The face of the internet is set to change forever this year as the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) gets ready to lift the restrictions on Global Top Level Domain Names (gTLDs). Widely described as .anything domains, they do exactly what the name suggests and will extend the internet beyond .com, .co.uk or.net. Instead we could well be logging onto .search, .music or .read – the possibilities are endless.
The extensions have been widely debated. ICANN says that their purpose is to promote innovation, economic growth and inclusion. Much of the discussion however has focused on if consumers will change their online browsing behaviour. After all, .com or .co.uk are so embedded into our psyche when searching online. They are the de facto and because of this bring with them – rightly or wrongly – an element of trust.
Plus many more people argue that the history of the internet is littered with failed experiments in domains such as .museum, but there have also been successes such as .me. The key difference this time, is that the extensions have the not insignificant weight of big brands such as Google and Amazon behind them. These are names that have revolutionised the online experience in recent years and so where they go, you can be sure consumers will follow.
Indexing Changes Afoot
All very interesting you might be thinking, but what does this have to do with publishers exactly? A good question. It might not seem it at first glance but this evolution of the internet could be very fortuitous for publishers. Google has already publicly declared its intent to change its indexing system in order to recognise the new domains and so there is the opportunity to register a domain that can create real value and disruption in the market.
The most immediate opportunities lie with geo-specific domains. For example, when people search for curtains or blinds, they rarely use such a generic term. Instead they are much more likely to search for ‘blinds in Manchester.’ Publishers can use this online behaviour to their advantage by registering relevant domains in order to increase the number of people within a specific region that are likely to buy products or services from them as a result.
But outside of geo-specific terms, there is also the opportunity to take a more vertical approach whether you’re working with a garden centre or a garage. Sure, some of the most obvious domains will have been snapped up but it shouldn’t be assumed that they all will be. Yes there are a host of big names talking about their new domain strategy, but many brands won’t be first movers as they may well wait to see how much effort is required from a SEO perspective. In many instances they could be more concerned with how they can pass on their ranking to a new domain or if they need to start from scratch.
This potential dithering opens the door of opportunity for publishers, as there will be a big tranche of domains that, with the right savvy, could prove to be very lucrative. Imagine, for example if you were able to replicate the success of vouchercodes.co.uk. The reason that site works and is so valued by advertisers is because it is the exact term that people search for. As a result consumers flock to it. If you can replicate that in domain terms, then you could potentially be laughing all the way to the bank.
ICANN talks about the new domains bringing new innovations and for many established, as well as less established, publishers the new gTLDs offer the opportunity to really build something with real value that becomes attractive to advertisers.