New top level domains (TLDs) are to be made available to general applicants beginning tomorrow (January 24, 2014). Prior to this, the new TLDs have only been available to Trademark holders. For instance, Google has already purchased .google and .youtube (in place of .com). If you want to purchase a new top level domain, you can still attempt to preregister the domain name at Name.com. If you had something in mind, and it’s a TLD that isn’t currently available, there’s also the option to create a watchlist.
What is a top level domain?
A top level domain is one of the domains at the highest level in the hierarchical Domain Name System of the Internet.
Currently, the more familiar top-level domains (TLDs) include .com, .org, and .info. However, new addresses are starting to become available, these include extensions such as .london, .bike, .books and .how. Therefore, you could theoretically replace your existing .com, .co.uk or .net domain extensions with an address that more accurately describes your business.
Many companies are battling for control of generic terms, such as .hotel, .pizza and .football. In most cases there are multiple companies vying for the same domain. If these companies can’t settle on who gets what, ICANN (The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) will ultimately have to decide through a set of string contention procedures.
Why should I care?
Not surprisingly, the main applicants for the new top-level domains are the larger technology companies. Google, for instance, have applied for more than 101 top-level domains including .android, .youtube and .search. Amazon have applied for 76 domains, including .amazon, .kindle and .video. Whereas Apple has only applied for one top-level domain – .apple.
Although the plan to release these TLDs has been on the table for many years, awareness of what’s actually available is still low. Many businesses may are only just learning of the new releases in time to find that the domains they really want have already gone. Therefore, you’ll need to make sure you’re not caught out by this fundamental shift in the way websites are labelled by assessing whether your business would benefit from any of the generic TLDs currently available for pre-order at name.com.
Will a new TLD be beneficial for SEO?
It is highly unlikely that these new top level domains have an edge over traditional top level domains, such as .com or .net. However, the location specific TLD’s could add another location signal which serach engines may consider important at some point in the near future. However, back when these releases first started being discussed in 2012, Google’s Matt Cutts mentioned:
“Google will attempt to rank new TLDs appropriately, but I don’t expect a new TLD to get any kind of initial preference over .com, and I wouldn’t bet on that happening in the long-term either. If you want to register an entirely new TLD for other reasons, that’s your choice, but you shouldn’t register a TLD in the mistaken belief that you’ll get some sort of boost in search engine rankings.”
With this in mind, having a new TLD related to your industry will not result in your business ranking above other sites with traditional TLD’s in the search engines. For example, if you manage to purchase a .money domain, in no way does it mean you’ll rank top for money-related search terms.
This theory can already be proved with the existing .travel domains in the travel industry. If you conduct a search for “travel” or any popular travel-related term on Google, scan the results and count the number of times you see sites indexed with .travel in their domain name, which as you’ll see, is a very limited number of sites.
Search engines like Google and Bing give no particular credit or preference to certain generic top level domain names. However, Search engines do use country-specific domain names, when these can be trusted, as a signal for making content tailored to a particular country. Many UK web sites use the .uk domain. It’s a trust worthy signal. With this in mind, I’d expect that at some point in the future, local businesses may be able to benefit from using .london, .bristol or another location relevant TLD, as they may be given more weighting for certain local search queries.
From an SEO perspective, I’d encourage you not to worry too much over these new releases. Having a new domain name won’t rocket you to success; whilst not having one doesn’t doom to you never being found. Google and other search engines will still see the quantity and quality of inbound links to your site, your presence across various social media platforms, and the quality of the content on your site as their primary ranking factors that determine how and where you’ll appear in their search results pages.