ICANN Expanding Top Level Domains (TLDs) – SeO What?

by Brandon Fritz July 3rd, 2009 

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 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.

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5 Responses to “ICANN Expanding Top Level Domains (TLDs) – SeO What?”

  1. John Berard says:

    The move of del.icio.us to delicious.com is actually a proof point in support of new gTLDs. As normal names become harder and harder to come by, companies resort to odd twists to accommodate the dot com registry.

    If mikespizzaonthepostroadinboston.com could become MikesPizza.Boston or MikesinBoston.Pizza, not only would it be more easily found via search (pull marketing), but more easily advertised (push marketing).

    It is no secret that del.icio.us felt compelled to buy the dot com domain name, but new gTLDs offer the chance to build brand name equity without the need to "ransom" a name from VeriSign.

  2. Agreed, as SEO becomes more and more difficult, having a quality site, good content, good design, etc. This will be especially important if Google starts to factor in site performance analytics like time on site and/or bounce rate.

  3. Brandon Fritz says:

    @john – not sure I agree about delicious. that service could have started with a .com, as the delicious name has nothing to do with the service they offer. I think I am going to hold firm on my beach front analogy. In an interview, the founder of delicious, said the following below: http://www.randsinrepose.com/archives/2004/12/03/a_delicious_interview.html

    "I’d like to nominate del.icio.us for “Best Use of a Non-Dot-Com Name” — is there a deeping meaning to the name?

    Not really. I’d registered the domain when .us opened the registry, and a quick test showed me the six letter suffixes that let me generate the most words.

    In early discussions, a friend refered to finding good links as “eating cherries” and the metaphor stuck, I guess.

    I somewhat regret using the domain name, because it’s almost impossible to discuss or verify without sounding silly. I’ll probably have to rename it at some point, presumably as something ending in -ster or -zilla or whatever. "

    I agree Mike's Pizza shop may been easier to find, but it is important to remember the costs associated with the new gTLD (185k application fee) and 25k yearly. If these gTLDs will host other Web sites, maintaining reputation of your gTLD now becomes important.

    @miguel – sometimes I hate the old cliche in SEO that content in king

  4. I had no idea that all you needed was money to get an extension of your own. This is further proof the me that I will be holding on to my portfolio of dot com names as they will most likely increase in value over time.

  5. Wow. I'm really glad I read this. I had no idea that Google has been filtering out .info domains. That's a pretty big deal. I was considering purchasing one, but then again I guess that's why they are less than a dollar at Godaddy.