Top-Level Domain Names Will Change Search

Jennifer-Wolfe-BSearch 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 vs.," 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, 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.

4 comments about "Top-Level Domain Names Will Change Search".
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  1. christopher hofman from European Domain Centre ApS, May 1, 2013 at 11:42 a.m.

    It's hardly big news (did an article about this in Jan. 2012 "Why dot brand will be a game changer"), but it is spot on. Companies will market their dot brand heavily and it will influence search behaviour radically. One search trend though will eliminate SEO, as a brand like Nike will create thousands of URLs redirecting to any product they have, so the quickest way to find an exact Nike product is via the browser, where you go directly to the specific landing page at .nike.

  2. Mr grunwerg from ARG Media, May 1, 2013 at 12:57 p.m.

    This article is complete rubbish.

    First of all, you're talking about new gTLDs changing the landscape of search like it will happen sometime soon.

    If it takes 3-5 years before seeing wide adoption, as quoted in your article, there will then be a2-3 year lag before search engines react to human behaviour. Thus, this article should be stating that new gTLDs won't have any impact on SEO for another 7-10 years.

    Furthermore, if new gTLDs were favoured highly by search engines then it would be very easy for spammers to manipulate the search results. This would lead to a lower opinion on unknown new gTLDs just like we've witnessed with .info in the past.

    I also don't see any .travel domains ranking in the travel industry or .mobi domains ranking for mobile app searches which is further proof.

    The fact you're quoting the cumulative amount of money spend on these new gTLDs and coming to the conclusion that they will change the search landscape is completely wrong.

    Spending $185,000 on a new gTLD to someone like Google or Amazon is absolutely nothing. It would be a tiny spec on their balance sheet. They are not committed to building these out and most applications for new gTLDs were defensive registrations. You only have to look at the dozens of companies who applied and then refunded brand gTLD applications such as .ketchup, .olympus and .hilton.

  3. Kenneth Hittel from Ken Hittel, May 2, 2013 at 12:25 p.m.

    Agree ferociously w/ Mr grunwerg. However, I would say that even if the 3 to 5 year estimate of the new gTLDs' evangelists -- almost all domainers expecting to make money down the line, rather than "marketers"-- is anywhere near correct, then I think the 7 to 10 years estimate fails. The idea behind the new gTLDs has always been fundamentally flawed, and given how our browsers work already, there is simply no need for them. Our browsers will automatically take us where we want to go & it will irrelevant whether that's .com, .net, or .nyc.

  4. Troy Clark from Applaud Media LLC, May 2, 2013 at 2:43 p.m.

    The ultimate "search" is direct search by the user. There can be only one default TLD (or 1st in a sequence) for a browser, and in the mind of the user. Presently, dotcom is practically synonymous with the Internet and will likely remain so for some time. There is proven advantage to being 1st.

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