How Valuable Is a URL in Today's World?

Posted on November 18th 2013

How Valuable Is a URL in Today's World?

Suddenly domain names are in the news a bit lately. Yahoo! listed more than 100 domain names for auction at Sedo and URLs such as sandwich.com and av.com are up for grabs. Meanwhile over at Heritage Auctions, the auction house is entering into the domain sale business with an inaugural sale auctioning off names to the highest bidder. Mutualfunds.com has already received a bid of $1,000,000. It seems like the dot com boom is back where all you need to start a business is a url and a dream.

This time around though, the rules aren’t that simple. Top-level domains (TLDs), the end of the web address, aren’t just .com, .net, .org or country codes like .ca anymore. ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, has introduced other TLDs including .aero, .biz, and .name over the years and in 2008 started a new process to open the floodgates and allow more TLDs to be registered and sold. There have been thousands of applications for TLDs and some are being rolled out over the next few years. These could mean that the internet will be populated with thousands of new addresses. For example, the National Association of Realtors is offering their members .REALTOR names which could mean that hundreds of thousands of URLs with that TLD will populate the internet. Other organizations with similarly large memberships are in line to follow suit.

What else has changed is that social search and the increased sophistication of browsers means that many of us don’t even type in the full name of a website when we are searching. If we are searching for information on a company we can look for information on Facebook or Twitter or we can type the name into Google or a browser box and likely very quickly reach what we are looking for. With social search we often don’t even need to type in the full query before we are served up what we are looking for.

In the early days of the internet, brands often directed people towards an AOL keyword. Once AOL was no longer the dominant portal people were directed to both the keyword and the URL. In the last few years brands have been directing people to both the URL and the Facebook or Twitter account but increasingly relying on just social channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest to deliver their messages.

So how valuable is a URL? Increasingly the URL is not as valuable as what is done with it. Creating a brand that can work across multiple social platforms and engage with potential customers is equally as if not more important. It can take a significant investment of money and time to make even the most attractive destination URL robust enough to rise in search results. A website has to have rich content, ingoing and outgoing links, active engagement, and a modern design that works across multiple platforms and experiences.

However a URL still has value. Social platforms are always changing and the representation of your brand is often not under your control. One mistake that many brands seem to make is that they invest in social platforms at the expense of their own online property. Ideally brands (and people) need to balance both which becomes easier to do when you don’t think of them as two separate experiences but instead focus on the content and message of your brand which is transferable to any medium you choose. 

Deidre Woollard

Deidre Woollard

Deidre Woollard has written for AOL.com, HuffingtonPost.com, Realtor.com, JustLuxe.com, Pursuitist.com and more. She teaches in the University of California Irvine Extension Digital Journalism Program.

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