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 http://nyc.moma.museum; their main URL is http://www.moma.org), 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 “Brand.com” 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 brand.com or subdomain (ex. m.cnn.com), 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 …..
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