The new domain on the block

News 8.28.2017


Finding a meaningful URL for campaign websites, microsites, or even vanity URLs is a challenge with the typical generic top-level domains (gTLDs) such as .com, .co, or even .net. Unless you have a trademark claim on a product or word/phrase, most of the URLs that would be of any value have already been bought. Therefore, it is getting harder and harder for brands (especially healthcare and pharma brands) to obtain URLs to meet a particular need.

Additionally, the abundance of health-related information online is tough for both consumers and professionals to navigate, even though (according to Google) 1 in 20 online searches are about health. Three problems often surface here: consumers don’t know which information to trust, when they do find information it is often confusing, and there is no dedicated place to find health information.1 Ultimately, it is hard for consumers to quickly and accurately tell if the information they’re reading is correct and credible, meaning it is more difficult for education and for them to be accurately informed.

More about gTLDs

Many other industries use gTLDs to signify a credible online location. In the US, for example, .edu and .gov are reserved for official educational and government institutions respectively, and are moderated by larger organizations. .gov domains are implemented and monitored by the General Services Agency (GSA)–an independent government agency–based on a set of pre-defined criteria. You immediately know you are on an official government institution website if it has a .gov. However, those gTLDs were limited.

In 2012, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) began an expansion of the global domain name system expanding from the original set of just 21.2 Throughout this process of expansion, ICANN received applications for close to 2,000 additional gTLDs; the largest expansion of its kind. gTLDs added during this expansion include those like .read, .cruise, and .shop (among other not so professional ones).3

With the launch of these additional domains, there is understandably some trepidation in the marketplace about how the use of them will affect a site’s search engine optimization (SEO) or ranking within search engine results pages (SERPs), particularly if a site moves from a .com. However, Google has guaranteed that all gTLDs will be treated equally, and their focus remains on ranking based on relevant site content and not keywords in gTLDs.4 Of course, overarching branding and consumer perception of a brand still plays a big part in driving site traffic.

The launch of .health

One of the new gTLDs coming out of ICANN’s expansion is .health. The gTLD is operated by dotHealth LLC–a company made up of an experienced team, many of whom were behind the launch of .co. ghg | greyhealth group worked closely with the team at dotHealth before their launch on landscape analysis, positioning, and branding for the domain. Based on findings and strategy, we aligned with them on a positioning centered on trust and credibility. Ultimately this resulted in promoting the domain as “the new domain extension for brands, organizations, and people who provide high-quality health products, services and information” and “the home for health online.” ghg and WPP strongly believes in the importance of supporting easier access to credible health content to improve patient outcomes, and applaud that dotHealth are helping this by building out an area online for health information that people can trust.

However, qualifying a valid healthcare organization is not as easy as defining a government or educational institution. Do you just allow official healthcare providers access to the domain? What about individual doctors? What about pharmaceutical companies, or technology companies, or healthcare agencies? As you can see, the possibilities are potentially endless. And so, registrants of .health domains are not pre-approved–instead, anyone will be able to register a .health but must comply with a set of terms and conditions related to content. While dotHealth’s positioning is around credibility, there will be a degree of self-policing in terms of the quality of content.

The .health gTLD is being rolled out in 2017 in a three-phased approach. They’re currently in the second phase of that launch: the “Industry Access” period, where healthcare industry organizations can apply for domains. Starting on December 5th, registration will become open to the general public.5

At the time of writing, according to ICANN Wiki, there are 1,617 registered .health domains, some 1,298 of which are parked.6 Some big pharma brands, such as Pfizer and Bayer, have already registered domains, as well as a number of healthcare institutions such as Boston Children’s Hospital for their Caremap app, and health-tech companies such as Matter and Cora.

What Does This Mean for You?

Of course it is still early in the adoption of .health, however there has been good initial traction, which signifies strong potential for the uptake of the domain as a whole. More importantly, there are certain key benefits to companies and brands in registering a .health; I believe the biggest value for pharma companies is and will be within the unbranded disease state education space, or to be used as vanity URLs.

Firstly, there is the opportunity to register a very meaningful domain and own a disease area. For example, consider a pharma company being able to own something like or for disease education sites or portfolio destinations. Domains like these as in the .com space are usually either already taken as or have a value in the hundreds of thousands of dollars range, meaning usually this isn’t possible.

Secondly, there is an opportunity for smaller companies to differentiate themselves in a crowded and ever-expanding health market place with a unique health-related domain tied closely to their product or service offering or area. For example, AppliedVR, a healthcare VR company, is using for their health VR blog.

Finally, as the domain becomes more widely known and accepted, it is more than likely it will become associated with credible content and trusted organizations. This could be a very valuable indicator for brands; one that negatively impacts any brand not using a .health, and ultimately being the most beneficial reason for using one.

If you haven’t already, you should reserve your domain on .health before they open to the public on December 5.

Interested to learn more about .health? Please contact:

Chris Millsom

VP, Digital Strategy Director

ghg | greyhealth group





  1. ghg |greyhealth group, Online Health Searching Research, October 2016.
Chris Millsom
Chris Millsom
VP, Digital Strategy Director
New York, NY