Impact of Vanity Generic Top Level Domains Part 2 – Search Insider

Here is the first half of my current column at MediaPost’s Search Insider.  This is great story, and it is very exciting to see another piece of Internet history happening before us.

Originally published in Search Insider:


In my last column, I discussed some of the challenges of moving an existing website to a new vanity generic top-level domain (gTLD).  In this installment, I will provide a review of several existing gTLDs, and discuss the branding and search impact, and also the process of applying for a gTLD.

For a quick recap, ICANN, the governing and administrating body over all Internet addresses, voted in late June of this year to allow individuals and corporations to apply for .anything, or literally any word or phrase exceeding three characters not taken. A new top level domain can be used as a registry, or for one’s own Web presence.  Under the new policy, the following names are true possibilities as a home for an online Web presence:

Let your imagination run wild. But first, let’s take a look at other existing generic TLDs.

The branding of a TLD – why .com will always be king

If the marketing novelty of the vanity gTLD seems to outweigh all other considerations, it may be a good exercise to first analyze the current landscape.  Ever heard of .Museum?  Yes, it’s a real working gTLD (see this redirected URL for; their main URL is, though the average Internet user is wholly unaware of its existence.  .Travel has been in existence for almost two years, but very few travel sites have adopted it as their primary address on the Web.  More commonly, major travel and hospitality brands have reserved these names and pointed them at “” as a matter of driving traffic, and for brand and trademark defense. Other extensions such as .Jobs and .Pro have yet to gain mainstream appeal, even though their categories have wide potential within their respective theme-space.  Another highly anticipated extension, .Mobi, has also failed to gain mainstream adoption as the default address of the mobile Web, with most major brands choosing to host their mobile presence on their legacy or subdomain (ex., targeted to mobile devices. 

Your own awareness of these gTLDs (or lack thereof) is a direct reflection of how well that TLD was branded. Enterprise marketers will face the same challenge if/when they change over their existing .com presence to a new extension.  Hosting your Web presence on .com benefits from a TLD brand that everyone has helped build. The .Com  domain had no brand until U.S. advertisers got behind it, and a valid question to ask is whether or not your new gTLD is ready to compete against this level of awareness and trust.  The answer is really simple – no single advertiser has the budget to match up to the amount of collective ad dollars that have promoted .com – it is synonymous with the Internet, more so than any other domain brand.  This may be obvious to most readers, but marketers should keep this fact in mind as discussions around changing to gTLDs progress in their respective organizations. 

The birth of the search-optimized Top Level Domain

Shifting gears a little bit, let’s pick back up on the natural search aspect of gTLDs.  Having a generic keyword theme in a vanity gTLD also doesn’t guarantee natural search success or authority.  Just like a new domain, the Top Level Domain still earns its authoritativeness in the search engines.  It has long been recognized by SEOs that engines have shown bias and trust towards content and links on …..

Read the rest of the column here:





Cuil (“cool”) – New search engine intrigues, but I have questions

This one seemed to come out of the blue this morning.  New search engine debuts, from a team that includes former Altavista lead engineer Louis Monier.  I ran a few queries, and the most interesting thing I noticed was that it picked up relevant listings that I had not found before.  But I have a few questions and personal thoughts about my experience:

- “Cuil” (pronounced “cool”) could not be any more confusing, and they would have to get “” to make it right.  The problem is that the owner of that name is well known for holding on to his names, as he can afford to.  Driving traffic to “” will only drive traffic to “”, especially if word-of-mouth picks up. Google and Yahoo don’t have this problem.

- I saw a lot of relevant images, but they were misaligned with the results.  It seems to infer that the image came from the site it indexed, but it wasn’t.  It’s confusing, and irrelevant.

- The layout can be disorienting, and does not allow for easy scanning of the entire list.  It would be nice if users had more control of the results display, including a standard ordered list, reduction of the desc/snippet, and prominence on the URL (a lot of trust is placed in the URL).

- The index could stand to be freshened up a bit.  I found pages that had been removed months ago.

- The top 10 could use more diversity at the domain level.  I found a lot of pages from a single domain that had little to offer.

All said, I’m keeping an eye on this one.    Lots more to review – but this was my first impression. Danny Sulivan has a detailed review here:


.Anything – Thoughts on new ICANN gTLDs

My latest column is posted at MediaPost Search Insider, the first of a two-part series on the impact of new vanity ICANN generic top level domains (gTLDs).  The title accidentally got hacked off – it should say “.anythinggoes”, so it looks a little out of context in its current state.

Also, here some additional columns I wrote for MediaPost that discuss the importance of a domain move, and the importance of planning for search:

Five Tips For Assessing the Value of Natural Search

The Unfolding Search Story of

Seven Challenges of SEM Planning and Execution

Solutions to Seven Challenges of SEM Planning and Execution


North Texas SEM’s spend over $100,000,000 in search engine advertising

Needless to say, everyone in the local search engine marketing industry is a bit surprised at Google’s decision to close their Dallas office.  The DFW SEM association posted a formal response on Business Wire, which is starting to get picked up on various search blogs.

This $100,000,000 estimate does not take into account all of the SMB’s in the area, which we expect would push the actual spend up considerably higher.  It also doesn’t take into account the spends in Austin, Houston, and San Antonio.  In addition to the twenty people from the Dallas office, Google be thinking about adding 100 more to serve this market, and also consider a more localized approach. 

As local SEM’s, we were very pleased to have the Google office in the area.  Yes, they serviced accounts nationally, but Dallas people were also present and highly visible at local interactive marketing associations such as DFWSEM, the DFW IMA, and The Dallas Ad League.

I certainly wish them all the best.

More coverage from Search Engine Watch

My interview with the Dallas Morning News

I was recently interviewed by the Dallas Morning News for a front page story in the May 18, 2008 Sunday Jobs section.  The writer covered the DFW SEM Association, SEMPO organization, and also how DFW is becoming one of the top national areas for SEM talent.

Next DFWSEM Assoc meeting Weds, July 16, 6:30PM

The next DFWSEM Association meeting is on July 16, from 6:30- 8:30PM at the Renaissance Hotel in Richradson Texas.

The topic is on things that will hurt your natural search presence, followed by a site clinic.


Enterprise SEM Strategy – my latest column on MediaPost Search Insider

Here is my latest column for MediaPost Search Insider.

I’m still finding that there is a lot of confusion in the search industry about the basic framework for search engine marketing strategy, so I decided to step back this week and offer a basic framework for search strategy.  I should note that my POV is mostly from an enterprise or corporate search engine marketing standpoint.  But the main point is to step back and really consider all aspects of SEM – not just SEO and paid media.