The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) will be rolling out new generic top-level domains (TLD) in 2010. Will this have a major impact on SEO? Don’t count on it.

It’s a Dot-Com World

You will be able to register any TLD, like “.yournamehere” by submitting it to ICANN’s approval process, along with about $185,000. With your new TLD, you’re now competing against one of the most powerful brands in the world: dot-com.
Dot-com
Dot-com is by now deeply embedded in our minds. The dot-com world is reinforced every time you see television commercials pointing you to a Web site or billboards hawking Internet addresses on your morning commute, and of course, every time you type facebook.com (Don’t act like you haven’t visited… already today).

Does It Pass the Del.icio.us Test?

Jeremy Schoemaker once asked does the domain pass “the phone test?” Meaning, can you easily direct a person on the opposite end of the line to your domain without confusion?  Add to that now the infinite possibilities of top level domains and confusion.

Let’s go one step further; did you ever try to explain to your grandmother how to visit http://del.icio.us?

Del.icio.us switched to www.delicious.com, and as Del.icio.us’ founder wrote:

“So why did we switch to delicious.com?  We’ve seen a zillion different confusions and misspellings of “del.icio.us” over the years (for example, “de.licio.us”, “del.icio.us.com”, and “del.licio.us”), so moving to delicious.com will make it easier for people to find the site and share it with their friends.”

That Yahoo money didn't hurt either.

The demand for a dot-com TLD will only increase for the same reasons a beachfront house is coveted: because it’s on the beach, not because it’s a house. Both beachfront property and dot-com TLDs are finite and nearly limitless in demand.

Forget SEO, Think Reputation Management

spamAs Aaron Wall pointed out, Google has even “temporarily” filtered out ‘.info’ domains. While many of these domains reappeared in their original SERPs position a few days later, the glitch did not fare well for the perceived value of ‘.info’ domains.

Furthering this, Google’s Matt Cutts predicted in 2008 “A top-level domain (TLD registry) will offer domains for under $4.  The result will be another TLD blighted by spammy domain registrations.” I can buy a dot-info right now for 89 cents from GoDaddy.

There will have to be a focus on the reputation of your new TLD.

Think of it this way, the goal of a search engine is to match highly relevant results to a query.  The higher the relevance, the happier the searcher will be.  The happier the searcher, the more time spent on the engine.

Time is money. Improperly manipulate the engines relevance, and you mess with their money.

Will Keywords in Domains Continue to Hold Their Value, if Any?

This can go two ways: The engines could even further reduce any value of keywords in domain names or selectively target new TLDs.  This could depend on what weight is assigned to keywords within a domain name in the algorithm and the quality of the spam regulation.

Andrew Hazen, in an article on Media Post wrote “Keyword-enriched domain names and URL paths (there is a difference) are usually what it takes to achieve a top-10 organic ranking. Take, for example, AllFreshSeafood.com (ranking No. 4 on Google for "fresh seafood"); BreakingNews.com (No. 6 on Yahoo for latest breaking news") and BagelBoss.com (No. 4 on Google for "bagels"). I'm sure you get the point.”

Could it be that the high value in this algorithmic factor is being incorrectly perceived?

Logically, if you were to link to Bagel Boss, isn’t that how most people would?  Ok here is one to examine, ever wondered why Adobe Acrobat Reader is #1 for “click here” out of over 1 Billion results?

Your domain name and brand can drive keyword-rich, anchor text links, but you are going to have to drive awareness from a quality Web site and integrated marketing efforts.

Bottom Line

No matter what domain name or TLD you choose, there are no real shortcuts to inflexible organic rankings.