How will the new gTLDs Affect SEO in 2013/14?

Later this year, hundreds of new gTLDs (Generic Top-Level Domains) will splurge there way onto the Internet, possibly making .com, .net and .org relics of the past.

ICANN, the non-profit organization responsible for managing the global internet namespace, recently opened up the internet for new gTLDs, which could drastically change how consumers use and search the internet.

By the end of 2013, classic gTLDs such as .com and .net could be replaced by more descriptive gTLDs such as .Money, .Beauty, .App, .Sport, .Marketing; geo gTLDs such as .London and .Berlin; as well as brand gTLDs such as .BMZ, .HSBC and .Boots.


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You can see the full list of applied gTLDs here: http://www.newgtldsite.com/new-gtld-list/

Whether you’re for or against the new gTLDs (which is an article in itself), the new gTLDs will inevitably change our SEO habits going forward.

Short Term (Next 6 Months)

In the short-term to medium term, I don’t think anything will change.  Even the most successful new gTLDs (which experts believe will be .Web, .App and .Online) will take time to be launched at the root and be available for purchase.  Even though they won’t have visible success, I think the registrars will quickly double or even quadruple their innitial investments from landrush and premium domain sales alone (you only have to look at the success story of .xxx and how they made $200 million after just 12 months, including the sales of premium domains such as Gay.xxx for $300k in landrush).

Although premium EMDs such as Movies.online and Football.web will be publicized and bought during premium auctions and sunrise, I don’t expect see any sites being visibly developed late 2013.

Medium Term (6 Months – 24 Months)

In the medium term, we’ll probably see the most popular new gTLDs start to be used.  We’ll also see some of the bigger brands migrating their .com website to their .brand extension, such as .airbus, .abc, .bmw, .facebook, .marriot and others.

Again, you can see a full list of .brand gTLD applicants here: http://news.dot-nxt.com/gtld/all?page=3&gtld_type=Brand&applicant_country=All&registry=All&evaluation_stage=All&gac_objection=All

Geo gTLDs such as .London, .Berlin and .NYC will be the quickest success stories and will inevitably change how we do localized search.  I also think we’ll see a number of new city gTLD applications in the 2nd round of ICANN applications which will further alter localized search trends.

In terms of brands migrating from .com to .brand, whether this affects SEO or not remains to be seen.  Logic dictates that search engines such as Google will trust websites hosted on their own closed .brand gTLD a little more than public, free-for-all extensions.  That being said, Facebook.com and Google.com is also closed entity in itself, so it remains to be seen if a slight string migration from Apps.Facebook.com to Apps.Facebook for example will make much difference.

I still think it’s unlikely that more than a dozen new gTLDs will make much of an impact to the typical consumer’s experience.  It’s possible that the more popular and useful community based gTLDs such as .shop, .law, .music and .even .casino/.bingo/.poker could have some websites developed on them (especially for premium domains such as Online.Casino) but overall I don’t see much take-up in this time frame.  Other than the catch-all new gTLDs such as .web, which could rival the likes of .net and .co, I think it will take a much longer time period for niche community gTLDs such as .golf, .football and .beauty to take off.

Even the new gTLDs such as .pro have had more than 100,000 registrations, yet I don’t think I’ve ever seen one in the search results.  Remember that it’s all relative.  Furthermore, the Affilias owned .info, launched in 2001 now has 6 million registrants yet hasn’t changed a single thing in SEO.  The uptake of the new gTLDs will also be slowed down by the higher price tag of $40 per year in comparison to the $7 per year for a .com domain.

Long Term (2+ Years)

This is definitely up for debate, but I can personally see a number of new gTLDs being visibly successful and affecting the SEO landscape and how we search for information.

As I mentioned, the geo-city gTLDs will drastically change localized search, while new innovative search engines and directories for .tennis, .pizza and .shoes could rival Google, just like Search.xxx has done for porn.

I think we’ll see a consistent increase in relevant, useful gTLDs such as .gay, .marketing, .consulting and .accountants.  On the other hand, less useful public gTLDs like .club, .clothing, .computer, .flowers and heart will fail and the registrars could potentially go out of business.

Additional Thoughts

An interesting debate is whether Google will treat descriptive, keyword gTLDs as a keyword in the brand.  For example, will they treat Personal.loans like they would Personal.com (where the brand is “personal” and we have gTLD neutrality), or would they treat .loans as part of the keyword.

Again, logic states the extension would become a keyword, otherwise it would be very hard for users to find what they’re looking for online.  In any case, Google has reduced the value of EMDs (Exact Match Domains) in their algorithm recently so I wouldn’t consider this factor particularly important.

I also think the fact that Google has applied for 101 of their own gTLDs including .app, .baby and .blog is irrelevant; any favoritism given to their own gTLDs in the search results is only going to create more furor for the EU and FTC regulators.

Finally, it’s worth considering that any businesses that choose to develop themselves on new gTLDs and .brands will face an uphill battle educating users about the new string.  There will be lots of traffic and backlink leakage to the .com (just read about how Overstock had 61% traffic leakage to from O.co to O.com before reversing back to Overstock.com) so again, there will be clear limitations and confusion to overcome.

Adam Grunwerg

Mr grunwerg has written 22 post in this blog.

Adam Grunwerg is the founder of Searchable.co.uk and has numerous years of experience in SEO, inbound marketing developing brands online. He has also previously written for the Guardian, SearchEngineJournal and AffiliateFYI.com.

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  • Omniaural

    Hi,

    Great Post!

    I’m just doing some research on the possible impact of the new gtld’s now that they are finally reaching general availability but recent quality opinion and research seems thin on the ground, which is great for those in domain speculation but not so great for those of us trying to come up with a viable strategy.

    Have your thoughts changed or evolved since you initially wrote this article last year?

    It would be great if you could revisit it and maybe post a reply to my comment with the link so I can check it out!

    thanks!

  • Soheil

    Very good, thanks for sharing

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