The Internet Corporation
for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which oversees the Internet's naming and numbering systems, opened registration today for non-Latin-character domain names, but some SEO experts believe it will
create both benefits and chaos as companies take brands international.
While Latin characters (A to Z) have saturated the market for domain names, the new move will help sites in Arabic, Chinese and Japanese languages take on more importance. Google CEO Eric Schmidt said at a recent Gartner Symposium in Orlando that within five years the Chinese language will dominate the Internet and social media. And Egypt will introduce the first domain name to use the Arabic script.
The first official domain names with non-Latin characters should begin appearing in 2010. The shift will become important for search engine optimization experts that branch out into driving traffic across non-English-speaking markets.
Google looks at many elements to determine how to rank relevance, but the URL has been one of the most paramount. That's why people spend lots of money buying up heavily searched single- or double-word URLs. Those who jump into the search fray and buy up the new domain names consisting of heavily searched-on words, such as free, games, music, cell phones and sex, will capitalize on ranking for those words in search engines, according to Eli Feldblum CTO and founder at RankAbove, an Israeli-based SEO company.
"Until now, if you wanted to rank for a keyword that's in Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, or any non-Latin language, you would have to make sure to put the keyword in every place but the URL," Feldblum says. "You would always miss out on something by not putting the word in the URL. But that was okay because no one could do it. Now you will see a new arms race because people have the ability to put it in the domain."
Companies also could buy up the URLs and direct traffic to other sites. Smaller companies dependent on SEO will likely buy up the domains first. Other companies might buy up the domain names to protect their brands.
Opening the opportunity for countries to buy domain names based on non-Latin characters has far greater implications than introducing a new top-level domain. Since the new move opens the market to an infinite number of domains, the ICANN could have problems controlling spammers and phishing sites.
"Domainers, folks that snap up thousands of potential combinations, love new top-level domains they can squat on," says David Harry, Reliable SEO founder. "When .me came out it was a bonanza." Workfor.me and f*ck.me are some examples Harry provides in a Skype message.
People make a lot of money buying up great domain names. Some in the domain industry will try to buy up the top search words in a variety of languages. Typically, people purchasing domains test them during the grace period to identify the ones producing the most traffic. They return the ones that don't make money. Average companies looking for their domain name will suffer by being locked out of the biz.
Similar to Harry, tech geek Joe Lucas believes ICANN's decision makes the Web more accessible to people worldwide; he thinks it should have a major impact on the mobile market, but not the search industry overall. "Internationally mobile usage far surpasses the U.S., and if anything this change will only help increase the dominance of that platform," he says. "What will be interesting to see is how large international companies adopt to the new change from an SEO perspective." Lucas says the SEO industry could see a large shake-up internationally as companies struggle with the process of essentially starting a new domain and trying to rank well for international searches.
"It expands the international SEO soup, more specialists, cross-language analytics platforms and translators," says Marty Weintraub, founder of aimClear. "Yeah, it's a great time to be an SEO, as the global village joins the network on their respective syntax and linguistic terms. Who knows how engines will value things. I think .com will always be global lakefront property.