By Andy Macleay, co-founder of .dealer Domains, [email protected]
The fact that the auto industry is conditioning consumers to do most of their research and purchasing online is uncontested. What is debatable, however, is whether we are making it easy for this new behavior to be adopted.
Nearly 100% of dealerships’ or OEMs’ marketing budgets and strategies (both traditional and digital) is geared toward driving business to the website. But as an industry, we’ve forgotten one of the most basic principles of marketing, which is creating unnecessary headwind in traffic flow to the URL destination: the importance of brand recall.
There are a couple of reasons for this. Number one: no one questions the .com domain approach because we aren’t thinking long term about how the internet will need to categorize itself; and two, we expect Google to figure it out for us.
Let’s start with Google. Truthfully, as one of the world’s largest companies, Google does a stellar job of finding and steering shoppers to websites and relevant content — for the most part. Google doesn’t always get it right, and how could they? There are 140 million .com domain names!
Google has to build the AI, algorithms and human power to sort your name from the millions of businesses such as florists, cell phones, OEMs, shoes, books, real estate, not to mention having your dealership stand out among your competitors. Dealers are too quick to hand over the reins to Google and thus lose control over their own hard-earned branding or location-based identity. We rely on Google to do what they do so well and support our businesses, and we generally compensate them for doing so through advertising, and we think this is as good as it gets.
But what if dealers could take just a tiny bit of that control back? What if you could help Google be more accurate, and help your customers remember who they are looking for and where?
This brings me back to my earlier point about the .com domain approach. To get to the future of the internet, we have to look a bit into the past and the core intentions of why domain names are essentially shoehorned into .com.
From Wikipedia: The domain name .com is a top-level domain (TLD) in the Domain Name System of the Internet. Added in 1985, its name is derived from the word commercial, indicating its original intended purpose for domains registered by commercial organizations. Later, the domain opened for general purposes.
The internet is an endless galaxy of content, and the categorization of its content is inevitable, and has already begun sprout. I believe eventually we will be pushed into something more than .com because it will be imperative for businesses to further define what commercial or non-commercial segments each URL resides in. Some forward-thinking, well-prepared brands are already differentiating themselves with a URL that defines their commercial or non-commercial segment.
So, the question is: Will using a new TLD be beneficial or detrimental to my business? Let’s look to Google for some guidance here since, let’s be honest, they have a few best practices that we could all learn from.
This is how Google perceives it: “Using a new domain ending will not hurt your search presence.” That’s what Google says. But what does Google do? What are Google’s own practices around new TLDs? It is quite clear that they themselves are actively buying and using new TLDs for their own business units: https://abc.xyz/, https://docs.new, and https://domains.google . That’s right. Arguably the most influential company in the world is banking and parking businesses on new TLDs.
The success of when to move and/or begin using a new TLD and how successful it will be is both a branding decision and a calculated business move coupled with a desire to standout and future-proof your digital real estate. Automotive-focused TLDs are going to provide dealerships a choice and an opportunity to define the inevitable category on the internet and land-grab your territory of online real estate before someone else does.