ICANN Approves New Domains (TLDs)

The big news last month from ICANN is that .anything domain names, also referred to as generic top-level domains (gTLD) have been approved. This is a huge move for the governing body that has approved 22 TLDs, some of which are rarely used and almost never rank in Google, Yahoo!, or Bing.

Internationalization of domains

These .anything domains bring unprecedented international changes to domains where ASCII, Latin, Chinese, Arabic and other character encoding will finally be possible.

Domains won’t look like domains anymore

The changes alter the familiarity of Toyota.com or Nordstrom.com domain names. I imagine future domains more like corolla.toyota, camry.toyota, shoes.nordstrom, and so on. Notice the missing “http://” and the “www.” For household brands, this shouldn’t be entirely difficult for consumers. However, who will have the rights to .cars and .shoes?

Barriers to .anything domains

Will there be a whole new land grab of domain names? I believe the market will heat up for those interested in charging direct registration fees. Some control is built into the $185,000 consideration fee and an annual maintenance fee of $25,000 per top-level domain (TLD). This slows the average domain owner from creating domains at will, but how many domainers will have interest in controlling gTLDs? I believe many will explore this option.

SERPs considerations

As an online marketer, I can’t help but question how these domains will rank in the major search engines. You can see from the following examples that Google.com is indexing (not necessarily ranking) content from many different TLDs. But top rankings in Google.com, Yahoo.com, and Bing.com are rarely achieved by non-standard TLDs such as .us, .museum, or .pro domain names.

Search engines look at TLDs as an indicator of which index (country) they expect their audience to react positively toward listings. For example Google.com is full of .com, .net, .org, .edu and other TLDs whereas Google.com.mx and Google.co.uk are full of .com.mx and .co.uk domains respectively. This isn’t an argument over whether you “can” rank well, but rather an observation of Google’s defaults.

Schema.org and indexation of .anything domains

Another recent announcement by Google, Yahoo! and Bing is the support for Schema.org standards. With Schema standards, product information can be published with meta data to help recipients understand and boundaries provided by the publisher. This helps to organize the information of the web. Schema may help in suggesting the purpose, geography, industry, local/retail or global interest of new .anything domains.

As domains becomes less standardized (.com for commercial sites, .edu for educational sites, etc.) the search engine algorithms will have to adjust. Moreover, domain length considerations will have to be adjusted.

Changes to domain names also affects pre-determined standards such as .com for commercial sites and .edu for educational sites. The search engines will have to adjust their algorithm to account for new domains such as .baby, .bmw, .family, .motorcycles, .travel, and .vegas as they appear online.

I would like to hear your thoughts about generic top-level domains (gTLDs) and the changes required by search engines in order for there to be visibility of the new .anything domains from an SEO perspective.

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18 Comments

  1. Antony Van Couvering says

    You said, “As domains become less standardized (.com for commercial sites, .edu for educational sites, etc.)…”

    I’d like to question that premise. While .edu certainly has meaning (it’s restricted to accredited educational institutions in the U.S.), .com really doesn’t mean commercial, .net certainly doesn’t mean network infrastructure anymore, and .org is available to whomever wants it.

    The new namespace is likely to become more standardized than less so, largely through self-selection. When (for instance) .horse shows up, there’s an excellent chance that web sites under .horse will have something to do with horses — it would be silly to put your SEO site there, for example. It will be similar with other top-level domains, with the exception of a few (like .web) that will want to copy the free-for-all that .com has become.

    It also seems likely to me that to the extent a top-level domains is indicative of the content on the web sites within it, that will have a positive effect on search. Users will also respond to the semantic cues offered by new TLDs. If, for instance, someone is searching for “hotels in New York,” they may well choose to click on the listing with an address of hotels.nyc rather than findhotelsanywhere.com/nyc.

    There may well be a virtuous cycle where users respond to the semantic cues offered by new top-level domains, and because user choice is part of the “relevance” algorithms used by search engines, web sites under relevant top-level domains will be promoted.

    One of the reasons that search engines don’t really use top-level domains to rank results is that they are largely meaningless — “.com” is just four useless characters after a name. I think new top-level domains will re-introduce meaning into the extension, and search engines will need to pay attention to that.

    Antony Van Couvering

    (Full disclosure: I run a company that provides registry services to applicants for new top-level domains.)

    • says

      Hi,
      I’m putting this to the test.
      I developed a directory site for a niche industry, including some snippets of microdata, fully mobile, with memberships on the site authenticating to google users.
      The site has relatively OK SEO, social media integration, and focuses on search terms that it “should” rank for not because of the tld name, but because of the content.

