Google. Amazon. Walmart. HBO. TJ Maxx. Discover. Half of the world’s top brands have applied for their own gTLDs (generic top-level domains) and are poised to start using their new digital platforms by the end of this year. The big question is whether gTLDs will change the entire customer experience – just as company websites, social platforms and apps have before them.
First, the basics. gTLDs are the new breed of domain name extensions that mean something to the left and the right of the dot. We’re all used to searching via the standard top-level domains: .com, .net, .org, .edu, as well as others like .biz, .info, or .uk for individual countries. Now brands can register (and have) much more specfic, descriptive and intuitive names like .guru, .tattoo, .green, .hiphop or .kyoto. Nearly 1,000 extensions (gTLDs) are coming in the next two years – for better or for worse.
Here are some reasons to keep gTLDs on your marketing radar:
The obvious benefit of a gTLD is that you’re no longer at the mercy of what’s available in a .com or other domain. You can create whatever name fits your marketing strategy – and truly own it. Only Banana Republic can use .BananaRepublic. Only BMW can use .BMW. And from a search perspective, because gTLDs are so keyword rich they are likely to generate stronger SEO over time.
More personal than ever.
Not only does this give you a boost in algorithm search, gTLDs also open up a new world of personal targeting for anything to the left of the dot. Here’s an example: XYZ Retail knows it sells to professional women as well as young adults. Same brand, different messaging. It could build out unique microsites to reach these two different audiences. For example, Ninetofive.xyzretail could be used to target working women and Trending.xyzretail could target young adults.
Microsites have meaning. Again.
Mobile apps are all about doing one specific thing – banking, traveling, eating, exploring – whatever. With gTLDs you can build out a microsite to bring that same type of specific experience to the personal computer. Making it easier for people to cross from one platform to the next and always get what they need. No app required.
Take pressure off your home page.
The ability to create a relevant, unique and authentic digital experience that is separate and distinct from your home page (which, fess up, probably doesn’t get much more than a facelift every couple of years) is incredibly powerful. You’re serving up, from print to TV to online, exactly what someone wants from you – without the full scale headache of a home page revamp. A microsite’s faster development and shorter lifespan are ideal for seasonal promotions. Think Hotjuly.xyzretail.
The data is all yours.
Brands have turned a lot of their presence and data over to others. By creating your own property you own it all. As Jennifer Wolfe, founder and president of Wolfe Domain, a gTLD digital strategy advisory firm says, “gTLDs offer a closed system for these brands to use for data mining and intelligence, niched platforms with a new nomenclature to browsing, a new level of market leadership, and authenticity that could transform how consumers think of websites in the digital landscape.”
Critical mass adoption of gTLDs may be years away. The added consumer confusion of “dot what?” is certainly a challenge. They could turn out to be just another factor in the ever-evolving online ecosphere rather than a significant disruptor. In fact, many domain experts believe that nothing can dislodge .com as the gold standard. But the idea of gTLDs offering a new way to organize content on the internet, build targeted social communities, give brands a way to really own their customer, and create ever-more seamless and exciting digital experiences is why it’s smart to keep generic top-level domains top of mind.