New TLDs—A Buyer’s Guide to .design, .guru, .diamonds etc.
In the beginning, there was .com, .edu, .gov, .mil, .org, and .net. And the Internet was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the nerds.
These were generic top level domains, or gTLDs, and even though they had intended purposes, just about anyone could use them as they pleased (except .edu or .gov). Life was good.
Shortly thereafter, the first country code top level domains, or ccTLDs, were added. These were designed for websites based out of certain countries, like .ca for Canada and .de for Germany. The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) blessed them, saying, be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let ccTLDs multiply on the earth. And so it was.
Nothing shook up the digital Garden of Eden quite like the introduction of new gTLDs in 2014.
There were quite a few developments along the way (.mobi and .xxx, to name a couple), but nothing shook up the digital Garden of Eden quite like the introduction of new gTLDs in 2014, following a multi-year process of applications, debate, public comment, and review initiated by the Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).
This was significant for many reasons, but primarily because it allowed corporations to bid on owning their own TLDs (e.g. Land Rover now owns .landrover), and the general public was suddenly able to register a multitude of new TLDs for their own web ventures.
Webmasters could choose from a wealth of domain names that had previously been unavailable. If the .com, .org, or .net TLDs weren’t available, maybe .xyz, .top, .club, or .click would do the trick. This presented many, many domain configurations that had essentially been closed (because no one wants the buy a .biz).
Now, over a year since their rollout, we’re able to consider how regular Internet users treat these shiny new TLDs. Are there advantages, or are webmasters better off with the tried and true classics?
Let’s clear up a few questions.
Do the new TLDs offer any unique SEO benefit?
All else being equal, there is no evidence that search engines rank any one TLD higher than another. There used to be a degree of reverence from SEO towards domains with .edu and .gov TLDs, but that was mainly because those were high authority sites anyway. Their value had nothing to do with their TLD.
Google clarified this behavior in 2012.
The only way a TLD could provide SEO benefit is if the domain name, on its own accord, is so noteworthy that it generates its own press coverage (and, most importantly, links to the domain). For instance, consider the very important news coverage of the taylorswift.porn registration.
What do users think of these new TLDs?
So far, not much, but that appears to be changing.
One 2009 study conducted by The Future Group, a future-based consulting group, polled 1,000 British consumers and found that 60% of users believed the new TLDs will change the Internet for the worse, while many believed they will be pointless (65%), confusing (57%), and difficult to navigate (46%).
62% of Americans would be unlikely to trust an insurance quote from a domain ending with .insurance.
A more recent and comprehensive study by ICANN and Nielsen gauged how consumers felt towards the more popular of the new TLDs: .email, .photography, .link, .guru, .realtor, .club, and .xyz.
In total, 46% reported being familiar with at least one of the new TLDs, compared to an average of 79% for .com, .net, and .org (this study presumably includes some folks that are not very Internet savvy).
While 90% of respondents trusted the top three legacy TLDs, this number fell to 49% when targeted towards the new TLDs, although the survey organizers reported that this number is trending upwards.
Finally, Eli Schwartz of Survey Monkey found that 62% of Americans would be unlikely to trust an insurance quote from a domain ending with .insurance. So, if trust is a key part of a domain’s business strategy (e.g. money or health-related domains), it’s important to conduct due diligence around consumer perception of the desired TLD. Failing to do so could cost the webmaster over 50% of their potential traffic before the user even visits the page.
So…avoid these new TLDs?
Like most things in the business world, it depends. More specifically, it depends on the use case of the domain, and the target audience.
A business that is built upon trust and the perception of stability, such as a bank, accountant, management consulting group, or medical professional, probably shouldn’t be presenting themselves under .xyz.
Further, a business that deals primarily with less-tech-savvy users should focus its efforts on obtaining an easy to remember domain on a legacy TLD. Chances are high that these users will try to append .com to the URL anyway.
But if a business is serving a younger market in a niche that can get a little funky (yup, I’m talking to you, Mr. Ad Man), in the long run a new TLD will probably be just fine. Nearly 18 million domains were registered in the last year and, eventually, those new TLDs will start to look more appealing for businesses looking to differentiate. Accordingly, Internet users will grow more familiar (and trusting) of these TLDs and everything will return to the peace and harmony of those simple days in 1984.
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