Update: Since we initially reported this story, the AICPA and CPA.com website regarding the new domain extension has updated the registration start date to September 1, 2020, from July 1, 2020. We’ll continue to monitor as more information becomes available.
Now, the .cpa domain extension registration rush of 2020 is underway with the AICPA earning top-level designation for the new website domain this month. .cpa domain names are only available for early registration, and applications can be submitted beginning September 1. CPA.com said registrations will be issued on a “first come, first served” basis once generally available.
Organizations throughout the country, from Major League Baseball (.mlb) to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (.mit), the city of New York (.nyc), and the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (.pharmacy), have been moving to top-level domain registrations for a few years.
So what does that mean for accounting and advisory marketers, and how should they proceed?
First, a top-level domain is the three-letter extension that ends every domain name on the Internet, the most common, of which, are .com, .net, .edu, and .gov. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the governing body that manages domain usage, supported the issuance of new domains several years ago.
As for .cpa, the extension will be “restricted” meaning the AICPA and CPA.com will vet, verify and only authorize proven CPA entities wishing to use the new extension, as opposed to .com extensions that are largely unrestricted, INSIDE Public Accounting reported. With so many .com domains given out freely, hackers can more easily and anonymously create “lookalike” websites and email addresses with slightly different .com names to lure unsuspecting visitors.
“By overseeing the .cpa domain in collaboration with other global CPA organizations, the AICPA can help promote CPAs’ visibility and protect their professional standing online,” Barry Melancon CPA CGMA, president and CEO of the AICPA said while announcing the .cpa process in June 2019. “We also want the public to have confidence that someone using a .cpa domain address for email or a website is affiliated with the CPA profession.”
CPA Practice Advisor estimates the cost to reserve the .cpa domain at $195, though CPA.com and the AICPA have advised that pricing will vary depending on the domain name selected, such as requesting a shorter, more high-demand domain. To find out more and register during the early registration period, visit https://domains.cpa.com.
Accounting Marketers’ Expectations on the .cpa domain extension
Becca Davis, director of practice growth at Rea & Associates, said she and her IT team are looking into purchasing their .cpa domain mainly so others can’t buy it.
“In addition to Rea & Associates in Ohio, there is another CPA firm in California with Rea in the name,” she said. “We plan to buy our .cpa domain just to ensure that we have it.”
Davis said she doubts Rea will start promoting the domain externally, but they’d like to have it if it becomes part of their strategy in the future.
“These days, all the most desirable .com domain names are taken, leading many firms to settle for longer, less elegant domain names,” CPA.com says, pointing to companies that built their current internet presence around a “best available” .com strategy. “Some have turned to .net names or added CPA or LLC to the domain name. For clients and prospects, these are small but important signifiers that shape their perceptions of your brand.”
Sarah Gray, marketing manager with The Doty Group, has considered purchasing it so her firm can promote a more memorable phrase and URL, one that is significantly shorter in length than their current one.
“One of the big attitudes about it seems to be that it adds value to the perception of your online presence, so in a way, it’s a benefit of the certification,” Gray said. “It’s a way to effortlessly increase the value of your brand. And then there is the fact that once it hits the news that it’s available, everyone in the firm will likely ask me if we’re getting it – so I’d like to be able to say yes.”
Clients are also asking consultants for the new extension.
“I have a client who had to use his initials (for his domain). Without doing a Google search, how would someone know to use the initials instead of the firm’s name?” said Eileen Monesson CPC, a principal with PRCounts. “This will give a more direct connection to your firm by providing a URL as close as possible to their company’s name.” Monesson also values the branding potential that comes from the new option.
“A lot of firms have NAME-CPA (in their URL), but that can scream out a small firm,” she said. “This will put everyone on an even playing field and serve as another true differentiator.”
Others, meanwhile, are taking a wait-and-see approach.
Brian Swanson, chief SEO strategist at FlashPoint Digital, says switching to a .cpa domain could have some untested results.
“Vanity URLs don’t really have the power.com has, nor do they help much with overall rankings,” Swanson said. “That could change, as Google rankings mostly drive that decision.”
The answer to “we have to do it because our partner wants it,” he said, is to get a complete list of the firm’s rankings and be ready to implement redirects from old to new URLs.
He recommends accounting and advisory firms purchase their name and redirecting the new .cpa domain to the firm’s main .com website.
“Everything would have to be updated (any stationery, collateral, email signatures, etc.), so it’s going to be labor and time-intensive,” Swanson said. “It’s almost like a mini-rebrand in a way with the time and expense, and the expense may not be worth the cost.”
If a firm plans to implement the .cpa domain extension sooner than later, CPA.com recommends including a “we’ve moved!” message on the current homepage until the new domain becomes more widely adopted.
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About Christian Moises
Christian Moises APR is practice growth specialist for Ericksen Krentel CPAs and Consultants in New Orleans, where he is a one-man shop doing it all. He spent the first 10 years of his career in journalism, serving as an editor with New Orleans CityBusiness, the business journal of New Orleans, before transitioning to marketing and communications, with stops in death care communications, community hospital public relations and marketing/communications for an AM Law 200 regional law firm. He also serves as editor and committee chairman for AAM’s quarterly thought leadership publication Growth Strategies.