There are hundreds of new top-level domains coming available in 2014. As a marketer, it's imperative to know how these new entities will impact your web presence.
Before we dive in, what exactly is a Top Level Domain (TLD)? It's the .com or .net or .org extensions to your business domain. Here is the US, we're pretty familiar with those three domain endings, as well as .gov, .biz, .mil, etc.
Our Canadian friends are more familiar with country extensions like .ca (Canada), .uk (England), and .in (India). All of these and many more variants are top-level domains. For the past 20 years, there have been about 280 top-level domains.
All that has started to change in 2013, with the pending release of 1300 more top-level domains. The release of these names has created somewhat of a gold rush mentality, and people and companies are now ready to chase after various new extensions like .cpa, .cars and .reviews.
What Are The New TLDs?
There are about 1300 top-level domains coming, and 544 of these are coming very soon (the full list is 1900, but there are a few duplicate filings). These domains cover a wide range of topics. Here are a few examples:
These and about 544 additional domains will become available in batches. So, what should the savvy marketer do to take advantage of these updates? Here are four things you should consider:
1) Innovate Your Brand
I'm sure we could readily agree that your domain name is important for the branding of your company. After all, you would expect to find Sigma Web Marketing at www.sigmawebmarketing.com, right? And the same it likely true for your business domain.
But what if the game changed so that your business domain could be more aligned with your business? We could be www.sigmaweb.marketing. Own a car dealership? How about or www.PhoenixNissan.cars, www.SedonaJeep.tour or www.HarleyDavidson.motorcycles?
These changes and more are all coming in 2014. Savvy marketers need to get at the front of this new domain landscape and line up to protect their brands (or even consider re-branding).
2) Protect Your Brand
For those of us who have a domain that is our company name or a domain that reflects our branding, it's time to protect variations of that brand that are becoming available.
For example, our agency only works with companies in the US and Canada, so we'd probably be okay with a foreign entity owning www.sigmawebmarketing.asia. But we definitely would not like another agency to grab www.sigmaweb.marketing.
3) Watch The Sunrise
As each TLD becomes available, it has to undergo a 60-day "sunrise" period. This period allows trademark holder to register claims and potentially lock down protected words. For example, Hertz may want to lock down hertz.cars or Amazon.com may want amazon.book. These domains must still be registered (and paid for), but trademark holders get first choice of any new TLD.
As of today, some of these new TLDs are already in the sunrise period. Remember, this period only lasts 60 days!
To view the list of all the new TLDs, take a look at Name.com's TLD Watchlist. Here you can see all the new TLDs and also mark the ones you're interested in so that you can be notified when they become available. Your domain registrar may offer a similar service. As these new domains become available, you can purchase them for prices similar to those for your existing domains.
Tip: Go to Name.com's TLD Watchlist and see what TLDs are of interest to you. Then add these names to your Watchlist (right on the same page).
4) New TLDs and SEO
According to Google's Matt Cutts, the new TLDs won't have an advantage over existing domains. It possible, however, that these new domains will have some positive but indirect impact on SEO if they align closely with your brand. Steve Banfield, SVP Registrar Services at Demand Media (which owns Name.com) says:
"What will matter is the memory of the end user and branding. Which is better: hilton.com or hilton.hotel, chevrolet.com or chevrolet.cars, coors.com or coors.beer? Today, it's easy to say the .com is "better" for brand recall, but over time we'll have to see which works better for brand marketing."
The Bottom Line
Our suggestion is that you register domains that match your business objectives or that you want to protect, either because of your own trademarks or for future use.
These new TLDs are all coming in the next 12 months, and will completely change the Internet and our current concepts of internet branding. Savvy marketers will seize this opportunity to protect and/or expand their internet brands and continue to apply the latest best practices of inbound marketing. How will you take advantage of the new TLDs?