Domain Regulations that will Change the Face of the Web.

By Dave McAnally, Natural Search Product Specialist

Surprisingly, I haven’t seen much coverage on ICANN’s announcement on the most aggressive lax on top level domains ever. The reason I think this is a big deal is threefold. First, this opens a whole new set of opportunities for micro-site branding. Second, it’s one more way to increase keyword visibility. Finally, it changes the international internet entirely.

Essentially, this means that starting in the second quarter of 2009, companies can use their trademarked brands as their top level domain (think or www.mp3.ipod). In addition, non-trademarked terms are now fair game. So things like or could be registered. From an SEO standpoint, this creates new opportunities to place the keywords most relevant to your site directly in your domain (not a sub-domain). This visibility (as of right now) means more opportunity to have these keywords highlighted in a search result. There are also some obvious trade-offs as well. There is potential for negative impact on link popularity distribution and we still have no idea how this new mass of domain possibilities will be weighed and quantified by search engines (it’s certainly something they will need to be ready to address).

Aside from the pure SEO aspects of all these new domain opportunities, there are some obvious branding implications here. Domain suffixes that tie directly back to your industry could be easier to market offline (as in my apple examples) and easier for visitors to remember (at least I would think so). Since the possibilities for a domain suffix are essentially limitless, it should be easier to use domains with fewer characters; part of the logic behind ICANN’s decision seems to be that all the memorable domains have been registered. Personally, I see this as a huge opportunity for the up-and-coming businesses and individuals to make their mark. Until this happens, it’s nearly impossible for a new company to have a memorable concise domain (Aaron’s blog is testament to that).

Finally, you’ll notice another major advancement is that URLs no longer need to be restricted to Latin based character domains. So now for companies doing business in China, Russia and other countries using a different character system, they will be able to register and administer domains in the country’s native character set. This is huge for many of RM’s clients since markets like China represent tremendous potential. While we can’t say for sure yet, but I would say it is safe to assume if engines can index these different characters, then the degree to which a domain aligns with a query will impact how that site ranks.

I know Q2 of next year seems like an eternity away, but it would be wise not to wait until D-day to figure out how to take advantage of this (even from a reputation management standpoint). Those who plan accordingly (what messaging would we like to use, what are memorable domain suffix possibilities?) and are ready with domains to request will most likely be at the top of the feeding frenzy. Once you have them procured, the possibilities for micro-sites, international marketing and just better branding of your site seem like reasons to be excited.

Time will tell, but I’m going to guess the second quarter of 2009 could be a very interesting and creative time for the internet.


Bryson said...

It will definitely be interesting to see how this all pans out. I doubt that our recommendation will be more than redirection to a dotcom to solve SEO and direct navigation problems, but who knows. If nothing else it will make AG's job that much more difficult. Or is dotcom so intuitive that a brand wouldn't want anything else?

CJeffCampbell said...

I do think ".com" is now the default, and think this actually makes it more complex and will be a turn-off to potential customers. Time will tell. Wonder how Pavlov's dogs did with a buzzer?

Aaron Goldman said...

dot-com may be the default now but it only took us 15-ish years to embrace it as such. Don't see why in another 15, people wouldn't get used to all the variations and go from thinking that dot-com means website to dot anything means website.

Anonymous said...

I'm undecided on this. I am the online brand manager for a merchant bank so on one it is going to be interesting to see how corporates evolve their online branding given this extra freedom. On the other hand I see this possibly being another domain name money pit, we already spend thousands on fighting phishers and cybersquatters and opening it up like this is going to make it a whole lot worse.

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