The Risk Involved with ccTLDs

I’ve mentioned that there is an inherent risk involved with registering a domain using a ccTLD, however, I really haven’t gone into depth on this subject.  (If you need a reminder, I explain what a ccTLD is in Domains 101: The Basics)

While the .com TLD is still the most commonly used, many people have enjoyed creating new and often creative domains using ccTLDs such as Call.Me or TheDailyWh.AT.  Oftentimes people do do this without realizing even where the code is based out of, or that it’s even a country code based domain.

Not knowing what country a ccTLD is out of that you’re considering or own really increases your risk.  For one thing, you don’t know what restrictions they may have on it.

For example, to use the .ca ccTLD, you need to meet certain Canadian presence requirements.  If the Canadian government doesn’t think you’ve met those requirements, they can and will take your domain.  In some countries, even less cause may be needed.

Not all ccTLDs have presence requirements, but several do.  But what happens to your domain and possibly your business if the ccTLD you’re using is based out of a volatile country?  Just because the current government is open to allowing other nationalities to use their ccTLD for a fee doesn’t mean the subsequent government will.

On a darker note, what happens if those in power see value in your domain they didn’t see before?  Or if they don’t like how you’re using it?  If you think it can’t be taken from you, you’re deluding yourself.  Depending on the country and how you’re using it, they may not even have to work very hard to justify their taking it.  It was probably clearly spelled out in the requirements you had to agree to in order to register the domain, that if you’re like most people, skipped reading and simply agreed to. made headlines today because Libya revoked their domain rights citing Sharia Law.  Basically, what it boils down to is Libya said, a url shortener, was being used to distribute porn which violates Libyan law.  (You can read more about it on Forbes , BBC or TechCrunch just to name a few).

This isn’t to say you shouldn’t consider using a ccTLD as part of your business or marketing strategy.  You should just be aware of what the additional risks you may face are.  In some instances, the risk of using a certain ccTLD may outweigh the rewards and in other cases you’ll find the risk low.  Either way, if you’re using or considering a ccTLD, don’t assume your legal rights to it.

Why You Should Understand Domains

Why in the world should I care about understanding domains?  I’m not an IT person, I’m a [fill in blank].

Light pouring through a gothic archway & window

Understanding domains is important for more than your tech team for a number of reasons, not the least of which is so you don’t get taken advantage of.

Having even a basic understanding of domains will help you to communicate with others who do need to deal with them.  The more you know, the better you can convey what you want, or when you need it by.  It can also help you to recognize when someone might be taking advantage of you.  For instance, if you know how to change your DNS or add a CNAME record yourself, than you’ll know someone is blowing smoke when they try and tell you it will take them hours to get it done.

Understanding domains will help you to better evaluate strategic moves whether at the business level, the marketing level or the product level.  This will also help you to understand what issues you may run into or what steps you should take to avoid issues.  For instance, imagine your marketing department has come up with a great new name and campaign for your latest product?  What’s one of the first things you should do?  See if the domain is even available.  Honestly, this should be done even sooner in the process but I digress.  It’s scary to me how many companies completely develop and launch products without a second thought only to find afterward that the domain is already registered and they’re unintentionally sending traffic to a completely unrelated company or product, or worse, a competitor.

It seems like an obvious question, but do you know what happens when domain is not renewed (or is not configured correctly)?  I’m not referring to the details of what happens at the registrar level, but what happens at the other levels.  Your website goes down.  Possibly your email goes down.  You potentially lose customers who suddenly can no longer find you, or can’t find you for the first time.  Sometimes registrars will put up some kind of a notification alerting visitors or a place holder page such as coming soon. But more often than not, especially on misconfigured or non-configured domains, they may put up a page advertising that your domain may be for sale or use it to host relevant Google AdSense links (or similar).  As these ads are often automatic and keyword based, you may drive traffic to your competitors.

Domains 101: Choosing a Registrar

The thought of registering a domain intimidates a lot of people, but it’s easier than you might realize.  However, before I get into that, there’s one point I cannot stress enough – Register your domain YOURSELF in YOUR OWN account.

DO NOT have your neighbor, ad agency, web designer or anyone else register a domain in their account for you.  If someone is helping you, that’s fine, but be firm on this point.  You wouldn’t give someone the keys and title to your car would you?  When you let someone register your domain for you in their account, that’s essentially what you’re doing.  You’re giving up all ownership rights to the domain because in most instances that alone shows ownership.  It’s much harder to prove theft when the account that created the domain still has control of it.

I have heard horror story after horror story of people finding themselves in a bad situation that could easily have been avoided had they done this one little thing.

Choosing a Registrar

The number of options can be intimidating, but it’s well worth it to put a little effort into selecting one.  Some things you should consider:

What TLD do you want to register?

The majority of registrars handle .com and .net but there are more than 250 options currently and many more potentially on the horizon, all with varying restrictions and requirements.  You can view a list of them here.

Do you want your hosting at the same place it’s registered?

Just like not every hosting company offers domain registration, not every domain registrar offers hosting.  (Unless you have your own server, and if you’re reading this you probably don’t, you need web hosting for your site to be accessible.)

How much access do you need to your domain?

Some registrars limit what you can access, or charge you to have access to things such as DNS, CNAME records etc.  Basically what you need to decide is whether you want to have to contact the registrar’s support staff to have them make a change anytime you need to, or if you want to be able to manage it yourself.

Will you need privacy protection?

