17 May 2022Elisa Cooper and Matt Serlin

Leveraging data to optimise domain name portfolios

Today’s companies invest thousands, if not millions, in their domain name portfolios every year and many of their domains have priceless value to the organisation. However, corporate budgets are not unlimited, so it’s a constant struggle to make strategic decisions about the portfolio’s size and shape. Gaining a firm grasp of which domain names the company has—and why—is essential so that the company’s portfolio is fully optimised and right-sized based on the organisation’s priorities and budget.

Data can be a key ally in both optimising and right-sizing domain name portfolios. Gathering and leveraging data judiciously can inform quality decisions that best serve the organisation’s objectives.

GoDaddy Corporate Domains recently conducted a study surveying corporate domain name professionals about their top goals and concerns regarding domains. Security was the goal of greatest importance for responding domain name professionals, with nearly 97% of respondents naming it as an extremely or somewhat important goal.

Next in importance (extremely/somewhat important) came domain names redirecting to relevant traffic (86%) and portfolios being right-sized (83%). While security may be the current 5-alarm-fire at the moment, domain professionals’ next-most-pressing concerns were related to domain portfolio right-sizing and optimising.

Tracking resolving domains

In service of optimising and right-sizing, the first key data point is to benchmark how many of the organisation’s domains are resolving to live, relevant content online. Analysis conducted by GoDaddy Corporate Domains found that, among the domain portfolios of the top 50 companies of the Global 2000, only 44% of their domains were resolving to live content.

Best practices would dictate that at least 90% of domains in the portfolio should be resolving to live, relevant content so this is a huge shortfall.

The paltry 44% finding for resolving domains clearly shows how challenging portfolio maintenance and optimisation are, even for the largest companies in the world. Imagine how expensive it is for these organisations to maintain domains when many may no longer serve any constructive purpose.

Also, imagine what else a company could do with funds liberated by dropping unnecessary domains. By understanding domain name resolution, companies can acknowledge the low percentage of resolving domains and take prompt corrective action.

GoDaddy Corporate Domains’ analysis also showed that among the Global 2000, 14% of the domains supporting main corporate websites are suffering from lame delegation. Lame delegation is a technical configuration issue that can cause latency – or delay - in a website’s resolving function.

Once discovered, lame delegation can be quickly solved through remediation efforts and technology-based optimisation. Lame delegation is a perfect example of a problem that can be discovered and eliminated by leveraging data.

Assessing total size and spend

When right-sizing domain portfolios, it is also helpful to look at their total size and cost first, and especially to note which domains are the most expensive. The analysis conducted found the average portfolio size among the top 50 global companies is about 8,300 domain names and the average spend is around $373,000. Typically, these portfolios have a 65%/35% split between gTLDs (lower cost) and ccTLDs (higher cost). Visibility into which kinds of domains comprise the portfolio and their respective costs is a good way to easily understand the spend with a domain name registrar.

A corporate domain name registrar should be able to provide easily accessible renewal pricing and robust reporting data to help examine the portfolio’s costs including annual spend and expenses over time. Because domain names have different expiration dates based on when they were registered, their expiration dates will not be nice and tidy—so understanding annual spend is not necessarily straight-forward.

When looking to reduce its spend and the size of the domain portfolio, a company’s best option is to pare back the portfolio by looking to eliminate highly-restricted, expensive TLDs.

Re-evaluate the big-ticket items first, particularly the expensive ccTLDs that can cost $500-1000 each to maintain annually. Left unchecked, domain portfolios tend to grow every year, so it’s advisable to pare them down on an annual basis. Depending on the size of the company and its budget, a more frequent audit and purge may be preferred.

Due diligence before dropping domains

Faced with budget cuts, domain professionals may start dropping domains which appear to be useless. However, this process requires due diligence and caution, not rash knee-jerk decisions. Understanding the value of domain names is important when thinking about maximising the value and optimising the portfolio.

When evaluating whether to keep a domain, the first thing to consider is whether the domain is getting any significant traffic on the web. This data can be found on the company’s own name servers or their registrar’s. Remember that not all traffic is good traffic, because some activity will come from bots.

Web traffic is not the only measure, but it’s a telling indicator that speaks to the domain’s current usefulness to the organisation. And to truly evaluate the value of defensive registrations, companies can leverage UTM codes which can provide detailed web analytics.

However, just because a domain is not getting a lot of web traffic does not mean it is disposable or useless. Remember that the domain may be used for email with an MX record or other internal purpose. Therefore, be sure to look at DNS record data as well as web traffic to make sure that there is full visibility as to whether the domain is worth keeping—or not.

Beyond web traffic and DNS, next-level vetting of domains brings forth several evaluative factors which can be tracked through data. Which domains did the company reclaim through enforcement mechanisms like court orders or UDRPs? If the company spent several thousands of dollars to reclaim a name, it's probably valuable enough to keep in the portfolio.

Another consideration is whether the domain name is still associated with a brand. If the domain supported a brand that was temporary and has since been discontinued, there may be no further reason to pay for its maintenance. These decisions can be made during periodic reviews of the domain portfolio, which is why these reviews are so important.

If there is no inherent value to a domain, or perhaps it's more of a generic name that doesn't have value to the company, it might have value to sell to someone else. The company can perhaps sell the domain, recouping some of the portfolio’s costs.

One caveat to consider with this example, though, is if a squatter re-registers the domain and does something nefarious with it, will that harm the company? If the decision is to sell a domain, make sure that all internal partners (legal, marketing, IT, etc.) have signed-off and agreed that the name is no longer needed. Many companies maintain defensive registrations of domains, not because they need them to generate traffic, but because they don’t want them falling into the wrong hands.

Harvest the power of data

Whether the company’s legal, marketing, IT or another department is primarily responsible for domains at the company, it is not an easy job. Domains are crucial to the ongoing success of the company and its public face to the world. Harnessing the power of data from internal sources and external resources such as registrars is a helpful way to keep on top of the portfolio and ensure that its size and spend are right-sized and optimised to fit the organisation’s needs.

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

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

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