Do you know what new gTLDs are? That’s the question I posed to a room filled with marketers and SEO experts at a recent SMX event. Only three of around 40 people in the room raised their hands.
Although the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has been talking about new gTLDs for years, it’s clear that there are a number of Internet-savvy professionals that still have questions about what they are, and how they will affect them. With the potential to change search and marketing as we know it, understanding new gTLDs will be vital in 2013 and beyond.
What Are New gTLDs?
The new gTLDs, or generic top-level domains, are “dot-anything” domain extensions that go beyond .com, .net, .org and the other domain endings that we’re used to.
ICANN accepted applications in the first half of 2012 from large organizations wanting to run new domain extensions, which includes companies such as IBM, Google, Amazon, Audi and YouTube.
In all, 1,930 applications for new domain extensions have been filed for various types of extensions, ranging from the truly generic (.love, .shop, .app), to the brand-specific (.goog, .bmw, .aol) and the geo-specific (.nyc, .boston, .paris).
Many of the companies that have applied to run the new domain extensions are in “string contentions”. This means that there are multiple applicants for the specific new gTLD they have applied for (e.g. .app, which has 13 applicants).
These companies are working frantically to try and resolve the contentions and find a single applicant who will run the new gTLD, but if they cannot work out these issues on their own, they may need to go to an ICANN auction, something most applicants do not want to do.
The organization is also deciding how to begin releasing names to the market. It is expected, however, that the new extensions will begin appearing online in the second half of 2013, and over 1,000 new domain extensions will likely be added to the Internet by 2014.
Why Should I Care As A Brand?
Under the current system where .com is king, brand marketers and SEO professionals know the value of a good domain name.
Whether it is the business’ main site, a targeted microsite, or a “category killer” premium domain name, pithy, descriptive names have the power to make a company stand out in searches, boost its position in organic search results, and establish a reputation as a reliable source of information and a leader in a certain category.
As the domain system expands to include descriptive domain extensions, there are a number of reasons for companies to consider investing in the new Internet landscape:
- Excellent Location – If the new gTLDs are adopted, used and accepted among businesses and consumers, they’ll open up new premium names at targeted domain extensions, creating an opportunity for businesses to get in on names they may have had to pay six- or seven-figure sums for as a .com. Sex.com, for example, reached a record-breaking price of $13M when its sale was brokered by Sedo in 2010. Under the new domain system, businesses could now acquire other premium names (Sex.xxx, for instance) at more manageable prices.
- Community Building – Location-based extensions such as .nyc, .boston, .tokyo and others have the potential to act as location tags, helping map websites to their target areas in the physical world and build a community online, or be utilized in mobile search.
- Innovation – There are sure to be many innovative ideas that come out of this new domain space as it evolves, with big brands such as BMW or Nike who will have their own unlimited number of domains. Imagine each BMW sold coming with its own domain and website, providing the new car owner and the manufacturer a unique platform in which to interact and further promote the brand in ways no one has ever imagined.
How Will Search Engines Adapt As A Result Of The New gTLDs?
Truthfully, there is not likely to be a very visible change in how search engines rank results in the beginning. As they have done in the past, search engines will continue to reward high-quality content.
What many people may not know is that Google already allows users to conduct searches by domain extension in its advanced search feature. In other words, users are able to see only .gov results or .org results if they so choose.
This capability doesn’t make much sense under the current system of non-descriptive TLDs such as .net, but once new gTLDs kick in it will be a useful tool for conducting a search within descriptive extensions like .boston or .cars to return highly-targeted content to a highly-qualified audience.
What Could New gTLDs Mean For Search As A Whole?
Aside from the possible rise of the “search by extension” feature on search engines, as consumers begin to understand the new, highly targeted, quality locations offered by the new gTLDs, search could experience a very dramatic overhaul in the form of a rise in niche search engines.
One place we’re already seeing previews of the potential change is with the new .xxx registry, which launched “Search.xxx.” Just as Google or Bing search the Web at large, Search.xxx is a niche search engine that only queries .xxx domains.
The particularly interesting aspect is that all .xxx websites must follow certain rules and maintain quality standards in order to own a .xxx domain – all sites have a certification and are scanned for malware or other harmful content.
In other words, only safe, high-quality and highly-qualified results are presented to the end user. As a result, the .xxx registry has seen a staggering volume of search traffic already, and is well on its way to establishing a community for xxx content online.
Search.xxx may not be for everyone, but what about Search.shoes? Search.cars? Search.app? The new gTLDs have the potential to change search as we know it, and if done right, could make quality content be easier to find.
How Do I Get Access To New Domains When They Launch?
If purchasing a domain name with a new gTLD extension makes sense for you or your clients, getting into the game early will be important in order to secure premium names at the best possible price.
Many of the new gTLDs that are approved as public registries will have a landrush phase where companies can apply to get names before general availability. While the timeline is a moving target, interested parties can sign up with to get alerts and information about gTLDs they’re interested in from many reputable premium domain marketplaces.
At the end of the day, the new gTLDs pose a rare opportunity for marketers, SEO professionals, large enterprises and established brands. Much like the early days of the domain name system in the 1990s, the new gTLDs will open doors to descriptive, premium names that have never before been registered.
Understanding the new gTLDs and keeping an eye on their progress can be a great chance to get a foot in the door right at the beginning of something big, and to buy some really valuable virtual real estate.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.