Mar 30, 2021 - by Elisa Cooper
Managing corporate domain portfolios becomes more challenging with every passing year. In a recent GCD survey conducted of about 60 different corporate domain name professionals with sizeable portfolios, about half of those surveyed said it was becoming more difficult to manage their portfolios. The most important goal cited by corporate domain professionals was ensuring the security of their domain names, particularly for companies when the portfolio size was greater than 10,000. Other commonly cited priorities included ensuring that portfolios were right-sized, that traffic was redirecting to live sites, and expenditures were reduced.
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are enormously helpful to corporate domain professionals as they strive to benchmark and safeguard their portfolios. KPIs provide useful measurements which quantify attributes such as size and spend, domains per brand, registry locking percentage, resolving statistics, domain health and return on investment or ROI. Each company’s measured KPIs can be customized to report on their specific domain name goals and preferences. This paper suggests 6 foundational KPIs that are highly useful for domain name professionals.
KPI #1: Size and Spend
Above all else, the #1 KPI to assess is Size and Spend which specifically answers “How big is your portfolio and how much is it costing you each year?” Start with how many domains you have, how much they are currently costing, and delineate the split between gTLDs and ccTLDs for extra insight. Make sure your registrar is providing easily accessible renewal pricing so you can estimate how much you’ll be spending next year and the year after that, too.
Your Size and Spend KPI assessment will provide visibility into ways you can pare down your portfolio. Look for instances where there is no inherent value in the domain. Though beauty is definitely in eye of the beholder with domains, certain telltale attributes are dead giveaways for less valuable domains.
Consider eliminating domains that aren’t receiving any meaningful traffic over 90 days. Also, you may want to drop domain names which have no DNS records associated with them or don’t resolve to a live page. Reexamine any highly restricted expensive TLDs - not only ccTLDs but also expensive new gTLDs. Domains with several hyphens in them often have less intrinsic value. Above all else, ask yourself if that name were to be reregistered by someone else, would you have a problem with that? If the answer is no, it is probably not worth paying for that domain anymore.
KPI #2: Domains per Brand
The Domains per Brand KPI is rooted in the premise that every domain name should be associated with a brand at the company. This KPI provides visibility into how many domain names you have registered per brand, which you can then evaluate based on your company’s core brands and where the focus is for marketing spend and programs. Your domain portfolio should approximately mirror the internal brand focus. Not every brand will have the same number of domains registered, but brands with hundreds domains should certainly rank high on the company’s priority list to warrant those renewal expenses.
Many corporations will be surprised at the results of their Domains per Brand KPI. Often the quantity of domain names registered for a priority brand does not accurately reflect its importance to the company. A more valuable brand may have fewer domain names while a lesser brand may have considerably more. The Domains per Brand KPI allows domain professionals to shift and “right-size” resources to bolster support for important brands and reduce support of less essential ones.
KPI #3: Percentage Registry Locked
From a security standpoint, it’s important to assess a Percentage Registry Locked KPI which reports on what percentage of your core domains are registry locked. When a registry lock is in place, a domain cannot be updated in any way, unless a manual protocol is first completed between the registrant and registrar and then between the registrar and the registry. It is the highest level of domain name security available. All core gTLDs offer a registry lock option.
You’ll want to have a registry lock on 100% of your core domains and any others that are critical to your business operations. This includes production websites, email, internal applications, websites used for channel partners and your resellers, and anything else critical to your business operations. Increasingly there are ccTLDs that provide registry lock options as well. Ensure that you can easily verify registry lock status across registrars.
Note that registry locking does require some additional time to make updates to those domains. However, it’s well worth the investment to create this additional layer of security for peace of mind to protect your most important domains. Registry lock statuses will guard against any inadvertent or unauthorized updates to valuable domains.
KPI #4: Percentage Resolving
When looking across the top 50 global companies of the Global 2000, only 28% of their domains are resolving to live content, a very low percentage. Ideally, your goal should be about 90% resolving, with only 10% of your portfolio not resolving. If a domain name is worth renewing and keeping year after year, then is should be forwarding to live, relevant content. Exceptions for the 10% may include derogatory terms, or adult-themed domains.
Also, make sure that both the root domain and www are consistent. If you’re using a corporate registrar, you can use their free forwarding service to then track the traffic.
An interesting recent trend on the marketing front is companies’ using UTM codes to track conversions. UTMs tie into your web analytics platform. By assigning a unique UTM code to every domain, you get much better visibility into the analytics of those conversions. Then, you can draw a direct connection between the web forwarding traffic and conversions on the website.
KPI #5: Domain Health
The next key KPI is called Domain Health – a five-point score that is comprised of five different attributes including the following:
To determine the Domain Health score, one point is given for each of these five attributes - each domain can have a maximum score of five. Once you calculate an average of all of the domains within your portfolio, you can see how close to five you are for the entire portfolio.
Domains receiving a low Domain Health score are more vulnerable and may need attention if their value warrants greater support. Your organization’s unique Domain Health KPI parameters can be adjusted on the fly to suit your evolving domain plans, so these attributes are flexible enough to shift when needed.
KPI #6 - ROI
Last, but certainly not least, is the KPI for Return on Investment/ROI. After all, domains are tools to bring leads and sales into the company. You’ll want to measure your traffic to determine which page views are leading to sales transactions.
When measuring your traffic, start with web forwarding to capture page views, and gain a deeper understanding of value for each website visitor. Remember that much of the traffic you see in web forwarding tools is probably coming from bots.
Leverage UTM codes to get a deep understanding about how defensive registrations are converting into actual page views and real sales. It’s very simple to append a UTM code when setting up web forwarding. This helps you understand which names are actually driving real legitimate traffic that is actually converting i.e. hitting pages you want people to visit, or engaging them in a transaction. You’ll probably need to collaborate with web marketing to get a UTM program in place, but this initiative can provide rich data and can show a true ROI even from a defensive registration. Using UTM codes and web analytics can reveal that you successfully got a buyer to your core site which actually resulted in a sale.
KPIs are valuable tools which measure what’s trending on a regular basis within your domain name portfolio. Your registrar can be a crucial partner by making necessary information readily available for your KPI assessments. Looking at how many domains are registered on a per brand basis, and how much they are costing the company provides a good basis to determine how close you are to your targets.
Keeping registry locked and resolving percentages high at 90-100% for core production sites protects domains that are used to keep the business running smoothly. Your percentage resolving should be 90+%, so every domain should at least point to a parked page. Assessing Domain Health on a regular, perhaps quarterly, basis provides a comprehensive look at the overall health of your portfolio. Higher scores mean higher performance, and greater ROI. Tracking ROI for domains, on both mass and granular levels, is critically important for cost justification and budgeting.
The information contained in this blog is provided for general informational purposes about domains. It is not specific advice tailored to your situation and should not be treated as such.
Bringing with her 20 years of marketing experience, Elisa Cooper joined the company in 2017 to lead the organization’s marketing strategy and execution. A domain name industry veteran, Elisa has worked closely with many Fortune 1000 companies in assisting with domain and brand protection policy development and has spoken and written extensively on these topics.