Initial skeptics may have doubted the longevity of the internet. In the early years of growth, many businesses utilized a webpage like an online business card that listed little more than their contact information. Uncertain of how to brand this new resource, businesses often struggled with creating a domain name. Many URLs which included acronyms or catch phrases appeared as company names now competed across state and even country lines. Today, the benefit of maintaining a strong online presence is no longer in question. Indeed, the internet provides consumers 24/7 access to even the smallest of businesses. Insurance agents and companies are no exception and are recently discovering the high cost of cross branding their brick and mortar business with their online presence.
Online insurance domain names are a hot commodity. In the past
three years, URLs that include 'insurance' in the address have
sold for thousands to millions of dollars. For example:
This is not the first time high priced domain names have made a stir. However, earlier sales of sites like business.com in the late 90s were generated mostly on the URL name rather than content. Indeed, business.com changed hands as ideas fluctuated about what to do with the catchy URL. The name had to be translated into a product.
In the past three years, many of these insurance sites were not sold on name alone. Instead they were fully functioning websites that already provided resources for online customers. Investors ultimately looked at these URLs as a full package. They took the services and ideas and rebranded them into something bigger and better. Investments in domain names are not just words in an address bar anymore but are more akin to investing in property with tangible assests.
What is not immediately apparent is the real estate value of online URLs. Recently tools like INDX.com were created with an eye for applying the theories of real estate finance to understanding online properties. This particular price index tracks the trends in domain name pricing. By following domain name prices from 2006 to today, it is possible to see that the fluctuation in the URL market often reflects economic trends. However, a comparison between INDX and NASDAQ also shows that the variable of change is less in the domain market and online properties are generally maintaining their worth with a steady increase. Therefore, the investment in domain names, like the insurance sites listed above, is becoming an important consideration for business entrepreneurs and developers.
Added to the property value of domain names is the general increase of registering these names. Verisign , which manages .com and .net sites, has confirmed that it will again increase URL registration fees in 2012, this time by by 7% for .com and 10% for .net sites. These increases in prices are minimal but occur generally every two years. Some web entrepreneurs worry this continual increase could lead to a gradual squeezing of small businesses who often buy multiple URLs (.com, .net, .biz, etc.) to protect their trademarked names on the internet market. While even the most basic cost of domain names are rising, the potential payback for access to customers is not just maintaining but increasing the value of online property. This reinforces the need for businesses to make astute choices in how they brand themselves online.
A further option or dilemma (depending on your point of view) is the opening of gTLD (generic top level domains) by the ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers). Starting in 2012, instead of creating names around established gTLDs like .com or .net, companies may register a top level domain with any extension. For example, a corporation like the BBC might buy .bbc and create addresses like news.bbc and sports.bbc. The possibilities are wide open to anyone who pays the $185,000 to apply for the name and $25,000 annually to keep it registered. Although most agree scammers will not invest the funds or pass the application process, some do worry that this again could stir battles between similarly named companies. Therefore, the prospect of owning a cheaper .com or .net with a broad interpretive address like insurance.com again becomes more appealing.
Finally, after a fluctuation in practice, search engine optimization has come full circle - domain names are again an important benefit for search engine results. As filters are improved to eliminate sites that do not provide content, the domain name is still tagged by search engines. This reality has further increased the value of sites that include terms often used by consumers in their searches such as 'insurance'.
Online insurance domain names are just one example of the trends in domain name practices in the online market today. The new gTLDs will likely not impact most businesses and smart investments of well considered domain names will continue to provide a tangible property for small businesses and entrepreneurs.