John Andrews is a Competitive Webmaster and Search Engine Optimization Consultant in Seattle, Washington. This is John Andrews blog on issues of interest to the SEO community and competitive webmasters. Want to know more?

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New Domain Extensions (gTLDs) Could Change Everything

A slew of now top level domains are coming, thanks to a bold move by ICANN originally intended to spur innovation on the web. “What would you do if you could register any top level domain“, they asked the world’s entrepreneurs. Free of constraints of name availability on the standard dot com and other top level domains, how could you advance the Internet?

Despite such noble intentions, the new gTLD program turned into basically just another commercial push for more domain registrations, driven by businesses hoping to sell virtual products (registrations) to speculators and trademark defenders.

Usually speed of innovation is a key factor for progress on technical platforms like the Internet. Act fast and innovate, to build market share before competitors can muster the courage to follow along on what is likely a risky ride. Conversely, a sluggish pace  of implementation, combined with what seems to be controlling efforts stopped this dog from racing in my opinion.

Nobody can “innovate” if they have to invest cash up front in advance, broadcast their intentions, and wait YEARS while others develop copycat, competing, or parasitic business plans.

Rather than an exercise promising rewards for innovation, the new gTLD program is just more “big business” promising rewards for old-school registrars and those who follow on those established practices. Unless.

Unless Google decides to play along.

Should you pay to reserve YourTown.pizza when it becomes available? Not unless you think it will be useful. And with basically everyone using Google to find local pizza, won’t that success depend on how your web site does in Google? We’ve already seen Google manhandle Yelp in the search results… so no doubt Google’s the real player in pizza (when it wants to be).

The web marketing game remains one of “remarkable website functioning as part of a remarkable business” while “exploiting loopholes” and “avoiding penalties and filters”, whether those are artificially imposed or market natural. If you do something Google doesn’t approve of, you lose. If you piss off your customers, you lose. But most of all, far out of proportion to all other factors involved, if Google decides to give your business a boost (for any reason), you win.

That’s right.. if Google decides (unilaterally, without any obligation to notify anyone, nor any obligation to maintain anything for any reason) to boost .pizza to the top of the local rankings for “pizza in your town” searches, your .pizza website will make you a fortune. And there will be only one YourTown.pizza available for registration. Will Google do that?

Or will Google ban townname.pizza domains, again unilaterally without consequence, for any reason? It would not be unusual, since townname.pizza competes with Google as a directory of local pizza, and doesn’t otherwise reflect any unique character of the pizza business publishing on it. What will Google do?

I attended a conference the other day where the SEOs on the SEO panel noted how select SEOs were “really good friends” with Matt Cutts of Google’s “search quality team”. Wow. Which SEO would you hire… the one over there or this other one that’s “great friends” with Google? No one call them them out on it… and the web marketing game continues.

A big marketing firm recently published on it’s website that it had inside connections at Google. It claimed to be such an important customer of Google, that Google reps “often called” them with advice on how to deal with algorithm changes. Wow. What a great firm to hire, right? Of course they scrambled to take that down when it was highlighted (partly because it’s not true; mostly because of risk of fallout from being outed as manipulating the market by Google name dropping).

The truth is that Google can make or break any web strategy. Will it boost any of these new gTLDs into success? What about .pizza or .movie?

Hard to imagine it won’t take efforts to secretly “manage” some gTLDs. Google has been caught “managing” other TLDs in the past (.info for sure, probably .biz). Google has also damaged many business by ignoring some extensions while favoring others. Despite having promised to reward proper use of local gTLDs by local businesses, Google’s refusal to acknowledge .US hurt any that published on .US hoping to compete in their markets while following the “rules”. I have never seen any evidence of .US domains achieving any of the status Google granted to .com. .org, and .net, for example.

So which of the new gTLDs will be winners, and why? We’re back to speculating on domain names, just-like-before. And the big winners are the domain name registrars and re-sellers. The big losers are you.. the consumer of web domains, now forced to speculate or defend your trademarks by spending more money on domain registrations that will likely never be utilized on the web.

And then of course there’s the complication that Google also submitted applications for a set of the new gTLDs. I won’t go there.

One thing is certain: the new gTLDs could change everything, but only if Google wants things to change. What can we do?

My recommendation is to cozy up to Matt Cutts because clearly, being friends with Matt makes you a rare breed of SEO consultant. There is no doubt that the SEO on that conference panel — the one that was good friends with Matt Cutts — had a huge advantage over every other seo in the room (at least when it came to closing new business).

Similarly if you can find out what other Google employees are compromised,¬† get into that game as well (like that Marketing Agency claims it has done with its Google reps). That’s where the winning opportunity lies — insider knowledge of how the algorithms work is gold for SEO.

Inside knowledge of which gTLDs Google will boost is the key to winning with new gTLDs for sure.

Want to Comment? Don’t comment here.. post your comment to social media (twitter, Facebook, your own blog) to be heard. Link back to this if you want.. I’ll leave it up for a while. This is an important issue so please do speak your opinion somewhere.

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