In this interview, I speak to Jennifer Wolfe, Managing Director of WolfeDomain.com, one of the leading digital brand advisory firms for new gTLDs.
Wolfe has previously provided management consultancy and intellectual property strategy to leading Fortune 500 companies.
Wolfe has also written two books, Domain Names Rewired (which predicts trends in the next generation of the internet and new gTLDs) as well as Brands Rewired, which reached #35 in top selling product management book.
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Interview about New gTLDs Success:
1. How quickly do you anticipate new gTLDs will gain traction with consumers? What will be the key factors for overcoming the initial confusion over new gTLDs and which markets do you think will adapt the fastest?
It will take several years for the new gTLDs to gain traction with consumers once they actually launch. I think the financial industry and media industry have the most power in influencing consumer behavior because they have very clear consumer benefits. The financial institutions can promise consumers more security and authenticity when operating on a .jpmorgan or .amex top level domain versus jpmorgan.com because the .jpmorgan is a closed ecosystem to that company. And, the media companies can provide broader online offerings in an expanded gTLD environment. Media companies also have a built in traditional distribution model to promote the new gTLDs. I think watching Google, Amazon and Microsoft will also be important. These big digital leaders will be drivers of consumer behavior. I anticipate we will see the big search engines jump in to provide consumers help in finding what they want. But, I also anticipate entrepreneurs jumping in to help solve that problem as well. This is a disruptively innovative change in the internet, which creates opportunities for entrepreneurs to build new companies to respond and help consumers navigate a scaled expansion of the internet.
2. How do you envisage industry specific TLDs competing with new local city TLDs and existing ccTLDs? For example, how would a business in the future choose between Marketing.NYC/NYC.Marketing, JenniferPhotography.com.au/Jennifer.Photography or Wimbledon.Tennis/Wimbledon.co.uk?
That’s a great question. I think the owners of these TLDs will need to build a really strong marketing platform to help industries understand the value of migrating from their existing ccTLDs. If consumer behavior shifts to prefer the more category based (.marketing or .tennis) versus geographic based (.co.uk) approach to navigation, then it may make it easy for companies to migrate over to the categories, but it really will depend on how well those TLDs are marketed to consumers initially.
3. Which do you think will be a more Successful Strategy for Brands? Incorporating their Brand Name to the Right of the Dot (e.g. Sky.News, Washington.Post) or keeping their full brand name to the left of the dot? (e.g. WashingtonPost.News, ESPN.Sports)
For big brands, they are going to want to have their brand to the right of the dot as an indicator of market leadership. Owning a TLD will become a power symbol for brands in the future, not to mention the increased capabilities the gTLD provides over a traditional sub-domain.
4. In the past, search engines such as Google have said they give the same weighting to all gTLDs, regardless of whether it’s a .info, .biz or .com. Do you think they will give increased weighting to .Brand gTLDs given that Google will be able to instantly verify the authority, relevance and publisher of the site? For example, in SEO terms, the authority and page rank of websites could flow between themselves based on the same .brand extension.
There is a lot of debate about the impact on search and rightfully so. I’ve spoken at search conferences and regularly seek out these debates because that’s where the best ideas about search are generated. The search algorithms are always changing and evolving so they will change as a result of 1400 new top level domains entering the internet. While I don’t anticipate the top level will be weighted higher, per se, I do think because it becomes a category indicator of what the site’s about, then the search algorithms will take that into account along with the many other factors that influence organic search. If the top level domain does serve as a zip code or category, then it seems logical it would have an impact on search results. The big issue for the brand applicants is how migrating from their current sub-domain to their new brand gTLD will impact their search equity.
5. In 10-20 years time, do you still see a use for universal extensions such as .net, .com and .org that isn’t category specific, or is segregation the future of the internet?
Yes, in 10-20 years, I think the universal extensions such as .net and .com will become diluted and less valuable. Ultimately, we will wonder why every company was in a .co.cc or a .com? If the category based gTLDs and brand gTLDs make it easier for consumers to find and use those platforms, then who would still want to have a .com? If I am in the tennis industry, I would want to be in .tennis, rather than .com.
Adam Grunwerg is the founder of Searchable.co.uk and has numerous years of experience in SEO, inbound marketing developing brands online. He has also previously written for the Guardian, SearchEngineJournal and AffiliateFYI.com