Selling SEO Experts on the Value of gTLDs
Posted by Jennifer Wolfe on 30th May 2013 in 360 Blog

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to give a keynote speech at the Media Post Search Insider Summit. I have given this speech to many C-Suite executives at Fortune 500 and 1000 companies, but never to a room full of experts in search, so I was prepared for a little bit of push back. After all, the expansion of the internet from 23 gTLDs and less than 100 ccTLDs to thousands is a bit daunting for anyone making their living off of building search equity in sites, particularly since no one knows for sure what will happen.

While many responses were that of disbelief that anything would change and arguments of failed TLD launches in the past of .biz, .info, .tv, etc., a few of the visionaries understood the potential for this to be a paradigm shift in the internet. And, whenever, those shifts occur, you can choose one of two ways to respond. You can decide to argue against it, believe it won’t happen, cite why there’s no need for it or why people won’t adopt or change.

The “we don’t like change” argument is easy to make and those who don’t like change will jump on the bandwagon immediately. Moreover, those who are threatened by that business model will shout your message from the mountain tops in fear that their livelihood is being threatened (see my Moneyball blog for more on this one). Just remember that people who drove stage coaches or sold buggy whips, were not exactly thrilled with the train and the automobile and fought hard to prevent that progress in self-preservation.

But those who have just the tiniest bit of vision can see the change and the impact and the positive outcomes. And, even if they don’t fully believe, they are willing to challenge current assumptions and push their thinking to find the opportunities. Opportunities always come from changes. Because when something changes, people feel pain. When people feel pain, they look for solutions. Sometimes, people don’t even know they feel pain; for instance, Facebook, Groupon, and Pandora. Did we know we were suffering when we couldn’t share all facets of our lives with all our friends instantaneously around the globe? No, not until Facebook showed us that was an option. Did we know we had to manage all our music in itunes and create play lists of what we like versus just creating stations and categories and then voila, music anywhere? Not until Pandora showed us that was an option. Did we know we needed a new kind of coupon based upon crowdsourcing? Did we know we needed crowd sourcing? No, we don’t always know we are in pain. But once we know what the possibilities are, the sky clears and entrepreneurs jump into to explore new options to ease our pain and suffering. We live in a largely .com world today so we don’t know what pain we are suffering by that limitation. But if TLDs segment the internet in a new way and make it easier for us to eventually find what we want, position our business or message, or transform our lives by surfing gTLDs like channels on a cable box, then we will realize we had pain in a lonely .com world.

I was watching an old episode of Seinfeld the other day and realized the phone he used was one that still had a cord. Do you remember when phones had cords – sometimes very long cords? Who knew that not only cordless phones but cell phones and wireless phones and Skype would change everything we know about phones and transform how and when we talk to people.

It’s definitely hard for SEO experts to accept that gTLDs could create new industries like zip codes built the direct mail industry or that search could really change after they put so much effort into perfecting SEO. But the ones who will be the most successful are the ones already working on optimization strategies in a world of thousands of gTLDs and not just .com and a few others. In my many discussions with SEO experts, I have learned that the equity built up in your primary web site is not something you just toss aside in favor of a new domain name in a fancy new gTLD. But it also doesn’t mean you stick your head in the sand avoiding the very idea of gTLDs. It does mean that you invest in innovative thinking about the future of digital strategy and the internet to determine if you might want to acquire and/or test pilot programs using the new gTLDs. When I talk with most of my clients, their biggest concern is that no one thinks search will change. And, my response is that’s exactly why we need to be talking about this all the time – pushing thinking and assumptions so we have the answer before competitors do. For most organizations, applicants and non-applicants alike, the key is to secure internet real estate you want, think innovatively and disruptively about how the internet may change and how that impacts your business and then build new test programs in tandem with what you already have that works. You don’t just throw away what you have, but instead, innovate an develop in the new environment and see what works. This is the essence of research and development, but in a digital world. And, of course, most importantly, monitor and study the digital leaders like Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Yahoo, and the many brands who did apply. Knowledge combined with a little bit of vision can be a powerful thing in a competitive digital business environment. Simply saying that things will never change and people won’t adopt new ideas has rarely proven to be the right approach, particularly in digital technology.