5 Tips for Leveraging Non-Traditional TLDs, Known as gTLDs, in 2016
In the late ’80s and early ’90s, early adopters rushed to buy domains such as flowers.com and Food.com while their friends and competitors laughed. Thirty years later, the .com domain space is diluted, but there’s never been more opportunity to find an even better domain name to suit your business.
Historically, we were limited to generic top-level domains (gTLDs), such as .com, .net, and .org. It’s what the world at large has been comfortable with. But as Internet usage continues to grow at a rapid pace, it makes sense to allow for further differentiation. My team, in fact, was lucky that we locked down Rebel.com when we did. But if we hadn’t, we could now explore customized gTLDs such as rebel.domains, rebel.company, or rebel.deals (all of which we have).
Understandably, marketers and business owners alike have been hesitant to consider domain names outside of .com. It’s what customers know, and it’s what they believe to be the most legitimate form of online identification. But is that true?
A study commissioned by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers in 2015 showed that 46 percent of consumers were already aware of at least one new gTLD. In fact, from 2012 to 2015, the focus was just on launching these new domains.
Now that they’re available, 2016 will be the year of the non-traditional gTLD, and the trajectory is headed toward wider awareness of new domains and their use in business.
The Legitimacy of gTLDs
In July 2015, Google announced that the new domains wouldn’t be penalized or rewarded in search, leaving customers as the only remaining legitimacy concern. But just as customers slowly adopted the loss of http://www., they will likely adopt the understanding that a .nyc or a .geo is no less credible than .com.
Another survey from ICANN demonstrated that traditional gTLDs, such as .com, .net, and .org, are still leading the way with 88 percent awareness worldwide. But newer kids on the block, such as .biz and .info, are pulling in 31-41 percent awareness. The trend points to a growing interest — especially outside the U.S. — in the nontraditional gTLD, and many (including myself) predict that this interest will continue to grow.
Additionally, utilizing descriptive and memorable domains will only further clarify business legitimacy. I’ve seen restaurants adopt .menu for their meal offerings, and I hopefully await the growth of .accountant or .actor to provide further credibility to professionals.
As 2016 progresses and consumers gain more knowledge of gTLDs, businesses all over the world need to evaluate their own domains now to decide how they’re going to remain compelling in the coming years.
Leveraging Emerging gTLDs
Knowing whether and when your site should transition, acquire, or ignore the ever-growing list of gTLDs is tricky. If you’re approaching the advent of a new site, are an e-commerce veteran, or want to stay at the forefront of building your brand’s digital footprint, the following tips are for you:
#1. Jump on the opportunity.
Get a short, clear, unforgettable name to grow your digital footprint as soon as you can. While using a lesser-known gTLD definitely won’t harm your search rankings, it’s important to think about your long-term digital strategy. You can use these new domains to help people learn what you do, improving the long-term success of your site. New gTLDs also give you the opportunity to create sites and subsites with even more memorable pull. Options include telling your user what to do (checkoutmy.website) or promoting upcoming discounts (T-shirt.sale). You’ll make a lasting impression along the way.
#2. Leverage new SEO ranking opportunities.
With so many new domain extensions available, businesses shouldn’t be afraid to take on more domains to leverage their SEO. Don’t just use nycpetalson5thave.com; take the jump and get a second domain extension like 5thaveflowers.nyc. Having both will get your business the attention it deserves for the price of a couple of beers. The more entry points you give your customers, the easier they can find you. You can use relevant, keyword-rich, memorable gTLDs to extend your reach and the number of entry points.
#3. Convey what you do.
Take advantage of a new way for customers to find you. New domains can convey what you do — not just what you’re called. A big bonus of using new gTLDs is the ability to quickly tell consumers what you’re about. In lieu of JackSmith.com, a clever marketing consultant could use jacksmith.marketing to quickly let users know what he has to offer. Because traditional gTLDs are more widely understood, keep in mind the awareness level of your users. If you are pursuing a more senior demographic, know that not all of them will understand the significance of johnnysmith.clothing.
#4. Incorporate your creative voice.
One of my favorite aspects of emerging gTLDs is the opportunity to get creative. Using .sucks can lead to funny and memorable domain names. A software solution company could use slowsoftware.sucks or waiting.sucks to remind customers why they return to use their services. Creative marketers in Nevada captured whathappensin.vegas, opening up a world of opportunity for local businesses. Consider choosing a domain that artistically uses your location in a way that is inventive, clear, and unforgettable.
#5. Get it while it’s hot.
I won’t advocate for purchasing every domain that’s semi-relevant to your brand, but it’s important to get in while the possibilities are still endless. It made sense for Jakprints — an apparel printing company — to capture jak.ink, so think through the possible sites you may need for the future.
Moz compiled a great guide on acquiring gTLDs, which is a fantastic resource for marketers looking to stay ahead of the curve without compromising SEO or business credibility. Domain name spaces fill up. For example, Buffer had to choose bufferapp.com, and Square opted for squareup.com. While they are still relevant enough to work, options become more and more limited, leading to domain names of lesser relevance. With new gTLDs, many will become more valuable and more expensive to pick up down the road. The time to jump on new domains is now.
Your business’s understanding of new gTLDs will determine where you’re headed beyond 2016, so knowing how domain names will continue to grow is crucial to stay competitive in the fast-paced world of online marketing. Keep your customers in mind, weigh your options, and get ready for the new world of non-traditional gTLDs.
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