As we come to the close of 2013, it's not difficult to see a digital transformation is underway in all facets of our digital world: social, mobile, data, search and domain names.
The new gTLDs are launching and will start to have an impact in 2014. What's so interesting about the unique opportunities the gTLDs provide is that it is happening during this time of digital transformation. Unlike the .com boom of the 1990s where .com was the only game in town (and no one really knew how to use a domain, nor the potential of the internet), the new gTLDs are launching during a data boom with new sophisticated technologies changing the way marketers think about their strategies as they respond to accelerating consumer adoption in a rapidly changing global marketplace.
Not only are digital marketers grappling with new social media sites popping up daily, they also face new challenges to integrate mobile apps, messaging and track data across platforms. Coupled with managing budgets for traditional and tech based marketing, CMOs have more to manage than ever before, particularly since the big players keep changing the rules by which they play the game.
Hummingbird Means Content is King
Google, for example, released its latest Hummingbird algorithm in September of this year. This initially caused widespread panic across the SEO community because it largely meant the keyword era was over and search would behave more like people behave (i.e. the better the content the higher the ranking).
For marketers with content, this is a good thing, but for those relying on old SEO strategies with the emphasis on keywords, the cost to drive eyeballs to the site may have just gone up with Hummingbird in charge of quality control. Hummingbird will look for content that is good, dynamic and related to what the searcher is seeking -- like a human researcher might do.
We've also learned this year that companies like Amazon, Intel, Netflix and Verizon have all started to invest in original programming, recognizing the old adage that content is king. These tech companies all recognize the future will reward companies that produce good content people want regardless of how many key words are used.
Who Ate the Cookies?
Fiber on the Horizon
Google Fiber also has an impact on why digital marketers need to understand the impact of gTLDs. Not only will highspeed fiber optic cable allow for the enhanced bandwidth needed to stream video and content that people want, but it will also support the ability to do more and create a more robust experience in the gTLD environment.
While other big telecom companies have been slow to offer fiber optic to the home, as Google pushes the technology to become more affordable, businesses and consumer alike will demand faster access to what they want, regardless of what device they use to access that content.
Domain Names Rise Again
As these big changes continue to transform our environment, all companies will need to be digital marketers. Whether you are a local pizza joint or a global web portal, the need to market digitally will only continue to expand.
Domains names were the hot strategy in the 1990s, but became less critical as .com became the gold standard and marketers shifted thinking to social and mobile. But now, with so many transformative shifts, digital marketers need to take a holistic approach to search, content, social, mobile, data, access and integration. The gTLDs just add one more element to the equation while simultaneously providing a catalyst for creativity.
gTLDs Impact on Search
The sheer scale and number of new top level domains entering the root of the internet coupled with Hummingbird's search for good content will mean that authentic domains in new TLDs related to their content and business category will likely rank higher in organic search.
If you are a tennis or golf related business, for example, and you provide dynamic, good, authentic content, then having a domain name in the .tennis or .golf extension may provide additional support and weight to what you are about and for what Hummingbird is searching. Because everyone is in .com right now, .com has no real meaning in terms of content in a world of thousands of top level domains. Likewise, it may be easier for consumers to remember short memorable catchy slogans and campaigns that brands may use in the new TLD space. Consider for a moment social.network, Pandora.channel, play.tennis, ride.horses, opentable.reviews or ebay.auction, jcrew.wedding, and burberry.channel.
For brand gTLD owners, the phasing out of cookies by big digital players means they need new ways to track consumer data. While they may still partner with Google, Facebook, or Microsoft, their brand gTLD is a closed ecosystem allowing them to track data across the platform. They may develop their own ways to know what consumers are doing as they migrate from the TLD to mobile.
Also for gTLD owners, fiber optic access means a more robust, faster experience can allow them to maximize the power of the gTLD in a way that's not available in .com. Most people have not fully explored the technical capabilities (some haven't even been invented yet), but expect big changes as a result of the brand gTLD platform.
Search, data, content channels of distribution, and easy to remember campaigns are all just some of the benefits of using the new domain names in 2014. As the digital transformation continues, keep an eye on the new gTLDs; they just might surprise you.
Title image courtesy of Shutterstock
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Jennifer Wolfe is founder and president of Wolfe Domain, a gTLD digital brand strategy advisory firm providing comprehensive guidance to global brands, interactive agencies, domain registrars, and legal counsel representatives on establishing a holistic gTLD name-anchored brand strategy for the next generation of the Internet. As a forward-thinking, accomplished, award-winning attorney and executive leader, she also serves as managing partner of their affiliate law firm WolfeSBMC, specializing in advising on intellectual property and brand campaigns and new media law. With a depth of entrepreneurial savvy, brand knowledge, and legal expertise, Wolfe brings a unique perspective to creating holistic generic top-level domain (gTLD) name-centric brand strategies that effectively bring cross-functional teams together and serve as a catalyst for business innovation.
March 19, 2014