By Tara Hershberger
June 23, 2015, will go down in banking history as the day the flood gates opened for new domain names.
General Availability was the day that banks could begin, at no small cost, to secure website domains ending in dot-bank (.bank). It was a first come, first serve competition serving customers worldwide. This of course, was preceded by a time frame, called the Sunrise Period, where trademark holders could register the exact name of their registered trademark, so long as they were registered in the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers’s (ICANN’s) Trademark Clearing House.
Did you secure the name or names that you wanted? Some banks are heeding advice to get as many domains as they can afford across a variety of Generic Top Level Domains (gTLD’s) such as, .loan, .mortgage, .creditcard, and .savings, each with their own release dates. Local TLDs, such as .newyork are also becoming available adding to the medley of options. After all is said and done, the original TLDs (.com, .biz, .edu, .org, etc.), which totaled less than 25 in 2014, will have ballooned to more than 1,000!
These new dot-bank domains are more trusted, protected, more secure and more easily identifiable. In a recent survey sent to members of the banking community:
- Sixty-four percent feel that a dot-bank domain will be important for the security of the industry.
- Eighty percent expressed a high interest in dot-bank after reading the description and values presented in the survey.
- Eighty-five percent said that a higher level of security will be a key factor in their purchase decision.
What’s a bank to do? The million-dollar question now facing banks is what to do with their dot-bank domain.
Dot-bank domains do not need to be activated right away. Banks can continue to use their existing .com domains indefinitely. Some banks may take the “wait and see” approach. There are so many more questions than answers at this time regarding the implications of using the new dot-bank domain. Paramount is the concern of whether or not consumers will embrace the dot-bank domain. A wait and see approach may be beneficial for smaller asset-size banks with fewer resources. Domain-specific searches are already available on Google yet are rarely used.
The scope of a change to a new domain is monumental and includes marketing, communication, compliance and disclosures. Advice abounds on the Internet warning not to change your domain unless you absolutely must. This group of banks is not willing to be on the side of dot-bank early adopters.
Keep in mind that the risk of doing nothing has consequences too. If dot-bank takes off quickly, banks unprepared for the change, can be considered unsecure or outdated. For now though, the consensus is to reserve what domains you can afford for the first year, and then let consumer preference evolve over the next 12 months and re-evaluate.
Some banks that obtained their dot-bank domain during the Sunrise Period have already launched their sites. Others are talking about launching their new dot-bank website later in 2015 or 2016. For them, the security features inherent within the dot-bank domain (31 additional security measures must be in place) are likely a leading factor in the decision. Better security means banks might soon be able to securely communicate with their customers via email or through other online tools. There is also likely an added level of consumer trust that will accompany the use and adoption of dot-bank domains.
If you are thinking about using a new dot-bank domain name there are a number of considerations that must be taken into account including:
- Every new domain starts at zero with the search engines. This is the most drastic change you can make to your website affecting SEO in a negative way.
- Let your customers know in advance you’ll be making this change. Be prepared to spread the word and track down local listings, which will need to be updated.
- Use “301 permanent redirects” to catch traffic to your old site and tell search engines where to find the new URLs.
- Keep your old domain name(s) and redirect them.
If you haven’t secured your dot-bank website, it’s not too late. Although your first, second or even third choice names may not be available, you can (and should) still claim at least one dot-bank name. There is a list of approved dot-bank registrars on (aba.com/dotbank) that can work with you.
Consider claiming several domain extensions. Banks can purchase terms related to their main brand trademark, but also for their products, services or locations. In addition to the .bank and .insurance extensions, there will be a variety of other extensions (such as .mortgage, .loan, .savings, .credit, .creditcard, .insure, etc.) that may also play into a bank’s online strategy.
It’s difficult to predict consumer preference and if dot-bank or some of these other gTLDs will be adopted. The strength and innovative potential of a dot-bank domain gives banks the ability to protect and grow their business under a platform they can build to meet their individual goals and needs.
Tara Herschberger is vice president of media for Pannos Marketing, based in Bedford, N.H. Pannos Marketing is an interactive marketing and social media agency for financial institutions. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @Tarahersh.
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