Search engine optimization (SEO) will change dramatically within the next few years as a result of the Internet transitioning from 23 top-level domain names (TLD) to more than 1,409 strings. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, a nonprofit corporation that oversees the use of Internet domain names, will send internationalized domain names (IDNs) live this summer.
The generic names bought by companies like Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and others will begin rolling out by the end of 2013.
Jennifer Wolfe, president of Wolfe Domain, speaking at the MediaPost Search Insider Summit, understands that this may seem like a potential threat to search experts, but she said marketers need to look at the millions of dollars that companies have invested and assume they're not doing it without a plan.
Grant Simmons, director of SEO and social product at The Search Agency, says he gets the branding opportunity for companies like L'Oreal and Johnson & Johnson -- but unless it's adopted by search engines, he doesn't see the change in SEO.
Half of the top 100 global brands applied are paying in aggregate more than $350 million in fees to acquire the names. Google applied for 101 TLD names. Some of those systems are "open," which means they can resell them to businesses and consumers. Microsoft applied for 11 as closed systems. Amazon applied for 76 TLDs, each one a closed system to support their company and affiliates. "We expect Amazon to create an affiliate system," said Wolfe.
TLDs will become ZIP codes or category regulators. Search engines will begin to weigh the TLD name as a category, and .com will become diluted in search results -- less valuable, according to Wolfe. "We will see some of those big social media companies like Facebook that didn't apply jump in during the next round," she said.
For media companies like HGTV, HBO, or Dish Network, which applied for 13 domain names, Wolfe believes they will become the channel. Safeway will also take advantage of a channel strategy. The grocery store chain applied for the TLD Just4U, the name of their new mobile app.
"I can see a huge impact for search terms in the domains for something like Century21.com vs. Century21.realestate," said Bill Connard, vice president of local search at RIO SEO. "I see it as a channel for DYI networks."
Companies that bought TLDs will brand the name as the only true authentic brand to earn trust and tighter relations with consumers. It's not a phishing site that sends you somewhere else. Frost Prioleau, Simpli.fi CEO, told Online Media Daily that the chart Wolfe presented, which outlined the companies buying TLDs and the list of segments, looks similar to a LUMAscape.
The TLD name will likely weigh more heavily in Google and Bing search algorithms, and search engine marketers focusing on optimization will need to pay more attention. "From my conversations with Google, Microsoft and Amazon, people are thinking there's a three- to-five-year window before seeing wide adoption," Wolfe said, emphasizing that agencies, brands and search experts need to start thinking about it now.