19 January 2022Matt Serlin and Elisa Cooper

Domains survey: top challenges, goals, and the impact of the pandemic

GoDaddy Corporate Domains (GCD) has released results of its  Fifth Annual Corporate Domain Management Survey, which revealed the state of domain management for a broad range of corporations.

Domain name professionals from retail, manufacturing, financial services, travel and media industries all responded to the survey, shedding light on their most pressing challenges and aspirations for the future.

Survey respondents came from a broad range of companies. More than 50% of companies owned 3,000 domains or fewer, and slightly over 15% owned more than 10,000 domains. This diffuse distribution of domain portfolio size allowed the survey to capture a valuable cross-section of responses that more faithfully reflects the corporate domain management industry as a whole.

What department manages domains?

Departmental responsibility for managing domains continues to be a big variable, with many cooks in the kitchen. Nearly 36% of respondents said the legal department handled domains, which was the most widely selected answer. Closely following legal was IT with over 31%.

Then there was a big drop to just over 14% answering that marketing handled domains; e-commerce was last at slightly above 3%. Over 15% responded “other”, indicating that a different department was responsible, or perhaps that not only one department was seen as primarily responsible for domains at the organisation.

“It cannot be ignored that ICANN has still not released the next round of generic top-level domains.” - Matt Serlin & Elisa Cooper, GoDaddy Corporate Domains

One of the key findings of the survey, which respondents completed in September 2021, was a clear correlation between the corporate department responsible for managing domains and the overall number of domains owned by the organisation.

For example, domain portfolios with over 1,500 domains were most likely to be managed by legal departments. Portfolios with fewer than 1,500 domains were typically IT’s responsibility. A sizable portion of portfolios (16%) were managed by departments other than the usual suspects of legal, IT, e-commerce or marketing. These other factions included shared services, infosec and brand protection groups.

Nearly 62% of respondents said that over 2020-2021 the difficulty managing corporate domain name portfolios has stayed the same for them, and was not harder nor easier. Just over 25% said domain management had become a little more difficult while about 12% said it had become easier, by either a little or a lot.

When asked how much time they spent managing domain names and related tasks per week, there was a polarised response. Fifty percent of respondents said domain management required less than one day per week, nearly 30% said one to three days per week, and over 20% said four to five days per week.

Top challenges for domains

GDPR issues
The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was the top-most challenge listed by corporate domain professionals. Over 45% of respondents cited “dealing with GDPR and the inability to access domain name ownership records” as “a major challenge”.

Next on the list of the major challenges was “paring back bloated portfolios” which captured nearly 28% of responses, followed by defensive registration decisions (over 17%) and ensuring security of high-profile domain names (over 14%). The areas most heavily referred to as “not a challenge” were managing requests for new registrations (68% answered it was not a challenge) and working from home (81% said not a challenge).

Impact of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic did not have a devastating effect on domain name management, showing the resilience and stability of this crucial business area. Nearly 75% of respondents reported that the pandemic had no impact on their day-to-day domain management. No one said the pandemic had a significant impact on the way they managed domain names.

Surge in security risks

A few areas of domains were negatively impacted by COVID-19, however. One challenge that worsened due to the pandemic was the proliferation of abusive registrations resulting from the pandemic, with 50% of respondents reporting an uptick in such occurrences.

GCD has witnessed the strain caused by corporations struggling with these increased bad actor attacks during the pandemic. Many people have been working remotely, so they have been more isolated and vulnerable to phishing scams and social engineering attacks. Fraudsters have set up illegitimate websites and email addresses posing as healthcare or government stimulus agencies to infiltrate company’s systems and exfiltrate data. A combination of human and technology-based resources has been necessary to combat these malicious activities.

Diminishing ICANN involvement

The survey showed that ICANN has seen a drop-off in participation due to the pandemic. In fact, 29% reported that since the pandemic, domain professionals have not been as engaged in ICANN activities. The pandemic is certainly a factor, but it cannot be ignored that ICANN has still not released the next round of generic top-level domains (gTLDs) despite many “coming soon” announcements, so that may also have hindered the organisation’s momentum and level of participation.

dotBrands and next round of gTLDs

New to the survey this year were questions around dotBrands and the next round of gTLDs, which is still forthcoming although there is not a solid launch date. Nearly 16% of respondents said they were likely or very likely to apply for dotBrands when the next round comes, and 29% were still undecided.

Key goals for domain portfolios

Looking to the future, over 84% of domain name professionals said their most important goal was to ensure that domain names remained secure. The next most dominant goal at over 42% was making sure that portfolios were right-sized.

Hovering in the 36 to 40% range as top goals were ensuring domain names are redirecting relevant traffic, reducing domain name expenditures, and ensuring that domain names were registered defensively to protect brands online.

Not a single respondent reported that domain name security was “not an important goal”. This reinforces that security has been and will remain top-of-mind for domain name professionals as a constant, ongoing objective.

Above all else, the survey results clearly illustrated the resilience of domain name professionals as they have withstood a global pandemic, security attacks, and more. The coming year will provide many opportunities to advance their respective domain management programmes with clear goals and well-informed decisions.

Matt Serlin is head of client success & operations at GoDaddy Corporate Domains. He can be contacted at:

Elisa Cooper is head of marketing at GoDaddy Corporate Domains. She can be contacted at:

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