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New gTLDs and Your Small Business

Registering new domain extensions

Over the next few years, .com, .net and the other domains business and consumers have come to rely on will be joined by thousands of new domain name extensions. What exactly do these domain extensions – known as new gTLDs (generic Top Level Domains) — mean for your business?

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Your company’s domain name is central to your online presence and one of your strongest marketing assets so it’s important to know exactly how these new options could impact your online marketing, and your brand.

The new naming options are quite broad, ranging from .bike and .photography to .services and .vegas. The still-evolving environment around new gTLDs creates some uncertainty about if and how to use these new extensions.

In order to determine what the right approach is for your business, you’ll first need to understand what questions to ask.

1. How will my customers respond?

When it comes to your website, make sure your customers feel that they can trust your site, aren’t confused about your Web address, and won’t wonder if they’ve reached the right business.

A 2013 industry survey found a majority of respondents believe that new gTLDs will make the Internet more confusing to navigate. The SCORE and Verisign survey had similar findings with 81% of website owners indicating that new gTLDs will be confusing to their customers and Internet users. As the expansion of gTLDs brings about a massive range of new – and often similar – domain extensions, it increases the likelihood that consumers will be unsure which new gTLD extensions are correct.

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The fact that new gTLDs have not yet had the opportunity to prove they are trustworthy in the minds of consumers, combined with the sheer numbers of new gTLDs being available all at once, could make it challenging for customers to recognize and remember yours.

It continues to be a prudent move to watch for these new gTLDs to achieve an established positive track record of consumer recognition and operational performance before considering any of them good candidates for your business’s primary domain. If you want to pursue new gTLDs now, start by finding a couple that are logical for your business and register them to complement your existing name as redirects to your current website.

2. How will search results be impacted?

The influx of new gTLDs in the market leaves online businesses and consumers uncertain of how search engines will handle these new domains and how Internet search may evolve. There’s no evidence to suggest that new gTLDs will improve search rankings, and serious concerns remain about the potential negative consequences of rebranding.

Your SEO strategy is an investment, possibly involving several years spent creating content, generating backlinks and optimizing your website. Consider the impact and potential pitfalls of rebuilding your website on a new domain name, with the understanding that the SEO equity you’ve built may not necessarily transfer automatically or easily. If you decide that new gTLDs are a fit for your domain strategy, consider keeping your website on at its current web address, and redirect your new domains to your website to protect your original website’s history and its SEO value.

3. Are new gTLDs worth the potential costs?

At this stage, the costs of many new gTLDs appear to be inflated – and depending on the specific domain, could cost significantly more than established TLDs such as .com and .net. For most businesses, combining the cost with uncertainty around the overall viability of new gTLDs, could make it challenging to justify the investment

4. Are new gTLDs stable and reliable?

Businesses need to know the track record of the companies behind their TLD and have confidence that they are conducting their daily business operations on a secure and stable infrastructure at all times. No matter what domain you choose, make sure it’s backed by a reputable operator that values its customers and has invested in its infrastructure for future success. For instance Verisign, who has been operating .com and .net with 100% reliability for more than 15 years, will provide the back-end operational services for some of the new gTLDs. Only those new gTLDs operated by Verisign will display “powered by Verisign”.

New gTLDs may present an opportunity for businesses and individuals, but just like with any new technology, there will be growing pains. Until evidence proves otherwise, established TLDs, like those powered by Verisign, are still the most trusted, reliable and effective investment for a primary online presence, based on all of the most critical criteria: the ability to find and serve customers, security, cost and ROI.

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What are new gTLDs?

A TLD or "top-level domain" is any extension seen at the end of a Web address, to the right of the dot. A gTLD or "generic top-level domain" is a TLD category traditionally composed of extensions such as .com, .net, .info and .name.

The new options for domain extensions are quite broad, ranging from geographic-based extensions such as .berlin to whimsical extensions such as .cool. There are also domain name extensions available in non-Latin scripts such as Arabic and Japanese.

"Distributed" new gTLDs may be most applicable to business owners since these are the domain extensions that may be open to the public to register domain names in. "Non–distributed" new gTLDs – meaning the companies operating these will use the TLD themselves and not open it up for public domain name registration – are typically brand-oriented domains referred to as .brands, such as .Volvo or .Macys.

It is estimated there may be more than 1,300 new gTLDs, and the program may expand further in the next few years. The first 150 were rolled out by the middle of the first quarter of 2014 and continue to be rolled out on a near-weekly basis.