Brave New Domain World
Over 300 new, generic top level domain names became available for registration over last two years. Many of which are destined to remain a niche for a foreseeable time, however some bare some serious online marketing potential.
Google shared their view on new top level domain names time and again, most recently with Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller reiterating on the Google Webmaster Central blog what Matt Cutt has addressed in a 2012 video. Essentially, for Google and presumably other, major search engines there is no significant difference between top level domain names that became only recently available in comparison to more established ones such as .COM or .NET. While there is no short term advantages or disadvantages to be expected from an SEO point of view, there are some great opportunities arising with new gTLD’s.
Domain names have a profound impact on brand building and are an asset to be protected. It’s of little use to attempt hording all new top level domain names of a brand, even though it’s possible to block trademarks from being registered across most new gTLD’s. With few exceptions the majority of them like .LOL and .FAIL are of little commercial relevance. How relevant a gTLD becomes depends to a large extend on the niche a brand stands for and the user adoption. To answer this question it’s important first answer another question: “How often is the new gTLD in question being used by legitimate businesses and individuals on business cards or on branded cars.”
This does not mean that the majority of new gTLD’s are to be ignored. To the contrary. Among the new gTLD’s there are a number of highly relevant domain names still available which offer potential of great CTR’s and brandability. gTLD’s like .REISEN in Germany or .VIAJES in Spain or .APARTMENTS for the real estate industry, .POKER for the gambling industry or .MARKETING in the online marketing industry bare such potential. Location specific small and medium businesses often can connect with their target audience using localized domain names, such as .NYC, .TOKYO, .SYDNEY or .BERLIN. Chances are that an average user in London is more likely to remember and click on a search result or an ad with a domain name like LOCALSERVICE.LONDON than LOCALSERVICELONDON.CO.UK.
An investment in new gTLD’s rather sooner than later in order to protect the brand in the future is an idea worth pursuing. For instance, if a website is currently being served on BUSINESSEXAMPLE.COM it can potentially register BUSINESS.EXAMPLE now and move the website to the new domain name in the long run. Not registering this domain name on the new gTLD now will most likely be more costly later -if it has to be purchased on the aftermarket- or near impossible -if the competition decided to use it.
Some of the new gTLD’s also offer great opportunities for authority and community building. Any online business aiming at reducing their dependence on organic search traffic by becoming the go-to place in their area of expertise must embrace interacting with the community. The BRANDNAME.COMMUNITY domain name is in that sense a great chance to develop a supplemental channel imminently associated with an existing brand, giving the initiative a trust boost in the eyes of the users from day one. Major brands also have the opportunity to registering their well established brand as a new gTLD -such as .GOOGLE and .IBM- and use these for brand building like creating COMMUNITY.BRANDNAME.
The new gTLD’s are an opportunity for new and upcoming businesses, with approximately 117 million .COM registrations most memorable domain names are long gone. However while registering relevant domain names on new gTLD’s for brand protection or community building are viable options, moving established websites to new gTLD’s is risky. The content, old or new must be crawled and evaluated anew on new URL’s. Backlinks may need to be updated and redirections established but residual risk remains even if a migration is done by the book. It’s highly unlikely that moving to new domain -no matter this being on a new gTLD or not- will outperform the established brand domain name. In addition, a domain name on a new gTLD is no solution to address algorithmic or manual spam action issues.
The decision to move content must not be motivated by organic search growth because no matter which domain name the content is moved to, it will most likely take time for the site to grow in organic visibility. Having said that, moving content from an established TLD (e.g. .COM or .DE) to a new gTLD (e.g. .MELBOURNE, .HOLIDAY, .TAXI or .CASINO) may make sense long term if this makes the brand more memorable for users. It is also important to point out that for new websites it does not matter if they launch on a brand new domain name ending in a new gTLD or established TLD. Either way they start from scratch, no matter on which TLD is used.
While slow gradual adaption of new TLDs is to be expected for most of the new gTLD’s, as experienced with .EU previously, evaluating the new gTLD’s potential must be done from a brand building rather than search engine signals point of view. The domain name is just one signal for search engines, often a weak one on top of that. It can not substitute for lack of a unique sales proposition, poor site performance or bad site architecture, to name a few more important signals. Users on the other hand are the ultimate search engine signal, and are not likely to lose their importance for search engines anytime soon.
If the target audience are likely to find and place more trust in a website because of a great memorable domain name on a new gTLD, then improving brand building efforts by setting up a website on a new gTLD’s can have a significant long term and positive SEO impact. Many awesome domain name opportunities have become available with the new gTLD’s, so wait no longer – get yours now!