Top-level, restricted domains (TLDs) such as .edu and .gov have become a way for industries and the organizations they comprise to further their brand identity. It’s one of the many reasons the AICPA pursued the rights to the .CPA domain and launched it exclusively to the CPA profession in the fall of 2020.
The .CPA domain was created to protect and strengthen CPAs’ online brand identity and to provide a defined global domain for CPAs worldwide to connect with their clients and the public with greater trust, security and verification.
Why Introduce the .CPA Domain?
In response to a lack of available domain names as well as a rise in cybercrime and fraud, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the organization that issues and manages domains, offered entities the opportunity to operate their own TLD. In 2012, the AICPA and CPA.com applied for rights to operate the .CPA domain to protect CPAs’ visibility and professional standing online. Different organizations, including Google and others outside the industry, applied for the domain, but the AICPA and CPA.com were awarded it in 2019.
In the fall of 2020, licensed CPA firms in the U.S. were able to obtain the new domain. Availability expanded on January 15, 2021, to also include individually licensed CPAs. Thousands of domains have been purchased and firms are being strategic and creative with the names pursued, including obtaining keyword-rich domains to promote specific services or expertise in a particular practice area, industry vertical/niche or geographical location. Click here to read the AICPA whitepaper to learn more about the vision and history of the .CPA domain.
Who Can Apply for a .CPA Domain?
Only individually licensed CPAs or CPA firms can apply, and domains are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. CPA license verification takes place at the time of purchase, as well as during renewal, to maintain exclusivity and protect the CPA brand.
What are the Activation Requirements?
ICANN has specific requirements on how top-level, restricted domains should be launched. Activation requirements for the .CPA domain, which were based on best practices other restricted domains use, are intended to incentivize the right users of the new domain.
To meet these requirements, the domain was rolled out in two main phases:
- Early adoption, which ended January 14, 2021, was open only to licensed CPA firms to ensure trademark holders and those who already invested in their brand had an early opportunity to protect their brands. Those who applied during the early adoption period, with the exception of trademark holders, have activation requirements.
- General availability, which began January 15, 2021, has no activation requirements.
The following activation requirements apply to those who purchased a .CPA domain during the early adoption period:
1) Activating the domain(s)
- Within one month of being issued a .CPA domain, firms were required to redirect the domain to their current .COM website. This requirement didn’t apply if a firm purchased the domain and didn’t have a website. Firms that applied during the early adoption period and have not set up a redirect should have already received a reminder email from the AICPA. Click here to log in and set up your existing domain.
- Within one year of being issued a .CPA domain, firms are expected to use it as an active firm-branded website. They don’t need to make it their primary or “top-level” website (they can, but it’s not required). Firms can set up their new domain as a microsite or landing page (with firm logo and name prominently displayed). If the firm purchased multiple domains, they only need to activate one (the others may simply redirect).
- If a .CPA domain is replacing an existing .COM website, the AICPA recommends redirecting the .COM domain to the new .CPA website and maintain this for an ongoing period of time.
2) Linking .CPA domain to an email platform
- Firms are expected to add it to their email platform within one year of being issued their .CPA domain. Click here for guidance on how to complete this task.
Currently, CPA.com has a number of resources available for firms that decide to purchase the .CPA domain including:
- A series of onboarding emails to walk you through activating and setting up your domain
- Weekly live onboarding webinars
- A resource page with how-to videos, checklists and documents to help navigate your website migration
AAM Resources Are Available to Help
The Association for Accounting Marketing will continue to help marketers and their firms navigate the new domain, from deciding if it’s a good fit for their firm, fulfilling activation requirements and understanding how to leverage this new feature in the marketer’s toolbox. Register for a series of weekly AAM TalkAbouts (think member roundtable format) to be led by industry thought leaders, to launch later this month that will focus on:
- The .CPA domain and Your Brand
- Web Properties: Using Your .CPA for a Website, Landing Page or Microsite
- SEO Strategies for Transitioning to a .CPA
- How Firms are Implementing and Measuring ROI on Their .CPA
In the meantime, check out How Your Firm Might Use the .CPA Domain, a decision tree to help guide you through compliance and connect you to resources that will help you find success with your planning.
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.