New gTLD Age and Startup Branding Opportunities

With the increased demand for vanity domain names, the TLD world transforms at a rapid pace. We saw this last year when more than 500 new gTLDs were introduced and when ICANN announced that 1300 new strings will probably be added over the next few years.

The growing number of gTLDs is only justified in the era of mass digital content production, when almost everyone – from individual bloggers to large enterprises – tries to build a name for themselves online. This is especially true for startups, which often have to balance between tight budgets and great domain names in order to create an opportunity for their company at the very start.  


Users’ perceptions

Despite the fact that the number of gTLDs is growing, they seem to pass unnoticed among a large portion of average internet users, who seem to be unaware of the great change that is happening in the field. As revealed in a last year’s research by Domain Name Association (DNA), 55% of active web users actually have no idea that new gTLDs were introduced.

This means that they are quite indifferent to the actual URL of websites they are visiting, as long as it is meaningful to them. In relation to this, an interesting experiment by DNA shows that certain extensions could be almost as successful as .com, which creates a whole new world of opportunities for startups in different niches.  

Quite expectedly, the extensions that provide additional information about a specific business seem to inspire trust in users. Therefore, new gTLDs can definitely help startup companies when choosing a name, especially considering the fact that domain name availability is an increasingly important factor in this decision.


New SEO rules?

One of the greatest concerns related to the introduction of new TLDs is their potential impact on the SEO strategies. Given that most internet users are still unaware of new extensions, it makes sense to question their future interactions with search results that will start displaying different domains.  

A partial answer to this was offered by Matt Cutts few years ago, when he admitted that Google themselves will need some time to figure out which domain names are valid and which are not. In a video related to the issue, he notes:

“There will be a transition period where we have to learn or find out different ways of what the valid TLDs are and if there is any way we can find out what the domains on that top-level domain are.”

As usual, they are focused on providing end users with excellent experience, which is why they never actually treated specific country codes as extensions pointing to a local content, but rather as global domains that might be a part of a business’s branding strategy. This is the case with the highly brandable domain .me, which was initially an indicator of Montenegro content, but that  later became a way for bloggers and entrepreneurs to make their domain names catchier. Therefore, the only thing that matters for startups is to choose a domain name that represents a business and that doesn’t confuse searchers.

Personalized experiences

Finally, it could be said that the greatest benefit of new gTLDs is the fact that they help companies choose names that better represent their business and that are more meaningful to their target users. Thus, the extensions such as the abovementioned .me even contribute to creating a personalized experience for specific target groups. Even though web users are not very likely to judge a website based on its domain name only, choosing a great one can certainly help in creating a more impactful brand both online and offline.

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