The past two years have seen a dramatic expansion of domain-name alternatives. Before the rollout of hundreds of generic top-level domains (gTLDs) that began in 2014, new businesses looking to secure a web address typically faced the gold-standard (but often expensive or unavailable) choice of .com or a country code TLD (ccTLD) co-opted to have meaning beyond its country of origin—like .ly, .me, .io or .tv.
The new gTLDs, however, suddenly gave new businesses and individuals alike countless options to state outright—via letters to the right of the dot—a business sector (.furniture, .cpa), a personal passion (.photos, .gripe) or a geographic location (.sydney, .miami).
In fact, as of September 1, there were 741 fully functional gTLDs, with 597 more on the way. These new gTLDs can be categorized into three types:
- Generic (.mom, .pizza, .law)
- Branded (.google, .microsoft, .ipad)
- Geographic (.nyc, .france, .london)
While most gTLDs will likely fall by the wayside, a handful have garnered significant attention, The most popular, .xyz, has secured just over 800,000 registered domains and Google caused a stir (and spike in registrations) when it announced that its new Alphabet holding company would reside at abc.xyz.
Consider, however, that, as of the same date, there were over 119 million registered .coms, with roughly 8 million new registrations coming online per year (and that many .xyz domains are thought to have been registered by .xyz’s owner or given away for free).
How do we make sense of this new domain landscape? And what are the right strategies for owners of brands large and small?
gTLD Strategies for Major Companies and VC-backed Start-ups
Make no mistake: Dot-com still reigns supreme. With more than two decades of worldwide recognition and countless marketing dollars behind .com, it is the downtown of the internet and will remain so for businesses of all sizes. Regardless of which gTLDs gain traction, Nike.com won’t be changing what’s to the right of the dot anytime soon. Dot-com simply has too big a headstart and even the most popular new gTLDs will find themselves competing against each other in a divided market of domains with restricted meanings.
That said, when the dust clears, the most versatile and logical of the extensions are likely to see the light of day; the success of extensions like .ly, .tv, and .io are an indication that there is demand for variants beyond. com. So it only makes sense for large companies to register such variants, if for no other reason than to prevent a competitive or unsavory usage or to hedge against the possibility that Google will change its search algorithm to favor, for example, a .law extension in a web search for a lawyer. While this is unlikely to happen in the near future, it’s worth mentioning that Google itself applied for 101 new gTLDs, such as .youtube, .earth, and .search—a strong endorsement of the viability of new extensions.
All major companies should think about registering versatile extensions like .website, .blog and .app, in addition to relevant industry-specific domains, such as .health for healthcare companies. Here at Catchword, our strategy has been to register URLs like Branding.wiki, Naming.guide, Naming.tools and Catchword.agency. In registering these domains, we’re not betting these gTLDs will surge—just registering what makes sense for our brand…and holding.
gTLD Strategies for Smaller Businesses
While registering an exact .com is always the ideal, for a smaller business, it’s perfectly acceptable to add a descriptor to secure a domain. Catchword has done just fine with catchwordbranding.com, thank you. It’s common these days to see domains like XYZHealth.com, XYZSystems.com or even HiXYZ.com.
In addition, small businesses can consider using new gTLDs (and some of the existing ccTLDs) that make sense for their brands. Extensions with good prospects for small businesses include the premium geographic players, like .nyc and .london, as well as the most elegantly phrased, industry-specific gTLDs, such as .health (versus .healthcare) and .law (versus .lawfirm or .lawyer or .attorney).
But there’s no need to go overboard snapping up gTLDs. No matter which ones take off, the way that customers find small- to medium-sized businesses—via search engine—will remain unchanged. Whether Luigi’s Pizza in NYC is at luigispizzanyc.com, luigisnyc.pizza, or luigispizza.nyc, customers aren’t going to type in a domain name—they’re simply going to search keywords, period.