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.
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.