At the end of April, ICANN will end the submission process for the creation and operation of new gTLDs.
What on earth does that mean? What impact can a bunch of letters have on a small business?
A lot, actually.
In English, the above statement means that there will soon be a lot more to choose form in terms of domain names. In even simpler terms, YourWebsite.com is no longer your only option. Even putting aside the fairly common .net and .org, you’ll soon have more domain extensions to choose from. A lot more.
This information is pretty abstract, so let’s bring it down to a concrete example. Say you run a software company that helps small businesses go completely paperless. Paperless Office, Inc. makes a point of emphasizing the importance of green business practices. Soon, you’ll be able to own not only PaperlessOffice.com, but also PaperlessOffice.green. Suddenly, your website becomes a whole lot more descriptive.
Still don’t see why this really matters to small businesses? Let’s think about some of the possible benefits of new domain extensions:
- Recognition. If your domain extension describes what your business does, you don’t have to explain it. If you run an engineering firm, your business card could potentially have only your name and your web address—SmithJones.engineer—and people will still know what you do right away. Communicating becomes a whole lot easier.
- Branding. As in the software company example above, you can easily tell people something specific about your business. A law firm who practices primarily in San Diego could register WatsonDoe.sandiego. Now everyone knows exactly where you’re located.
- SEO Value. Right now, a domain that contains keywords tends to rank significantly higher in search results for those keywords. In other words, if Bop Design’s domain was SanDiegoWebsiteDesign.com, we’d probably be #1 on Google when you search those terms. Soon there will be more options for domain extensions, which means more opportunities for keywords in your domain name. Of course, that doesn’t mean that SanDiegoWebsiteDesign.bop will shoot to the top Google result the moment it’s registered. But it will more than likely have a positive impact. Provided, of course, the website does indeed relate to website design. Don’t try to outsmart Google!
- Creativity. You may have already seen clever uses of domain name extensions. For example, Matt Mullenweg, the creator of WordPress, registered Ma.tt. The music streaming service Last FM registered—you guessed it—last.fm. With many new extensions on the way, there’s more opportunity to play with your domain name. Who knows, maybe a year or two from now you’ll read this on bop.design. Or maybe something a little more clever than that.
Does this mean you need to go out and register a dozen new domain names as soon as you possibly can? Not necessarily. As with any marketing decision, you need to think about this in terms of your brand and your ideal customer. You also need to keep user experience in mind. Older generations may never get out of the habit of typing .com. If that’s your target market, you probably don’t want to make the switch.
These new domains probably won’t become the norm (if they ever become commonplace) until late 2012 or early 2013. That gives you plenty of time to evaluate how a new domain name can factor into your small business marketing efforts.