The domain landscape has been largely untouched for years now, but that is set to change come January. At the beginning of 2013, new top-level domains (TLDs) will be rolled out that expand the available domain options. The Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the organization that manages the Internet address system, announced its plan to expand domain offerings last year. For those not familiar, TLDs domains are the terms that come after the final period in a url address (e.g., .com, .org), only 22 of them exist besides the 250 country-specific TLDs. Now, ICANN approved 290 applications for new generic TLDs and expect more by the close of the first round of applications on April 12.

The plan to expand offerings has been met with great opposition from separate US-based and international trade, marketing, and advertising groups. They stand firm with the position that the cost of applying and registering the domains for branding purposes will cost companies a great deal of time and money, let alone frustration in dealing with the reportedly complex application process. The cost of initial application fees at $185,000 alone has priced out many SMBs from the process. Another cost issue is that of protecting your brand, if companies want to purchase domains to protect themselves from cybersquatters then that will only run costs higher for businesses. As such, larger corporations are the only ones that can compete on this level this early in the process as prices will come down in a possible second round of applications, especially with subdomains.

What Does this Mean for Businesses, SEO, & Branding?
In short, there shouldn’t be great changes to SEO, at least according to Google’s Matt. On his Google+ page he spoke to how the new TLDs will likely function in Google’s algorithm. What he says allows us to draw some prescriptive conclusions:

  • New TLDS will not directly lead to greater authority and higher search rankings
  • “Google will attempt to rank new TLDs appropriately,” with no preferential attention given to them for rankings in short-term or long-term – Matt Cutts
  • TLDs offer value for branding purposes as companies can create domains that describe what they do, like a design company using .design or a subdomain that includes .design. Further, a business could use their name, like .Nike, or location, like .newyork to create close customer associations with the company and their industry or location. Buzz and publicity surrounding the first companies to do so would be beneficial as well.
  • It is yet to be determined the impact on ISEO and SEO that new city and regional TLDs will have on geo-targeted searching. The likely impact though is that sites with a city or regional domain will be more relevant to searches either containing keywords related to that city or region, or ¬†originating from that location itself. This would follow the same geo-targeting process that is experienced currently on Google with country-coded TLDs. For how this impacts the UK, check out this blog post on our UK site.

Thank you for reading, and reach out to me directly (rbuddenhagen@webimax.com) if you have any questions or concerns regarding how the new TLDs are going to impact your business and how you can use them to your advantage.