How Will Search and Navigation Change with gTLDs?
Posted by Jennifer Wolfe on 28th March 2013 in 360 Blog

When the 1400+ new gTLDs begin to launch in the latter part of 2013, a paradigm shift begins that will ultimately dramatically impact the way internet users search and navigate the internet. While most search experts are taking a wait and see approach, it’s quite logical to evaluate the scale and magnitude of the shift about to come with gTLDs coupled with a basic understanding of search.

In terms of scale, for example, half of the world’s top brands have applied for a brand TLD and will launch their TLd in the next 12 – 18 months. Notably, large finance, insurance, retailers, media, entertainment and consumer goods will offer more secure and more robust services via their brand TLD than in their .com. As this offers consumers something of value, consumers will begin to look for brand TLDs and understand the migration from .com. At the same time, hundreds of new generics will begin to segment the internet into zip codes of .family, .moms, .pizza, .golf, .news, .anything. Most notably, Google with its nearly 100 top level domains will entice businesses to migrate their .com into one of their portfolio top level domains. They will likely sweeten the deal to accelerate this migration with analytics, ad words and other desirable digital assets and services offered by Google. Interested in moving your .com to .wow, .inc., .map, .tour, .baby, .show or about a hundred other options google has? What does Google want in running a registry? The data of course, but that’s for another blog. Likewise, Amazon, with its portfolio of 76 top level domains, will segment it’s already massive distribution portal for anything you want to buy and have delivered in two days to your home. Amazon’s distribution categories include .show, .circle, .buy, .tunes., .app, .talk,. smile, .secure, .play and many more.

With this scale occurring in consumer behavior, a shift in search algorithms will follow to weight the top level as a category indicator. In my interviews with search experts they all indicated the purpose of search is to help people find what they are looking for. While they are many tricks of the trade to come up top in search algorithms, the algorithms have not taken into account the top level, generally, in the past. But once they do, the results could be quick to change how you think about search. So for example, if you are searching for Nike running shoes, you are more likely see running.nike pop up than nike.com/running once Nike migrates to .nike. Likewise, if you are searching for tickets to a tennis tournament, you may be more likely to find it in the .tennis domain than .com or even .sports. Algorithms will be adjusted to weight the top level as a category indicator and as consumer adoption accelerates because of the value proposition offered by brands, Google and Amazon, then SEO experts will have to develop some new theories to organically show up on top.

What does this mean? If you applied, you need to design search into this new model when you architect your TLDs. If you didn’t apply, you need to start looking at which new gTLDs will fit your brand categories and strategies so that you secure the domains you need to stay on top of search.