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What Nonprofits Can Learn From Google’s Recent Domain Name Purchase

(Photo: Mon's Images / Shutterstock.com)

When I read that Google purchased abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz.com as a domain name for its new parent company, Alphabet, I chuckled.

Not only is it a very genius, strategic move. It is one step in the right direction for creative domain names. As one of the largest players in the technology industry, Google experiences unparalleled flexibility to innovate and iterate all sorts of products for consumers and businesses alike. By creating its new parent company, with an easy-to-remember name and domain, Google will continue to test the limits of radical creation under the Google brand while investing in other endeavors under Alphabet.

So what is the biggest lesson from this domain name purchase, besides the fact that only well-established brands can get away with forcing people to type in an almost 30-character URL?

Domain names matter.

More often than not, nonprofits will stick to the OURNAME.org format, which is straight to the point. It makes it easier for donors and stakeholders to know exactly where to find you. But what happens when you want to show off your organization’s great slogan, marquee campaign or key elements of mission? Here are a few ways to differentiate your domain name, as learned from Alphabet and Google.

 

1. Vanity URLS.

Vanity URLS are the short and specific domain names that are used as a marketing tool to forward visitors from one URL to the main site of a website. According to the SEO experts at MOZ, a vanity URL is a URL not meant to be indexed by Google. Instead vanity URLS may be included in print materials, on vehicle wraps, or as a link shared on social media. The vanity URL directs visitors to the main site URL (often a sub-folder), and only the destination is indexed by Google, the Vanity URL itself remains a useful (but passive to Google) tool.

Our search for nonprofits employing vanity URLs yielded very little results, which means there is an untapped potential in this marketing strategy.

One example is Feedback Global an organization that works hard to fight the global food waste scandal. Its campaign, Feeding the 5,000, brings light to the global food waste scandal, by preparing delicious meals for 5,000 people — all from food that would have otherwise been wasted.

 

 

The organization purchased the domain, http://www.feeding5k.org/. However, once you enter in the domain, you’re instantly routed to Feedback Global’s homepage. With this distinctive domain name, Feedback Global can brand materials specifically for Feeding the 5000 without enduring the costs associated with hosting a completely different website.

Share Our Strength, the national nonprofit that is working to end child hunger in America, went a step further than just having a vanity URL. In fact, not only does its main domain name redirects to its marquee campaign, http://www.nokidhungry.org/, the organization has let the campaign name take precedence over the Share Our Strength branding.

 

2.Campaign Specific Domains

So what happens when you decide that you want to have a large annual campaign that becomes synonymous with your nonprofit? Depending on your budget, strategy, and scope for the campaign, it may be beneficial for your organization to invest in a campaign-specific domain name.

The American Diabetes Association built out a website for its Stop Diabetes campaign, which is the association’s movement to end the devastating toll that diabetes takes on the lives of millions of individuals and families across the nation. On the website, the association provides all the campaign-specific materials in addition to links back to the organization’s main website.

 

3. Catchy Domain Names

The National Breast Cancer Coalition wants to know how to end breast cancer by January 1, 2020. The organization has prominently placed its agenda in the domain name (http://www.breastcancerdeadline2020.org/)and on a ticker on the homepage to help facilitate accountability from stakeholders and also generate buzz about its finite goal. Could the National Breast Cancer Coalition have just stated their goal on a sub-page? Certainly, but it’s more impactful to have it in the URL that will be visible everywhere.

 

Now for this organization, I am going to tread very lightly because the name, it seems, is used for shock value. However, it also reflects a sentiment often yelled in the privacy of the homes of people most closely affected by it. If you guessed Fuck Cancer, you’re right.

Now, one can assume why the organization chose to go for a milder domain name like the http://www.letsfcancer.com/ rather than its actual name. And since Fuck Cancer is all about prevention, early detection and supporting those affected by cancer. The organization is changing and impacting the cancer space by improving health outcomes through digital initiatives, programs, events and cutting edge research; the punchy name still holds weight.

 

Most nonprofits shouldn’t go for a name that borders on obscene unless you are absolutely sure that your internal and external stakeholders will understand, respect and support the name.

While domain names are often an overlooked aspect of marketing, nonprofit communications professionals should creatively think when it’s time to brand its next campaign, project or mission.

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