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Since the early 2000s, domain names can be registered and written in any language – for example Chinese characters are allowed in the .com namespace, 例子.com is a valid domain name. This wonderful innovation makes internet users less reliant on the English alphabet to navigate the internet – including when engaging with brands online.
As with any new technology, early adopters are often not the larger corporations but smaller ventures, one man operations and the likes. When it comes to foreign language domains incorporating brand names, this means that, unfortunately, some of them are registered to affiliate marketers and speculators unrelated to the brand owner.
From an academic perspective, this has the advantage of being a fantastic proxy to assess the viability of using brand names in different languages to engage with local audiences. The assumption here is that if a brand related domain has been registered and renewed to an affiliate marketer or any third party primarily motivated by monetization, whatever he/she is doing with the domain must be working.
The following are some of my observations on the topic :
A) Brand translations work.
It may not be practical for a brand manager to come up with translations of their brand in an effort to better engage with internet users. However, the translations may already be out there, used by native speakers on and off the internet. When a translation makes it to a domain registration, it’s a sign that its usage might be widespread.
PlayStation in Hebrew
PlayStation can be written in Hebrew like this : פלייסטיישן
Google data shows that the proportion of Israeli search volume for the keyword “PlayStation” to the Israeli search volume for “פלייסטיישן” is 10:3.
Surely, the domain name פלייסטיישן.com is registered, but not to Sony. It has been so since 2010 and it currently redirects to a one page Weebly website full of Adsense ads.
B)Typos are a thing too.
Skype in Russian
скаип.com is a typo of скайп.com which is Russian for Skype. Despite the whois privacy, both domains seem registered to the same entity and currently redirect to an adult webcam affiliate page (NSFW). The domains were respectively registered in 2012 and 2007.
In other instances, typo domains look to mimic the visual appearance of the brand.
Viagra and Netflix
This domain resembles the viagra brand. It is registered since 2007 and currently resolves to a parked page (displaying PPC ads).
The Netflix brand name with the Spanish eñe instead of the regular “n”. This domain was registered in 2013 and currently redirects to a survey affiliate program.
The most clever cases of typo domains involve what I call “keyboard layout typos” whereby the string of characters resulting from typing an english word on a foreign language keyboad is registered as a domain name. This type of typo exists because most non english keyboard hardware come with two or more characters printed on each key, i.e. one english letter following the QWERTY layout and one character in the native language. The keyboard software is often programmed by default to allow the use of either layouts. Switching from one to another is usually a matter of one key press.
Godaddy almost in Thai
This domain is the result of the keystroke sequence G-O-D-A-D-D-Y typed on a Thai keyboard with the Thai layout active instead of the English QWERTY layout. The domain per se means nothing in the Thai language. It currently redirects to Godaddy.com through an affiliate link.
If anything, the existence of this domain shows that there are Thai keyboard users who could make use of a proper Thai domain to access the registrar.
B) Brand + Keyword domains are also used
The use of foreign language domains to engage with brand customers is not limited to exact match brand names. Brand + Keyword domains are prevalent as well, especially in markets with a history of online advertising and online marketing.
Forex Sale in Japanese
This domain name means “Rolex Sale” or “Rolex Purchase” in Japanese. The webpage it resolves to has a prominent a8.net affiliate link below the fold.
In conclusion, when it comes to engaging with “foreign” audiences, using a domain name in the proper language is an avenue to consider. Affiliate marketers and speculators have been doing it for years, and it seems to be successful, at least as per their standards.
About the author
JS Lascary is passionate about Internationalized Domain Names. He is a member of the Quebec Bar Association and the founder of idndata.com, a brand monitoring business.