President Donald J Trump has been one of the most controversial Presidents in American history. Polls across both conservative and liberal media have shown a stark divide within the Trump era of American politics.
However, Trump successfully captured the mood of a vast swathe of the nation during his campaign to get to the White House. That was thanks in no small part to his digital campaign.
A combination of social media plus a couple of core websites where Trump fans could buy merchandise or donate to the campaign was core to his momentum – plus the odd digital trolling stunt!
I’ve already published an analysis of the Democrats’ domain name arsenal, and now it’s the turn of the Republicans. In 2020 how are domain names involved in Trump’s digital strategy for a second term?
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Trump’s digital identity is fairly solid. Thanks to his years of being a public business figure, The Trump Organization has locked down his core of key domain names. DonaldTrump.com, DonaldJTrump.com, and Trump.com are the obvious names that come to mind.
According to DomainIQ, The Trump Organization also holds several thousand other defensive registrations including the likes of DonaldTrumpSucks.com. These defensive registrations, along with the General Counsel of the Trump Organization that maintains these registrations, have secured Trump’s digital identity pretty well and prevents the majority of opportunistic registrations.
Despite all this, Trump famously doesn’t own Trump.org after unsuccessfully threatening the owner of the name.
As for Trump’s political career, that’s based on DonaldJTrump.com, with DonaldTrump.com sensibly redirecting visitors to the site. Since Trump announced his campaign to become the President, visitors to DonaldJTrump.com have been prompted to contribute to his campaign or buy merchandise to support the campaign.
The site is the destination for many of Trump’s Facebook ads and has been included in its fair share of Trump tweets. More recently, Trump has been urging his followers to go to vote.donaldjtrump.com.
Mistyping this web address can lead you to VoteDonaldJTrump.com – a name that Trump hasn’t secured. This domain was registered in 2015 and is available to purchase at GoDaddy’s marketplace, Afternic – likely for a premium price. It may have been worth Trump picking this name up as another defensive registration.
Former Governor of Indiana, Mike Pence, was announced as Trump’s running mate for election in July 2016. This ended his own reelection for the job of Governor of Indiana, and it also prompted a redirect of MikePence.com to DonaldJTrump.com.
Interestingly, TrumpPence.com was registered in February 2016 – five months before Pence became Trump’s running mate.
The name wasn’t registered by Trump’s campaign. Instead, it was registered by an investor who, after Pence was announced as Trump’s running mate, put the name up for sale on Flippa.
There is a record of the domain selling for $18,734. TrumpPence.com swiftly moved to GoDaddy under WHOIS privacy protection. It’s not clear if Trump’s campaign bought this domain name, but the name immediately started forwarding to DonaldJTrump.com. It has stayed in this state ever since.
Assuming the Trump campaign did acquire TrumpPence.com, that’s recognition of the value of protecting the political brand. Conversely, Trump’s opponent, Joe Biden, has failed to secure BidenHarris.com despite the “Biden-Harris” moniker spread widely both online and offline.
What better way to get some media buzz than by creating a viral stunt to do the work for you? In 2016, Donald Trump’s campaign created headlines by acquiring the domain ClintonKaine.com for $15,000 and subsequently creating a disparaging website on the name.
ClintonKaine.com, of course, represents the last-name combination of running mates Hillary Clinton and her Vice Presidential candidate Tim Kaine.
This time around, Trump hasn’t pulled the same trick – despite BidenHarris.com not being owned by the Biden campaign.
Trump’s team has, however, played on Biden’s lack of Latino votes in some areas. During the campaign, Biden microtargeted Latino communities with the phrase “Todos Con Biden” in a number of tweets and live events.
Biden’s team forgot to register TodosConBiden.com. Now, Biden’s message to the Latino communities now is muddied since TodosConBiden.com contains a site paid for by Trump that simply says “OOPS, JOE FORGOT ABOUT LATINOS.” Oops indeed.
Trump could create another viral moment by using the domain SleepyJoe.com. If you follow Trump’s Twitter, you will likely know that his belittling nickname for Joe Biden is “Sleepy Joe”.
It so happens that SleepyJoe.com is available for sale – it’s owned by a Canadian domain investor who also owns RealDemocrats.com.
In my Democrat domain analysis, published on Tuesday, I reeled off a number of Biden campaign digital stunts that involved domain names. It seems that Trump’s campaign largely prefers to focus its time and money on social media and in-person events to reach potential voters and create the buzz that comes from media headlines.
Public Protests Through Domain Names
Facts suggest that Donald Trump has been a divisive President. FiveThirtyEight’s poll tracker has shown a consistent polarization that has hovered close to a 50/50 approve/disapprove on a couple of occasions between 2016 and 2020.
Much of the general public has protested against Trump for some of his Presidency, so it should be no surprise to read that Trump has also attracted some protestations in terms of domain names.
Host.io shows 2,664 domain names are redirecting to DonaldJTrump.com (compared with 755 redirecting to JoeBiden.com). There are many of these names that you would expect to redirect, including DonaldTrump.com, MikePence.com, and TrumpPence.com. There are also others you may not expect.
Up until recently, JamesBiden.com redirected to Trump’s official website. The domain name for political rival Joe Biden’s brother was redirecting to DonaldJTrump.com but now forwards to a Reddit-style pro-Trump website. That domain name is registered under privacy protection, and there is no evidence to suggest that the Trump campaign registered that domain.
There are several derogatory or insightful names forwarding to DonaldJTrump.com. These, according to Host.io, include:
Again, there is no evidence to suggest that these are registered by, or have any connection to anyone in the Trump campaign. Trump’s campaign cannot easily stop a domain being forwarded to DonaldJTrump.com.
Dunce.com Forwards to Trump
Aside from the names mentioned above, there are a few other short notable names forwarding to DonaldJTrump.com. According to Host.io, these include:
Also forwarding to DonaldJTrump.com is 6144.com. For those domain investors reading this, you may know that this is a five-figure domain name that could easily be sold to the Chinese market. Similar sales include 8244.com for $32,999.
Transition Into Greatness
In 2016, the MAGA (Make America Great Again) movement came to the forefront. Donald Trump’s genius slogan, borrowed from Ronald Reagan’s similar campaign slogan, perfectly captured a snapshot of a time of change in America.
This was followed up with Keep America Great when Trump officially launched his reelection campaign in 2019. For Trump, Keep America Great went by the wayside. Well, 210,000+ deaths from COVID-19 and a tumultuous economy was enough to pop the KAG balloon.
In May 2020, Trump tried another phrase: Transition Into Greatness. This is a far weaker name, but it birthed a stark and effective protest site.
Someone quickly registered TransitionIntoGreatness.com and put up a simple protest website. The site contains the “Transition Into Greatness” slogan, a coffin, and statistics about COVID-19.
The domain made the rounds on Twitter and served as a brutal reminder to the Trump campaign: register the equivalent domain name before trying out a new slogan.
The Trump Campaign seems far more focused on organic social media, ad spending, and in-person events as a three-pronged attack to help Trump become a two-term President. In contrast, Biden’s campaign has realized quickly that operating key domain names alongside a digital strategy involving social media, digital ads, and content creation, can help to reinforce a message, create a viral moment, or just have some fun.
As we move towards election day, it’s fascinating to see the nuanced differences of digital strategies with a focus on domain names between two fiercly contrasting candidates.