As of yesterday, general registration for the .BANK web domain extensions opened and an estimated 4,000 domains were applied for. Approved by ICANN in 2008, financial organizations and trade associations banded together to establish an fTLD Registry Services, an entity that would control these “financial top level domains” (fTLDs). Open on a limited basis since May, yesterday was the first day any bank could apply. What ensued was the greatest land grab by banks in the history of the industry and it was all anyone talked about yesterday. Now the question is, what else are banks going to buy and what are banks going to do with their new domain names?
Choosing the right domain name and digital footprint can reap millions in additional value. While banks aren’t going to invest in names (some surely will), remember that it wasn’t common for investors to buy a name for less than $100 only to flip it for millions. The person that bought vacationrentals.com sold it for $35mm and spawned a whole new industry, while the person that bought FB.com ended up selling it to Facebook that bought it for defense for $8.5mm.
Before we get to that point, for more than half the industry that has not registered (many banks purchased multiple domains), here is some background:
Just as .money, .finance, .biz, .co and especially .info never caught on, .BANK is going to take some getting used to. Almost every large brand has historically decided to focus their efforts on their main digital properties around .com and have shunned alternative domains. This time might be no different. Going to .BANK layers in a whole host of complexities from marketing to security that many banks are just now starting to contemplate. In addition, at approximately $995 per domain (varies by registrar), it is the most expensive direct domain that you can purchase and is much more expensive than the $25 dollars you spent to show off your grandchildren that ended up with the unfortunate domain of www.kidstalk.com.
Why Do It
The biggest single reason why banks want to go .BANK and will go .BANK is because of the additional security to include mandatory bank charter verification, email authentication, enhanced encryption, better authentication, abuse monitoring and escalated compliance / enforcement. You do not want to be the bank that has a security breach that could have been stopped by the infrastructure of .BANK. While it is true that for a good hacker the .BANK security is largely theater, it is a layer to slow down the amateurs. Hopefully, you never have to get tried in the court of public opinion, but if you do, not going .BANK will be the worst decision you ever made.
Other domains, such as .info, where spoofed and phished so quickly that many companies with legitimate interest just stayed away. Because of the addition security, this is much less likely to happen, so .BANK has a legitimate chance at being the first domain that is trusted as part of an industry.
Aside from the above and despite the high cost, the move to .BANK shouldn’t garner a second thought. You spend more on janitorial service in a month than the cost of this domain so the expense will seem exceedingly cheap in a couple years when more and more of your bank has gone digital. The more common your name is the faster you should move because you don’t want to be the community bank that has to use a different spelling to your name, have to include the state abbreviation, use a dash, or our favorite, need “online” in your domain to separate yourself. This is a golden opportunity to get the domain you want so move quickly to an application if you have not done so already.
Consider Your Strategy
The .BANK movement has rightly touched off a whole rethinking of bank web properties. If you think you can just purchase your bank name with the end of .BANK, there are some other points to consider.
Get A Plan: Banks need to think through their short run transition plan and their long run digital footprint. Some banks are planning to switch their complete digital footprint over to .BANK and just use their old .com address to redirect people to their primary site. Other banks are planning on using their .com site for the foreseeable future and just keeping their .BANK site in reserve to see what develops. Still others are planning to put their core banking applications on .BANK and keep the .com site as a type of marketing “wrapper” so both are active.
Search Engine Optimization: How you decide to structure the .BANK and your existing .com (or other extensions) largely depends on how your site is accessed. While exact keyword matches in search engines such as Google and Bing matters less these days when it comes to search engine optimization (SEO), they still matter. Having multiple sites may hurt your ranking thereby causing a reduction in traffic.
Advertising: Similar to SEO, redirects slow things down and hurt conversion rates for banks that are active in purchasing keywords or banks that digitally advertise. Take your marketing and advertising strategy into account when structuring your new domains.
What Does Your Digital Footprint Look Like: Just as you spend a tremendous amount of time considering your physical footprint, your digital footprint even needs more thought. Banks with branded specialty products or specialty practices will want to create domain names conducive to those products and services to get a more “brandable” domain. If you have a focused medical practice then grabbing “medical.bank” maybe worth it than bringing people to your general site. Our tests show that the former will be 2x to 5x more effective for you when you market.
You don’t need to go crazy, but grabbing some popular domain names before the non-readers of this blog figure it out will create value for your franchise. While smallbusiness.bank and My.bank was taken yesterday, realestate.bank, medical.bank, commercialfinance.bank, local.bank and many others are wide open for the moment. If you have invested a material amount of money in a developing a trademark, copyright or intellectual property, you should consider an associated .BANK domain name to house for the future.
Choosing Your New Name: Finally, you now have a chance to redo your current domain name, so choose wisely. Many banks just grabbed the closest domain name available to their name without giving it a second thought. This was a mistake and will be more of a mistake going forward. The rise of mobile, wearables and voice recognition has altered the domain landscape. There is more of a premium on shorter, unique, easy to spell and clearly pronounceable names. Citibank is proving to be the ultimate bank name in this new digital age while other bank names are impossible to pull up on the Apple Watch and very difficult using the voice recognition of Siri, Cortana or Google Now.
Whatever name or structure you choose to go with, don’t be passive and let other banks make the decision. Move quickly as 2,000 more domains are expected to be gone by today. Whatever you choose, your domain will serve as the foundation for your banks brand and future footprint so it pays to control more domains, think it through and then decide. Who knows, by picking the right name, $35mm in value will seem cheap.
Submitted by Chris Nichols on June 25, 2015