In the past, we’ve covered what to do if your desired domain is unavailable, as it's a common scenario for many looking to register domain names. One side of that topic that wasn't covered is ‘why’ domains are taken, and what they are used for. You may be thinking that the answer is obvious: "domains are used for websites". Of course, while this statement is very true, domains have many more uses that go beyond just an address hosting website content. In this article we’ll cover many of the common uses for domains, some of which may surprise you.
Using a Domain for a Website
We need to start with the most common use that everyone on the web interacts with in some way: websites. Within this category, there are thousands of different types of websites - all of which have their own unique domain name. The sheer diversity of websites is one of the most exciting aspects of being on the internet. Looking for novelty socks? Funny animal memes? Stock investment recommendations? There is something for everyone. With that said, there are some more frequent website archetypes that I'm sure you've come across.
Retail stores will build their online counterpart to make sales to users on the web - creating ecommerce websites.
Individuals will develop their own brand and share their stories through blogging websites using their own domains.
News distributors will have their news content websites to help users stay informed globally or locally.
Informational hubs will create wiki websites to compile information on one topic or on thousands.
Brands and businesses will represent themselves through their brand websites.
Catalog sites, video sites, video game sites, online discussions/forum sites, social media sites, coupon sites… The list is almost endless and, if you search hard enough, you can find a website that fits with what you’re looking for. This takes up a large portion of what domain names are known for.
Using a Domain for Investing
With every domain being unique comes the counterbalance of every domain having some sort of value, whether that value is the base registration price or the domain scaling into the thousands of dollars range. Even within domain investing there are multiple uses for domain names - some of which you may have come across when discovering an unavailable domain.
Sometimes valuable domains are acquired only to be used for domain parking - meaning the domain is essentially on hold for another purpose. Investors will, instead of keeping the domain inactive/not in use, use parked domains for advertising purposes. Since some domains retain value even when parked (for example, receiving type-in traffic from users going directly to the domain's URL), they can utilize this avenue of monetization.
With traffic, these domains can display targeted advertising to users arriving on the parked page, with the domain owner earning money on advertising clicks. This can be a common method to earn gradual and consistent revenue from a domain name.
Buying & Selling
Of course, buying and selling domains from/to others is another common use for domain names. If you’ve been in or around the domain acquisition world, you likely have come across domains already registered but listed with a ‘for-sale’ landing page.
Both buying and selling domains have their advantages and challenges. Acquisition for investors often includes trying to obtain valuable domains to either resell at a later point or to create some sort of small business to earn consistent revenue. Selling domains has the chance earning some big money, but finding the right domain to acquire to later sell can be difficult, time consuming, and requires knowledge of the domain market.
If you're interested in buying and selling domains from an investing standpoint, we offer great tools to help you get started on our domain aftermarket. We also have a comprehensive domain investing guide to help you learn more on the topic.
Investors also happen to be known for having large domain portfolios, often which include domains which are moreso in a ‘holding’ state. Usually this involves waiting for next steps - whether that be traction on a sale lead, holding to eventually build out a business on the domain, or waiting for an event or circumstance that will provide extra value to the domain name itself. Often these domains are put into parking or listed on a 'for-sale' landing page in the meantime.
Using a Domain for Email
Businesses have a long list of uses for a domain, but a frequent use-case beyond just owning a website is using it for emailing purposes.
Having a branded email address provides many advantages. It can provide a feeling of security to users contacting your business, authenticity for general communications between parties, and there is a level of professionalism that is tied to branded emails. It can also create opportunities to tie roles to email addresses as well, such as broad email addresses (for example: support@ or info@) or more specific addresses (for example: advertising@, pr@, or returns@) which can all help a business or entity stay organized.
Email forwarding also exists for all the examples above, meaning you can keep using all your existing email addresses and instead forward any emails received on new addresses you create. If you're interested in creating an custom email using your domain name, make sure to check out our email service!
Using a Domain for the Cloud
Cloud services have become more popular as users continue to interact with businesses online. Users have also become more comfortable storing their data online, encouraging further use of cloud technology. These new cloud-based services provide opportunities for businesses to build a connected and secure platform for any of their customers, enabling digital collaboration in new exciting ways.
A common way that domains can be used with the cloud is attaching them to cloud storage services. This can include AmazonDrive, Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud, and many more that have come up over the years. This allows individuals or businesses to access their storage directly from a selected domain name.
Using a Domain for Advertising
Domains can play an important role in brand marketing and building awareness, beyond just hosting a brand's website content.
Most large modern brands have a social media account. In fact, over 90% of marketers in companies with over 100 employees are expected to use social media for marketing objectives. With the increase in popularity and the new age of directly engaging with customers digitally through social, some larger brands have taken it one step further and obtained the domain name specifically for their social media handle. Typically, they create a simple website redirect from that domain URL and point it to their social media handles. This helps streamline the process of users getting to their social media pages when they're off those social platforms.
From a brand perspective, websites can fit multiple roles to satisfy very specific user intent or objectives. To really hone into this idea of satifying user intent, some brands create what are referred to as 'microsites'. If you’ve never heard the term microsite, it's essentially a hyper-focused content-driven website that lives outside of a company or brand's primary website.
Often, the use case for these types of sites is tied to marketing-related initiatives, promoting a singular product or service with the objective of informing users on a topic, or attempting to get a conversion (sale) through a marketing-optimized landing page (the microsite). The reason they’re popular and powerful is that they can help narrow distractions as users proceed through the buyer’s journey.
For example, a user who clicks an ad that lands on a full company website may not navigate through the website pages as expected, and end up somewhere else on the site unrelated to the initial ad they clicked. With a microsite, brands can limit the options available and tailor the website experience specific to those customers from those ads, ultimately providing a greater chance for brands to achieve their desired user outcome.
Domain names and URLs can occasionally be long and cumbersome. They can be difficult for users to remember or create hesitation when a user is about to click on a link if it looks suspicious. One solution is acquiring a shorter domain name and utilizing domain forwarding to send users along their way to a different destination.
These shorter links can help keep advertising URLs very concise, which can play a role in clickthrough rates and keeping promotional links tidy. Many advertisers also use tracking parameters on links (a form of analytic tracking via characters added to a URL) which can make URLs very long, so shortening a link becomes almost a necessity.
Many larger brands will have their own domain name specifically to shorten their links, with Twitter being a prime example by using t.co to condense URLs on tweets.
Lastly, domain names and search engine optimization (SEO) are tied in many ways. Domain names that are active (in use/has a website) or that were active at some point have assigned authority determined by each individual search engine. As a website develops content (articles, blogs, content on a topic) and builds backlinks (a URL from another website pointing towards it), this determined authority can improve.
Why is this relevant? Well, higher authority domain names are sought after. They can be valuable for the domain investors mentioned earlier, or they can be used by entrepreneurs to help kickstart a business.
By taking advantage of the authority already attached to the domain name, there is an opportunity to position and get a head start on how a search engine like Google perceives your website. By using a domain that already has some authority (ideally within your content niche/business vertical), brands can get an initial advantage on building their domain authority up without having to start from ground zero. If you do consider this, just make sure to do thorough research to ensure that the domain with authority doesn’t have a negative history or was used for with bad intentions.
As you can see, the number of uses a domain name can have can wildly branch out beyond just the typical store, news, social, or personal website. From advertising purposes to setting up company emails to building a domain investing portfolio, there are so many options to use domains to align with an individual's or brand's unique objectives. If you’re looking to acquire new domains in the near future, be sure to check out our domain search page to help you save on the many domain extensions we have available. Also, if you can think of more uses for domain names that we didn't cover, let us know in the comments below!