SEO Implications of New Generic Top Level Domains

You may have heard that in June, ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), released a list of the new generic top level domains (gTLD) for which many applications were submitted. This represents a major expansion in the current TLD list, which includes .com, .biz, .org, etc. Any company willing to pay the $185,000 application fee and approved by ICANN can gain control of any top level string (i.e., .example).  If approved, these new gTLD will come online in 2013. What does this mean for search and search engine optimization? Over 1000 organizations applied for 2000 different gTLD. Many of these applications were from large corporations protecting their brand names (Target Corporation applied for .Target, General Motors applied for .Chevy).  While this will allow these brands to create a linked set of related sites that would reinforce their content, for example: football.nike and basketball.nike; the companies who are doing this are the largest brands in the world and are already doing well in terms of search optimization. On the other hand, there are numerous other applications who applied for more generic terms and plan to become registrars and sell domain names to the public. This includes gTLDs such as .hotels, .bank and .attorney. One start-up named Donuts used $100 million in venture capital to bid on 307 different gTLDs. We’ve been getting a number of questions about what to do in preparation for this expansion of potential addresses. Our answer right now is: nothing. History has shown .com as being a very sticky domain. The lack of acceptance of the past expansion, such as .biz and .info, would lead me to advise not overreacting about the new gTLD. However, it would certainly be worth a few minutes to review the list and make note of any new gTLD that may impact your business to follow more closely. The only caveat to this wait-and-see approach is the fact that Google itself applied for 101 different gTLDs. If Google sees a future in the expansion of TLDs and utilizes them to significantly impact its search algorithm, then search marketers will need to pay attention. On the other hand Google may just be looking to protect its many brands.

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