Over the past month AAM has hosted a series of TalkAbouts to help you navigate the new . dot cpa domain. We talked to a group of subject matter experts about branding, different types of web properties and SEO, as well as provided case studies with two different firms who have or will be using the new domain.
During these insightful sessions, some questions came up that we were not able to address. However, we turned to our friends at CPA.com for you to get answers. The following are those questions and answers:
Q: What plans does the AICPA/CPA.com have to help build the .CPA brand? Is there a campaign in the works and what does/will it look like?
A: Since the commercial launch of .CPA last fall, the AICPA and CPA.com have been actively highlighting the benefits of the URL through an integrated public relations program, which includes promotion across paid, earned, owned and third-party channels, including state societies, firm associations and other profession influencer groups. Our efforts have helped to increase market awareness of .CPA, with thousands of firms acquiring the domain, including more than 80% of Top 500 firms.
We’re pleased with the market response and will continue these efforts to drive adoption because the .CPA domain can elevate the CPA brand when a majority of CPAs and firms adopt the URL. We’ll also continue to leverage firms to share first-hand testimonials on the benefits of .CPA and are pursuing other media strategies to promote the domain to the profession and to the overall business community, which we can share more about when plans are finalized.
Q: Do we know what the Big Four (or top 30 firms even) are planning to do with their .CPA domains? Is that something that can be shared?
A: Due to the privacy restrictions outlined in the .CPA user agreement, we’re unable to share user data or other information regarding use of .CPA externally.
Q: What are the penalties for not complying with the activation requirements?
A: Activation requirements only apply to domains purchased prior to January 15, 2021. The AICPA and CPA.com instated activation requirements to incentivize the right users of the .CPA domain as well as discourage the ‘parking’ of domains by firms (i.e., purchasing domains just to prevent other firms from acquiring them). Domains purchased after January 15, 2021, have no activation requirements.
The AICPA and CPA.com are committed to creating a fair marketplace for the purchase of .CPA domains and reserve the right to revoke domain registrations for non-compliance. If you or your firm have questions on the activation requirements or the process, please sign up for our onboarding webinars where our customer excellence team can walk you through the process. We’re also developing additional tools and services to help firms with this step, which we expect to be available by summer.
Q: Today, is it possible that another firm could buy a domain with your firm’s name? Is doing so an ethical violation with consequences?
A: Now that the early registration period has ended and we’ve entered general availability, any licensed CPA or firm can apply for any available .CPA domain, including potentially your firm’s name or a variation of it. While it’s a violation of the .CPA user agreement to register a domain to prevent a competitor from using it, if the registrant has a legitimate claim to use a domain, they can register it (even if it also matches your firm’s name). Reference ICANN’s Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) to resolve any disputes.
Q: What if my firm’s name is trademarked? Can another firm buy it? Will I be notified? What can I do to stop someone from using it?
A: ICANN policies related to trademarks are complex and simply having a trademark does not automatically grant the right to take away a domain from another registrant. If you have trademarked a specific term and want to protect it, we advise you to register that term as a domain in .CPA as soon as possible, especially as the URL will be offered globally in the near future. Waiting until someone else has already registered the term to act can cause significant expense for the trademark holder. The AICPA and CPA.com do not have access to the trademark database, nor to a data source of existing firm brands or URL’s and are unable to notify individuals or firms if other registrants apply for a domain that is similar to your firm or practice name. If you believe you have a legitimate claim to use the domain, reference ICANN’s Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) to resolve the dispute.
Q: What are the ongoing costs to renew .CPA?
A: While other top-level domains, such as .com, are currently seeing significant price increases, there are no plans at this time to increase price of .CPA domains.
Q: If you own the trademark do you still need to meet the activation requirements?
A: It depends on when you registered your .CPA domain. If you have a trademark and registered your domain during the Early Adoption Period (EAP) or Sunrise phase (Sep 1 – Oct 30, 2020), you are not subject to activation requirements. If you registered during the Late Registration Period (LRP) (Nov 1 – Jan 14, 2021), you are subject to the activation requirements. Please note that activation requirements only apply to one .cpa domain; if you registered more than one .CPA domain, it only applies to any one domain.
Q: What is the growth of TLD (top level domains)?
A: Growth in usage of new generic TLD’s (such as .CPA, .shop, .tech) has been increasing much faster than the legacy TLD’s (such as .com). In fact, due to a lack of available names and market saturation, .com is growing at approximately 4% a year, per its operator, Verisign. On the contrary, generic top-level domains, such as .CPA, are experiencing much higher growth, some above 300% each year.
Q: Are other top-level domains, such as .law and .bank, still growing?
A: The .law TLD is operated by a sales and marketing company, Minds and Machines (MMX). MMX markets and sells domains and does not have an affiliation with the legal industry. MMX operates a portfolio of many TLDs and recently sold the operating rights of 28 top-level domains (such as .design and .club) to GoDaddy. Although the .law TLD is considered restricted, the eligibility is fairly broad, not tied to a license, and the eligibility verification is outsourced to a 3rd party (details of the verification process are unknown). Nonetheless, the .law TLD has grown year over year since it launched in 2015. After its first year there were 5,000 domains and today there are over 15,000 .law domains and growing.
The .bank TLD is operated by a company called fTLD. While this company itself is not affiliated with the banking industry, there are some banking industry representatives on its board. Eligibility is based on affiliation with the banking industry and verification is performed by fTLD personnel. There are very strict security requirements to register a .bank domain, such as implementing DNSSEC and various other security protocols. Non-compliance with these requirements results in the suspension of your .bank domain. Since its launch in 2015, the .bank TLD has reduced from ~3500 domains to ~2400 domains. However, while the number of domains in use within the .bank TLD may seem low compared to other TLD’s, the registry operator considers their market penetration to be very successful given their market size and complexity.
Many factors affect the number of domains each TLD has in operation and how well they perform over time. Although the legacy TLD’s have enjoyed a 20–30-year head start, the new generic TLD’s are growing in popularity and we expect them to continue to grow and support smaller communities. The internet is continually evolving and these new TLD’s are part of that evolution.
Need Additional .CPA Resources
Cpa.com has a ‘toolkit’ of sorts designed to helpful firms make the transition to .cpa. That toolkit refers to the tools built out on https://register.domains.cpa/manage-my-domain/
These resources can be grouped into three main groups:
- Activation toolkit – 3-part tutorial video
- Migration toolkit – 3-part video series, migration guide, email implementation guide, website transition checklist
- Firm enablement toolkit – a template for messaging and communications to help transition to a new .cpa domain
Also be sure to check out AAM’s How Your Firm Might Use the .CPA Domain. This decision tree will help guide you through compliance and connect you to resources that will help you find success with using your .CPA domain.
About Craig Browning
Craig Browning is a past president of the Association for Accounting Marketing (AAM) and the director of marketing and personnel for KWC Certified Public Accountants headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia.
Craig has been involved with AAM since 2006. During this time he has served as the initial chair of the Finance Committee and then as an advisor. He also has served as the board liaison to the Publications Committee and project lead for AAM's Social Media Toolkit project with the AICPA. Craig serves as a JA volunteer instructor in his (remote) home of Lexington, KY and won JA Volunteer of Year in that region for 2015 (while living in the DC Metro area). He is also a member of the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce Communications Committee.