Are defensive gTLD registrations worth it?

New generic top-level domains (gTLDs) have been on the radar of C-level teams for a number of years now, and they are still just as hotly debated as they were when they were first introduced. With 1,200 gTLDs already delegated and more to come, they will continue to be a primary focus for brands looking to maintain a strong online presence.

There is one particularly interesting trend in this field that stands out: the number of brands registering gTLDs not for creative reasons, but for defensive ones.

There are those cases where defensive registrations may make sense. A famous case in point is the ‘.sucks’ gTLD that launched back in 2015 and caused concerns for brands who anticipated it being used for trolling or detrimental purposes by third parties. Many major brands were quick to register their own .sucks domain before anyone else could, but generally there was no intention of actually using the domain, or even redirecting users to the main website. Instead, the domains were simply being sat on to prevent them falling into the hands of third parties.

But is this really the most effective approach surrounding gTLD registrations? The most obvious caveat to this approach is that it can be extremely costly for any business â sunrise registration fees, special program fees, and premium name fees can quickly add up and be cost prohibitive for many organizations. Secondly, brands can be missing valuable opportunities to use new gTLDs in creative ways.  

While some gTLDs such as ‘.app’ and ‘.shop’ have more obvious uses, other gTLDS that are geo-specific, buzz-worthy, or specific to niche markets could be implemented into exciting and experimental marketing campaigns that challenge the very idea of what a domain name can be used for. This might just be the most exciting opportunity for marketers to show their worth in a long time.

Even if brands insist on defensively registering gTLDs, they should at least ensure each domain is directing to live content or redirecting back to their main site. This means that the traffic going to these gTLDs is not wasted, while visiting traffic can lead to possible increased website conversion rates that results in higher revenue.

Ultimately, the value of defensive registrations boils down to your brand’s finances and resources. If you can afford to pay the registration fees each time a gTLD is introduced, then there is no harm in taking a defensive approach while benefiting from the increase in redirected traffic. Alternatively, some brands choose not to register any gTLDs at all, in an attempt to quickly disassociate themselves from third parties impersonating them. This rules out all of the opportunities that come with gTLDs and can result in increased domain recovery costs.

We would recommend that all brands look at their current gTLD portfolio and assess whether their current approach is cost-effective, or whether they would be better off using them creatively to set themselves apart from competitors. Also, if your brand has a history of spending lots of money buying back domains from third parties to bolster up its online presence, we would recommend asking yourself whether proactive defensive registrations would save you more money in the long-run.

Whatever the case, gTLDs are more than simply domain names â each one is an opportunity to distinguish your brand from the rest of the pack â and so every brand should think twice before simply adopting a defensive approach.