Over the next few years, .com, .net and the other domains business and consumers have come to rely on will be joined by thousands of new domain name extensions. What exactly do these domain extensions – known as new gTLDs (generic Top Level Domains) — mean for your business?
Your company’s domain name is central to your online presence and one of your strongest marketing assets so it’s important to know exactly how these new options could impact your online marketing, and your brand.
The new naming options are quite broad, ranging from .bike and .photography to .services and .vegas. The still-evolving environment around new gTLDs creates some uncertainty about if and how to use these new extensions.
As with any major business decision that affects your brand, your sales, or your customers, deciding how to best represent your business online often means asking thoughtful questions.
1. How will my customers respond?
When it comes to your website, make sure your customers feel that they can trust your site, aren’t confused about your Web address, and won’t wonder if they’ve reached the right business.
A recent SCORE and Verisign survey found that 81% of website owners believed new gTLDs will be confusing to their customers and Internet users. As the expansion of gTLDs brings about a massive range of new – and often similar – domain extensions, it increases the likelihood that consumers will be unsure which new gTLD extensions are correct.
For example: Will a pizza shop in New York choose JoesPizza.NYC, JoesNYC.pizza, JoesPizza.Menu, JoesPizza.Restaurant or one of the other applicable combinations? What happens if the shop’s owner registers one and someone else registers the other? How will customers know which domain is correct? For the customer, the sheer number of potential options to reach Joe’s pizza could be overwhelming, and potentially prohibitive to remembering the correct Web address for Joe’s Pizza.
It continues to be a prudent move to watch for these new gTLDs to achieve an established positive track record of consumer recognition and operational performance before considering any of them good candidates for your business’s primary domain. If you want to pursue new gTLDs now, start by finding a couple that are logical for your business and register them to complement your existing name as redirects to your current website.
2. How will search results be impacted?
In the current online environment, everything is about search. If a website does not have a high search engine ranking, it can be hard for any company – especially small and medium-sized businesses – to conduct business online.
The influx of new gTLDs in the market leaves online businesses and consumers uncertain of how search engines will handle these new domains. There’s no evidence to suggest that new gTLDs will improve search rankings, and serious concerns remain about the potential negative consequences of rebranding.
Your SEO strategy is an investment, possibly involving several years spent creating content, generating backlinks and optimizing your website. Consider the impact and potential pitfalls of rebuilding your website on a new domain name, with the understanding that the SEO equity you’ve built may not necessarily transfer automatically or easily. If you decide that new gTLDs are a fit, consider keeping your website on at its current web address, and redirect your new domains to your website to protect your original website’s history and its SEO value.
3. Are new gTLDs worth the potential costs?
Price-wise, not all TLDs are created equal. At this stage, the costs of many new gTLDs appear to be inflated – and depending on the specific domain, could cost significantly more than established TLDs such as .com and .net. For most businesses, combining the cost with uncertainty around the overall viability of new gTLDs, could make it challenging to justify the investment.
4. Are new gTLDs stable and reliable?
The new gTLD expansion will introduce new domains and new domain name operators that are unproven in terms of their reliability, and which may be more likely to experience downtime or outages due to cyber-attacks, technical issues or other factors.
Businesses need to know the track record of the companies behind their TLD and have confidence that they are conducting their daily business operations on a secure and stable infrastructure at all times. No matter what domain you choose, make sure it’s backed by a reputable operator that values its customers and has invested in its infrastructure for future success. For instance Verisign, who has been operating .com and .net with 100% reliability for more than15 years, will provide the back-end operational services for some of the new gTLDs. Only those new gTLDs operated by Verisign will display “powered by Verisign”.
New gTLDs may present an opportunity for businesses and individuals, but just like with any new technology, there will be growing pains. Until evidence proves otherwise, established TLDs, like those powered by Verisign, are still the most trusted, reliable and effective investment for a primary online presence, based on all of the most critical criteria: the ability to find and serve customers, security, cost and ROI.
For tips on how to choose a great domain name, click here.