Not every registrar offers it and many charge extra. Also, depending on what TLD you choose, this may not even be an option.

What’s their reputation?

First off, you want an ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) certified registrar.  Second, do a search on them.  What do people like and dislike?  Be wary of any that get complaints about transfer difficulties, and especially any that attempt to charge for transfers.

Is their site user friendly?

If their site is difficult to navigate before you’ve even registered something, don’t expect it to be much easier when you’re trying to manage your account.  Do they have multiple ways for you to get support should you need it? Do they make that information easy to find?  Personally, I would be wary of any company that makes it too difficult to contact them.

What are they charging?

Don’t base your decision solely on price.  Many registrars frequently run deals on new registrations and transfers, but charge more for renewals.  Some registrars charge a little bit more but include extras in the price that will cost you a lot more to add at other registrars.  Prices can vary substantially across all the TLDs, so it doesn’t hurt to do a little comparison shopping.

Where are they located?

You will find registrars located throughout the world.  Don’t feel like you have to use a registrar from your home country, but be aware there are some inherent risks when you don’t.  This could easily be a post in itself, so I will just give you one key point to consider.  Is your domain at risk because of the local government?

Domains 101: The Basics

Premium | Typos | Keyword | TLDs | ccTLDs

What is a Domain?

A domain is the (hopefully) easy to remember address for your site.  Essentially it’s what is found between the www and the “dot” that most people think of as a URL or as a website although not entirely correct.  A domain is like a plot of land.  The land can be developed in a variety of ways such as building a house, a shopping mall, parking lot, farm etc.  Domains are very similar.  A domain owner can build a website on their plot of vacant property.  The website could be a personal blog, an online store, a company website, a parked page, or any other type of site you can think of.  Like real estate,  domains can be bought and sold with their values differing, depending on a variety of variables.

Types of Domains


Premium domains are called this because they have high intrinsic value and are therefore worth more in the marketplace.  These domains can be words, letters or numbers, but the shorter and more obvious their use, the higher their value.  For example, because of their scarcity, 2 number (NN)  and 2 letter (LL)  .com domains demand a high premium to obtain.  3 letter(LLL)  and 3 number (NNN) domains also command a premium, but not nearly as high.

While generic word domains command a premium, some still have a higher value than others based on factors such as the popularity of the word as a keyword and whether or not it can be used as a category killer. As the name suggests, category killers are domains that lay claim to a valuable keyword that often creates a halo effect making the owner appear to be the leader in their industry regardless of validity.  These domains are often very valuable because they get a lot of natural or direct type-in traffic. sold for $3 million, December 20, 2006 sold for 2.6 million, April 7, 2008 sold for $3 million, June 4, 2009


As the name suggests, these are domains that are incorrectly spelled. This isn’t to say that this is always unintentional; some very well known domains are intentionally misspelled because the correctly spelled domain was already taken such as Typos come in many varieties, some of which can be used to your advantage, however, the ones to be most aware of are those that have potential for trademark issues.  Regardless of the domain, or its usage, typo domains inherently have a risk to them.  This is because of the potential for traffic diversion.  For the same reason that trademark typos are popular among a small portion of the domain industry, an intentional typo can have the reverse impact.  You may unwittingly be driving traffic to the correctly spelled domain.

Keyword based aka Search Optimized

Search engines can find it difficult to read some long keyword rich domains, which isn’t a surprise when you figure that some domains can be read more than one way i.e. (Did you see first or the correct version of You can see more company domain blunders here. )  Keyword domains often have hyphens in them such as, which makes them less likely to get type-in traffic and therefore decreases their value on the domain aftermarket, however, they can prove valuable as part of your search engine management strategy.

TLDs and ccTLDs

The term TLD is something you’ll hear a lot in reference to domains, it stands for Top Level Domain and refers to the domain extension or, what comes after the “dot”. For most people, the .com TLD is the best known and most popular, especially in the United States. It typically has the highest resell value.  Most of the domains people are familiar with .com, .net, .org (to just name a few) fall under the the gTLD classification.  The g stands for general.  Registration restrictions vary depending on the TLD.  For instance .com is considered open so anyone can register it while .gov is closed and limited to U.S. Governmental entities.  June 26, 2008, ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) voted to make a controversial change to the gTLD approval process.  You can read more about that here or here But the basic idea is for a starting fee of $185,000, you can get your own gTLD.  You can find plenty of discussion both for and against this new proposal, but that’s a topic for another post.


ccTLD is another term you’ll hear a lot.  The cc stands for Country Code and refers to domains that are country specific such as (United Kingdom), .ca (Canada), and .ie (Ireland).  New ccTLDs are frequently being introduced and like gTLDs, restrictions vary.  Two of the best known ccTLDs .me (Montenegro) and .tv (Tuvalu) are often mistakenly thought of as gTLDs.  Although .com is most common in the United States, this is not the case everywhere and so in some cases such as in the United Kingdom, going with a ccTLD is a smarter choice.  While ccTLDs can be very useful, there is also a serious potential risk in investing in a ccTLD.  Because each country sets the requirements for their ccTLD, there is the potential for a domain to be taken away from you without compensation or warning.

You can see a full list of TLDs and ccTLDs on Wikipedia here.

My intent is to turn this topic into several posts so please let me know if any particular subject is of interest to you.  I gave a presentation in June with Victor Pitts of Moniker covering some of these basics as well as some other topics I hope to be covering. Here are my slides from the presentation and here is the audio (which also contains Victor’s presentation.)