Many with financial interests in new gTLDs, such as Donuts, have painted a rosy picture of how new gTLDs create greater availability of meaningful domain name options that the global masses have been waiting for. Their message seems to be: FINALLY, there is an alternative to .com in new domain extensions like .guru, .photography, .blackfriday and .tips. But, the reality is that we have always had options other than .com to choose from when registering a domain name. The challenge isn't choice, its relevance and credibility.
While all of this bravado is par for the course in marketing new products, the real shame is that the registrants whom these new gTLDS were supposedly intended to serve may be the ones who suffer in the end when they invest their time and money into branding or rebranding their businesses with new gTLDs without all of the facts.
It's been well under a year since the first new gTLDs became available for registration; however, we are already seeing several troubling trends that are being glossed over, including:
These are but a few of the realities that you won't hear about from some of the new gTLD sellers. This is why new gTLDs do themselves a disservice by comparing themselves to .com, which has a record of growth and stability. Domainers, Internet experts and business owners alike agree.
All one has to do is take a look at the "data" being used to tout the benefits on new gTLDs to see that the argument to invest should be met with strong skepticism. For example, a recent CircleID post from the CEO of Donuts states with regard to search, "Internet addresses registered in new gTLDs are holding their own against — and in some cases outperforming — comparable addresses registered in legacy domains like .COM." However, the examples cited clearly show the comparable .com domains performing better. This is equally true for .com domains that don't contain any of the keywords of the new gTLDs referenced. That's because the most important factor for search is the quality of the content on the site, while the most important factor in domain registration is choosing a globally recognized, used and trusted TLD like .com, a point echoed by Google's John Mueller recently. Mueller, whose title is Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google, felt the need to set the record straight and wrote the following on his Google+ page on Dec. 11, 2014:
"It feels like it's time to re-share this again. There still is no inherent ranking advantage to using the new TLDs… If you see posts claiming that early data suggests they're doing well, keep in mind that's this is not due to any artificial advantage in search: you can make a fantastic website that performs well in search on any TLD."
There's no question that there is room for additional gTLDs that make sense, but that's the key — making sense. It's not about shorter, more keyword rich names — as some with vested financial interests in the new gTLDs keep saying. If that were the case, new gTLDs like .xyz would never have been delegated.
There has been a flood of options and a land rush to secure the best property in this new online real estate, but that is where it seems to have ended for so many of these new gTLDs that don't make sense. The CircleID post cited above says, "Even as new gTLDs grow exponentially in popularity, we are many years away from any scenario in which registrants have difficulty finding available, keyword-rich names in the new gTLD space." I guess the question is: Do they want to find space there?
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 provide a secure and appropriate experience. Moreover, the process (or lack thereof) to secure one of these new gTLDs is often difficult and confusing, as noted in this GeekWire article titled, "Buying a new gTLD domain name? The process .sucks."
For example, in this new world of hundreds of domain registration options, if I'm a photographer trying to decide on a domain name, I can choose .photography, .photo, .pics, .photos, .camera or .pictures. I may even consider .exposed or .digital, or perhaps I am the photography.guru. In this scenario, the average user could become overwhelmed and confused; not only in trying to choose an appropriate extension, but also in trying to figure out which registrar offers that extension. Similarly, their customers will now need to remember which similar sounding extension they need to type in to find their vendor. Or, perhaps they'll just go with whoever resolves to .com because that's what they know and trust. That's why I elected to secure about two dozen personal domains on .com, where I had no problem registering domains to suit my needs and I know that .com will be here for the long haul.
Encouraging small business owners to put their online presence in the hands of unknown, untrusted and unestablished TLDs, where an unknown number of them likely won't be around in the next year or two is simply bad business advice in my opinion. In addition to paying to rebrand themselves, they will need to have a high SEM budget to rank decently on a new gTLD, and then if that gTLD fails, they will have to pay to do it all over again on a different TLD. This is a real risk that is being totally glossed over. The real costs that should be discussed are those of building and marketing an online presence and the natural conclusion by those without a vested financial interest in seeing new gTLDs succeed is that it behooves small businesses to do that on a TLD with staying power, like .com.
Established companies like those cited in this NetworkWorld article have passed by the hundreds of new options to .com because they know that .com is a smart and secure investment. Similarly, The Domains reported recently that the week of Nov. 15 — only two weeks before Black Friday — 559 domain names ending in .com were registered containing the term "blackfriday." During that same period, there were only 16 domain name registrations in the .blackfriday new gTLD extension. If there is such enthusiasm for new gTLDs and such a lack of availability in .com, as some have suggested, this wouldn't happen.
There has been a lot of hype about new gTLDs and there's no doubt that some people will find new gTLDs that work for them. Registrants should make the choice that works best for them, but they're entitled to know all of the facts before making that decision. The better informed they are, the better decisions they will make.
The good news for those who make the decision to entrust their online business to a new gTLD and find it didn't work out as expected, is that .com will still be there for them — just like it has been for the last 30 years - when they need to make the switch like so many others already have.
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