There are probably a number of reasons Jeb Bush's presidential campaign failed. But maybe it all started with a domain name.
The ability to manage a domain portfolio may not be the most important consideration when choosing an American president, but it seems to have caused some problems for Bush's campaign. The former governor failed to register jebbush.com, putting his campaign's brand at risk throughout the race. For a long time, the website redirected to Donald Trump's campaign website. Now, it's a parked domain.
Bush isn't the only candidate with domain drama. At the time of writing, tedcruz.com displays a pro-Obama message and tedcruzforamerica.com forwards to the Canadian immigration website.
Political domain name snafus are becoming increasingly common as politicians neglect to include domains in their branding strategies. In the U.S. Congress, only 47 per cent of members control the website that uses their first and last name, according to the Coalition Against Domain Name Abuse.
Politicians in Canada have made similar slipups. Pierre Poilievre, an Ottawa-area MP, might have problems during the Conservative leadership race when voters discover pierrepoilievre.ca displays a coarse video and refers to the politician as “skippy.”
The damage of not controlling a domain
Domain names are the first step to controlling a business (or personal) brand online. Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush's mishaps provide excellent examples of what happens when a competitor or adversary registers the web address that best reflects your brand. It makes it difficult for people to find the right website and makes you look behind-the-times.
No matter whom you are or what your career plans are, you should register the domain name of your first and last name right now. Imagine the fallout of someone else nabbing your ideal domain and controlling that part of your online identity. The web address might never be available again, could display embarrassing information, or could be put up at auction for a lot of money.
Use our tool to see if your first and last name is available on the .CA domain:
Manage a portfolio of domains
There are tons of top-level domains available, with .CA, .com and .org as the most popular in this country. While you might have a domain name with .com, there is a greater chance that a great .CA domain is available. Consider exploring other TLDs to further control your brand online.
This strategy is called building a domain portfolio, and it's one way to further protect your brand online. For example, Americans might assume your business's website ends in .com while Canadians assume it's .CA. Having both avoids confusion and means you can capture both sets of traffic without sending people elsewhere.
Carly Fiorina, who also ran in the Republication nomination contest, registered several domains, but carlyfiorina.org was left up for grabs. As a result, someone else registered it and put up a website with unflattering information from her time as CEO of Hewlett-Packard.
“As a best practice, before you register a single domain, determine your online objective. If your objective is to maximize exposure and reach visitors all over the world, your domain coverage should include country code top-level domain (ccTLDS), all legacy gTLDs and select new gTLDs. If your objective it to protect, not promote, consider limiting your registrations to legacy gTLDs and select popular ccTLD extensions such as .ca,” said Serlin, vice president of global client services at MarkMonitor, the leading provider of enterprise brand protection services.
Besides including multiple TLDs in your portfolio, another best practice is to register common typos of your domain name. Donald Trump's campaign failed to do this with donaldttrump.com, which briefly forwarded visitors to Jeb Bush's campaign website.
Other words, phrases or products associated with your brand can also be included in your portfolio. Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg registered more than 400 domain names including bloombergistooshort.nyc, according to ABC. While that might be overkill, Bloomberg made sure he covered his bases so critics couldn't easily detract from his message.
Renew your domain names
Think of your domain name registration as a lease rather than ownership. Keep track of all registered domain names and their expiry dates. If your domain is released, someone else could register it and benefit from visitors seeking your site.
There are unfortunately many examples of domain name expiration blunders. Microsoft forgot to renew hotmail.co.uk in 2003, and the Dallas Cowboys let dallascowboys.com expire in 2010. Former Quebec premier Jean Charest didn't renew jeancharest.ca in 2010, and the new Registrant used the domain to publicize a petition demanding his resignation.
Auditing registered domain names and being aware of expiration dates will help you or your company avoid these situations. “Set your domains to automatically renew each year, especially your critical domains,” says Serlin. Another solution is opting for long-term registrations—.CA domain names can be renewed up to 10 years. It's important to find a Registrar partner that has your long-term interests in mind.
If you decide to let a domain name expire, consider the consequences of someone else controlling the domain. Do you care if your visitors see something vulgar or completely unrelated to your brand? Will you want the domain name again down the road?
Domain names are a vital part of controlling your brand online. Make sure you register domains early, secure a portfolio of web addresses, and renew your domain names diligently to protect your brand and avoid embarrassment.