  2. Justin March says

    Thanks for the info it will indeed be interesting to see how Google judges domains of this type.

    Is the fee the only barrier to registration, or do current trademarks / company names get first dibs?

    If not I can imagine a senario where some well known brands are slow to pick up on their version of the domain name, particularly if they are just trying to find their feet. How will Google then value the site that has managed to aquire this branded domain V’s the brand name owner?

  3. Peter says

    I think that purchasing a TLD will be very attractive for many large companies from a branding perspective. The uncertainty of how the major search engines will rank these new TLDs (together with the cost or purchase and website/stationary conversion) will cause companies to be cautious. Once it gains momentum I think that it will be very attractive for large companies.

    Thanks for the post Ash. Really interesting that it has finally come through…

  4. Ash Buckles says

    I think it depends on your plan because $200k isn’t that much money. If domains on .whatever were $10, you only have to sell 2500 domains a year to break even in three (3) years.

    Some gTLDs will sell 2500 domains a month or more. Think about .travel or .movie.

  5. Tom McConnon says

    Thanks—great post Ash. One potential application I found interesting:

    Buy a gTLD like “.doctor” and limit domain registrants to licensed practitioners only. This exclusivity could inflate demand and be beneficial for a enterprising registrar. But, like you mentioned, who knows how they’ll perform in the SERPs.

    Btw…is SEO.com planning on adopting structured data? If so, do you have a timetable in mind?

  6. says

    Ash, fascinating article.
    @seosearcher.co.uk, there is MUCH more to new gTLDs than we’ve seen yet. A “.brand” or “.segment” is only the beginning. Canon has announced they want .canon. Look what they could hypothetically do with it (this is my speculative imagining only): 1) All employee emails could be simplified to “ashb@canon,” and it would work. 2) Customers who buy a PowerShot camera and opt in could get an auto-generated .canon domain, and every picture they take could auto-populate to their private web page for editing or sharing. 3) Every Canon product line could have its own second-level domain under .canon. 4) SEO could easily distinguish between the religious meanings of “canon” and the brand, based on the TLD.
    …And so on. New gTLDs are much more than a gimmick; they look to be a profound change and a massive platform for innovation.

  7. Eric Watts says

    This is definitely going to open up a wide new world for domains. But had absolutely no idea about the prices for the consideration & maintenance fees…makes the ownership of a wanted extension out of reach for the majority of anyone who wants them. So, does paying these fees give exclusive ownership to the domain extensions? For those fee’s I’d hope so.

  8. Ash Buckles says

    I’m pretty sure the cybersquatting laws will carry into gTLDs, which protect trademarks, etc. But that doesn’t protect industry names like .shopping, .travel, etc.

  9. Ash Buckles says

    I agree. However, most large corporations, because of protection of their trademark, won’t have the incentive to pay the fees. There will definitely be some companies and it will be interesting to see how it happens.

  10. Ash Buckles says

    I think Google is trying to remain fluid as these changes can make huge impacts. But it’s probably too soon to have decided what to do about it just yet.

  11. says

    Thanks, Tom.

    Exclusivity is rarely a bad idea in marketing. I like the way you think.

    Yes, I believe structured data has enough support to include this in our next site. Timeline is unknown right now but soon-ish. :)

  12. Ash Buckles says

    Hmm. I’d have to review email protocols to confirm emails like ash@canon. Is a .TLD required? I don’t remember. Anyway, you bring up a great point about the community aspect of domains and the ownership of content through these communities.

    I agree that it’s likely here to stay beyond the gimmick stage.

    Thanks for your comments.

  13. Ash Buckles says

    I agree. There will be some TLDs registered that don’t make a lot of sense. This has already been proven. Thanks for bringing this up.

  14. Scott Pinzon says

    Hey Ash, turns out you were right to question my first point. Since posting it I’ve learned that email protocols require, after the @, both a second-level and top-level domain. Apologies for the error.

    It has also occurred to me since then that the convergence of new gTLDs, the nearly unlimited addressing of IPv6, and the growing applications of RFID chips in objects — the so-called “Internet of Things” — could lead to applications we can scarcely imagine yet. Imagine Sony has .Sony and uses the serial number of every radio alarm clock they manufacture as a second-level domain. When you buy the clock, you go to its web page and apply settings and integrate other software. If your email gets an appointment moving your morning meeting a half hour later, your clock automatically sets the alarm 30 minutes later. All speculation on my part, but technically feasible.

    I repeat: new gTLDs could become a massive platform for innovation.

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