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Could new domain names be like “resetting the internet”?

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6th Jul 2014
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Bespoke domain extensions, or Generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs) to give them their full title, are gaining momentum as a potential headache cure for businesses looking to improve their search visibility online.

Domain names such as .london or .bank have been introduced in recent months as potential differentiators for businesses looking beyond the .com domain –  the idea being that .london could, for example, help a company based in the city gain more concentrated local traction; or .bank could instantly inform customers a company is a financial institution. Etc.

And despite a debate over the SEO benefits to businesses, (Adam Bunn stated late last year he saw “no particular SEO benefits from the gTLD” and that there has “been no indication that search engines will treat generic extensions any differently to a normal extension”), new research now suggests that irrespective of Google’s influence over gTLDs, consumers appear to be mostly in favour of the concept and believe it will improve their online experience.  

As part of its Internet 2020 report, Netnames surveyed over 6,000 members of the public and 400 business leaders across Europe and the US to discover that 80% of internet users think the new domain names will make them more likely to enter a company’s web address into their internet browser rather than use a search engine, while 59% think new domain names will make it easier for them to find things online.

Businesses also see the benefits of applying TLDs to their websites, with 89% of the companies surveyed stating they believed they “will help consumers find their website”. The type of endings thought most likely to support this change were those related to relevant communities (e.g. .bank, .sport and .art), which were highlighted by 44% of businesses and consumers.

“The internet is vast and we need search engines in order to find the content we are looking for,” says Gary McIlraith, CEO at NetNames. “In some ways, that is even truer with so much new internet real estate being created by the new gTLDs. However, in cases where they have a specific website destination in mind, the descriptive nature of new gTLDs will help internet users to memorise naming structures and facilitate browser-based navigation to the specific areas of the websites they are interested in, bypassing home pages. Consumers will therefore become less reliant on using a search engine to find a website.”

“The new domain names effectively represent the resetting of the internet. Brands need to consider which of the new domain names will provide the most business value and be most relevant to their customer base in order to strengthen their internet presence and remain relevant in the changing nature of the internet. By doing this, brands will be able to secure continued success in the internet of tomorrow.”

Google’s approach towards gTLDs has so far been fairly blasé. Only last year Matt Cutts, Google’s head of Webspam, said “you shouldn't register a TLD in the mistaken belief that you'll get some sort of boost in search engine rankings”. Despite this, Google has reportedly set up a dedicated gTLD business unit to run the infrastructure of 100 new gTLDs, suggesting that it sees a long-term shift towards the "internet of tomorrow" too. 

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