.anything: The Advantages of Registering a New gTLD
by Sam McCue - March 30, 2016
A gTLD, or generic top level domain, is the suffix at the end of a web site — .com, .net, .org, etc. Nowadays, you can ditch the old standbys and register your site under anything from your.bank to this.film, depending on the category your business operates under and what is currently available.
Here are some things to consider when choosing your dream domain to help make sure you have the right fit — from both an SEO and UX standpoint.
In this day and age, the competitive demand for a quality .com name can be one of the most strategic parts of starting an online business. The more popular your industry, the more likely your ideal .com has been taken, forcing you to settle for a .us, .biz, .info, or any of the other less-desirable choices. These new gTLDs are emerging as a new opportunity to grab great domain names for your sites.
New gTLDs are giving businesses the opportunity to exist within defined internet categories, and as time goes on, this method of organization will increase the usability of the internet. The relevance of route93.pizza vs. route93pizza.com will not only provide users with context for the pizza place they are looking for, but also a clean and understandable URL.
Another desirable aspect of gTLDs is their availability. You might not have the option of every .com you want, but new gTLDs are a huge opportunity waiting to be explored. Because of the impressive amount of categories, the number of combinations for your.business has greatly increased. In fact, the amount of available gTLDs hit the 1,000 mark in 2015 and more have been released every month since.
SEO? Yes and no.
There is an argument that new gTLDs are organizing the internet. But how will search engines decipher this system of categorization by domain? Last summer Google’s webmaster trends analyst, John Muller, made the statement that one top level domain will not actually be favored over the another. The only TLDs that will receive special treatment are those geographically oriented, such as .asia or .germany, for searches in the areas they pertain to (1).
In 2012 Google’s Matt Cutts, head of web spam, posted on his Google+ account that “Google has a lot of experience in returning relevant web pages, regardless of the top-level domain (TLD). Google will attempt to rank new TLDs appropriately, but I don't expect a new TLD to get any kind of initial preference over .com, and I wouldn't bet on that happening in the long-term either. If you want to register an entirely new TLD for other reasons, that's your choice, but you shouldn't register a TLD in the mistaken belief that you'll get some sort of boost in search engine rankings (2).”
There is a distinction, however, between favoritism and relevance — relevance being the search engine’s overall goal. Regardless of preferential treatment, the benefit of having keywords in the structure of your URL will undoubtedly return more relevant searches, making it easier for you to position your brand as aptly as possible. Some gTLDs are restricted by their industry. For example, .film is only available to members of the MPAA, and to register a .bank you have to provide detailed information proving you operate a bank. Some, like .pizza and .restaurant, have no restrictions, but there would be little to no benefit for an auto repair shop to operate within a .pizza domain.
The adoption curve
So why hasn’t the whole world hopped on the bandwagon yet? In some parts, they have. China seems to have surpassed the early adoption stage and embraced the mindset that gTLDs will make the internet an easier place to navigate. 86% of people polled in China, when asked if gTLDs are a good idea, responded that they are (3). The U.S. is moving a bit slower on the adoption curve, mostly because of our dependance on more traditional domains. The average user needs to be weaned off of the assumption that every website is required to end in .com for the movement to take hold.
There are so many benefits to gTLDs that once they enter the mainstream there will be a mad grab for the best new URLs. iCANN (The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) knows the value of these domains, and is releasing new ones on a yearly basis. It is safe to say we have entered an age where .anything is possible.