ICANN, the Internet governing organization, has opened the way for registries to begin creating new generic top level domains (gTLDs). The move has consequences for all Internet users but especially so for digital brand managers. Can domain owners and Internet marketers leverage the new domains for better results in terms of search ranking and visibility or does it simply create a greater administrative cost burden?
There will be two main types of domains under the new rules. Corporations will be permitted to develop their own branded domains which will be restricted for internal use. For example, you will not be able to purchase .apple, .disney or .sony domains anytime soon. There are strict rules about ownership. Brand owners have the rights to their own domains based on existing intellectual property rights. However anyone has the right to develop generic domains such as .sport, .food or .radio. These domains will be of greater interest to marketers and product developers. Major cities such as New York and Berlin are also looking at setting up their own domains. Think about the traffic you could generate with bagels.nyc or art.berlin for example?
Critics of the new top level domains have claimed that it will lead to a flood of low value domains with associated poor governance. This seems unlikely, since the barriers to entry are set quite high by ICANN. There is a $185,000 upfront application fee plus a $25,000 annual fee. So applicants need to be well resourced and be able to demonstrate sound technical and regulatory knowledge to pass the intial hurdles and progress further. Usually aspiring domain owners engage a specialist such as Cloud Registry to undertake the development process.
The creation of new domain real estate is a mixed blessing for marketers. The downside is that brand managers will be required to track and acquire additional domains as they emerge. A positive outcome is that users who missed out on their preferred .com domain in the past will now have a chance to secure a domain that they love. Sunrise periods on some new domains are expected to commence in 2012 and registrars are gearing up to receive bids. However, during the sunrise period, only registered trademark owners can apply. Registrations are opened to the general public after the initial round.
Owning a cool new domain that mirrors your brand values is important; but acquiring a relevant keyword based domain name is only a small part of a good search engine optimization (SEO) strategy. Search engines are getting better at prioritising based on content quality, so your ultimate focus should be ensuring your site content delivers credible and trustworthy content that generates real value for users.