like the Internet "zip code" for Mexico.
Smart companies want that traffic! They know it can translate directly into sales often from first-time customers who have never previously been to their website. For this reason, these companies purchase product category domains relating to their products. Here are a few examples:
These companies were selected from a much longer list they are just the tip of the iceberg. Nor are we showing all the category domains owned by these companies. Many of these companies, such as Clorox, Hallmark, Johnson & Johnson and Kraft, have multiple domains.
You'll notice that most of these companies are using their category domains to redirect to a different site. However, Johnson & Johnson has developed an independent site on its category domain, Baby.com Notice that this site is category-focused, but slanted towards J&J products. (THe site is integrated with BabyCenter.com, also owned by J&J. Neither site identifies itself as a Johnson & Johnson site.)
Initially, a redirect to your main site is the easiest way to use a category domain. As soon as the redirect occurs, the user knows they are on that company's site. Therefore, our general recommendation is to set up a newly acquired domain as a redirect first, so that you begin reaping benefits from it immediately, but then start building toward a more sophisticated deployment.
In our view, J&J is ahead of the curve here, and over time the trend will be increasingly to utilize product-category domains to create multiple online centers of influence that more or less subtly guide people toward your brand without obviously representing that brand.
Such an approach could be especially effective in an emerging market such as Mexico.
So play it safe. Follow the lead of Johnson & Johnson. Their first-quarter sales in 2012 were $16.2 billion, up 3.5% from 2010. They just might know what they're doing.