“You cannot buy engagement. You have to build it”
Organisations invest significant amounts of their digital marketing budget every year in optimising and improving their search engine ranking strategies. Many say SEO is a dark art, the complex algorithms hidden deep in code, closely guarded by the Search Engines, but there is a general guide to what makes a “good” website for ranking purposes, and those where elements can lead to negative ranking scores.
Whilst one of these factors is URL structure, it is probably more important to an organisation to optimise user experience than search ranking results. Including relevant URL keywords in a structured way can help the search engines crawl and index pages, but overwhelmingly more important is the user readability test – a clean and readable URL structure makes it easier for website users to understand what the page is about before they click on it. A clear URL can also instil trust in the organisation itself, as it indicates that the website is well-organised and reliable.
Over time, URL structures and hierarchies often become confused and far too complex, as in many companies the responsibility for naming conventions falls somewhere between the infrastructure teams (IT, Tech and IS) and the content teams (Marketing, Communications and PR), meaning that on occasion neither particularly care about the URL, just as long as the content is right, and it resolves. However, most would, if given a magic wand, choose to go back to basics with a top-down URL/naming convention and build in some clear rules for the future on how the website flow works.
It is important to keep URLs concise – shorter URLs are generally preferred, as they are easier to read and share, avoiding unnecessary words, numbers, or parameters, and naturally it is important to include relevant keywords that accurately represent the content of the page. Most search engines use a Readable-Meaningful-Memorable approach to indexing content, and that is a good maxim to bear in mind when it comes to naming conventions.
However, there are a number of security factors that also should be considered when thinking about naming conventions. Firstly, there has been a growing trend to use URL shorteners, especially when social media use is considered. URL shorteners such as Bit.ly ensure that you get the right messages out to your audience without taking up too much space in social posts. However, these shorteners also offer a perfect opportunity for fraudsters to hide redirected links to websites that are used for their nefarious activities. Without being able to see the full URL in a message, there is a trust problem. Secondly, many organisations use subdomains (abc.def.com for instance) as a way to direct traffic to the right place on a website. Whilst that can be beneficial, should control be lost over the domain name, all content living on the sub-domains also goes with it.
Whilst some organisations have created new web structures, based around a new core domain name, it was the introduction of dotBrands over a decade ago that gave companies the opportunity to own their own slice of internet infrastructure and thus have full control over their own naming conventions and URL structures.
One of the major opportunities that adopting a dotBrand TLD gave those who applied was the greater flexibility in domain name creation. Companies who own and run their own dotBrand TLD can create specific domain names that align with their brand, products, or campaigns. For example, a company could create domains like products.brand, campaign.brand, or location.brand, allowing for targeted and memorable web addresses.
Using a dotBrand can revolutionise URL structures and naming conventions for organisations. Creating specific local language content could be achieved by either using the location as the domain label (to the left of the dot) or as a sub-page – for instance, france.brand or home.brand/france. Frequently visited pages can be easily created such as login.brand, contact.brand or jobs.brand – each of which ticks the boxes for the search engines in terms of being readable, meaningful and memorable.
The replacement of long URL structures makes for a better customer experience. One major online retailer currently uses URLs to navigate to pages of popular products that are over 175 characters in length. I’d challenge anyone to be able to recall that one from memory. By using a dotBrand with a simple naming structure that URL could be reduced to something like home.brand/Product/Brand/Item. It is also possible to create a URL shortener, utilising the TLD itself which would retain that element of user trust whilst delivering the benefits of shorter addresses for social media purposes.
Owning a dotBrand TLD demonstrates a brand’s commitment to innovation and staying ahead in the digital landscape. It allows companies to explore new ways of engaging with customers and leveraging emerging technologies, such as personalised web experiences, clear naming conventions, enhanced security features, and data privacy measures. Many of those organisations who applied to manage their own dotBrand TLD are already benefitting from these advantages, and with another application round due to commence in the next couple of years, now is the time for companies to start thinking about what opportunities could be realised from an application.
It has been fantastic to witness clients’ responses, when our domain strategist team show them the domain security and portfolio insights and portfolio visualisations in Intelligence.