The first installment of this essay introduced the topic of the forthcoming, industry specific generic top level domains (gTLDs) — including the domain name suffix .insurance — due for release on the internet on June 15, 2016.
I wrote about how .insurance will not only help centralize insurance-related internet addresses, it will denote an online environment that enjoys a higher level of security. As insurance is a more technologically complex field than many others, let me now describe how .insurance will work.
Who can apply for a .insurance domain name?
The new gTLD .insurance will be a secure environment, providing some levels of online industry security that do not necessarily exist today.
Run by the registry fTLD — the same registry that manages .bank — the technical infrastructure of the new domain space is expected to be one of the most secure in the world. Applicants will undergo pre-vetting to ensure that they are legitimately tied to the insurance industry regardless of whether they are agents, actuaries, claims processors, adjustors, insurance exchanges or comparison sites.
The levels of pre-verification and authentication are understandably complex to ensure that only businesses genuinely involved in insurance are able to apply. Organizations will need to meet strict criteria to secure a .insurance domain is regulated by a government authority.
The .insurance gTLD will require agencies carrying the domain to be compliant when it comes to requirements such as licensing and renewal of licenses of agents and claims adjustors along with continuing education and customer disclosures. Levels of ongoing verification will continue to be in place long after the initial registration period.
The .insurance domain versus .brand or .com
In the several years since new TLDs started rolling out on the internet, some big carriers such as Aetna, Allstate and State Farm have purchased their own .brand domains (.aetna, .allstate, .statefarm).
However, the window for applying for and running a .brand website has long since passed. These companies mentioned above applied back in 2012.
The new generic domain name, .insurance, offers carriers a chance to claim a differentiated and secured piece of online real estate. Registering in the .insurance TLD space also is significantly cheaper than going the .brand route. It’s a chance for insurance firms of all branches of specialty and sizes to register the most relevant domain names available.
Some companies that missed out on registering in the .com webspace in the past also now have the opportunity to register their brand name with a highly relevant TLD. This should be attractive both to brands and their digital agencies. It could mean lower pay-per-click opportunities for brand holders as “insurance” and “insure” represent two of the most expensive existing “cost per click” rates.
We expect to see most of the big insurance firms seek to register at least one of their major brand names under .insurance.
Things online should get especially interesting once applications for the more valuable generic terms are made available — such as home.insurance, car.insurance, travel.insurance — terms where no one organization has a trademark or a guaranteed right to register those names.
How will .insurance feel to the customer?
The U.S. is deeply entrenched in the ACA, which has meant a huge drive to make average citizens expert in sourcing their own health insurance policies, which has meant them interacting frequently with online marketplaces or exchanges. Depending on user education, .insurance could set the stage for a more transparent and consumer-friendly online approach for the industry.
One of the challenges of the new gTLD program is consumer awareness. At a time when we are all being told to be vigilant when going online, the introduction of a new Top Level Domain could — without any additional education on the benefits of using it — could cause confusion for consumers. So it will be up to the insurance industry, which is already versed in educating consumers about complicated products, to bring awareness of .insurance to their customers.
It’s not a given that .insurance will make a company’s website easier to find online right away, but searchability should eventually be improved. Google’s stance on its search algorithms has so far been consistent in that domain names need to be meaningful, memorable and relevant to the search term, and that content is optimized within the website itself for the search term. There may come a day when the whole weight of the domain name is considered more valuable to search than just what exists to the left of the dot.