Top Level Domains Revealed by ICANN - What This May Mean to Website Marketing For Attorneys, Doctors and Dentists
On June 13th, ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) revealed the applicants for the new gTLDs (Generic Top Level Domains). There were 1,930 gTLD applications. While there are many implications of this new TLD expansion, for attorneys, doctors and dentists who are actively marketing on the Web, this may have specific long-term consequences. If you are actively marketing your practice's website(s), it is important to pay attention and develop a gTLD domain strategy now.
First, let's discuss what a gTLD is. Currently, there are a number of TLD suffixes, but by far the most common is ".com." Most commercial websites currently use the .com domain extension. Some companies did acquire and use other domain extension such as ".net," ".org," ".us," ".info," etc. Educational institutions typically use the ".edu" extension. Sometimes, charitable organizations and not-for-profit businesses have chosen to use the ".org" extension.
Historically, for-profit businesses have avoided building commercial websites that did not end in ".com." However, we have found that, at least for the search engines, the domain extension is not determinative of your SEO results. One major reason why businesses prefer the ".com" extension is because it has been branded so well over the last 10-15 years. Evidence of this can be seen in the way many people type domains directly into their address bar rather than using a search engine. In fact, many people will type in the ".com" version of the domain by default even if an advertiser promoted the ".net" or the ".biz" website. For these reasons, we believe that owning the right ".com" domains will be a good strategy for at least the next several years.
On the other hand, we have seen very strong SEO results for websites with ".net," ".info" and ".us" domains. While Google and Bing may have a slight preference for the ".com" extension, we believe that if such a preference exists, it is a very small ranking factor. The search engines seem to be less concerned with the ".com" extensions than they are with the content of the website itself and with the credibility of that website based on a range of factors including website longevity, incoming links from authoritative and/or related websites, social signals, the domain name and many more.
Our experience with obtaining strong search engine results using domains with extensions other than ".com" tells us that a website using any of these new gTLDs has the opportunity to rank well if the domain is good and the website has content to support it.
Here is what ICANN revealed: http://newgtlds.icann.org/en/program-status/application-results/strings-1200utc-13jun12-en
Domain Suffixes Applied For
Here is where it gets interesting for our clients.
If you are an attorney, you need to know that the following top level domain suffixes have been applied for:
Here is a brief article about this: http://www.law.com/jsp/cc/PubArticleCC.jsp?id=1339377431690.
If you are a dentist, you should be aware that the following top level domain suffixes have been applied for:
If you are an ophthalmologist or a plastic surgeon, you should be aware that the following top level domain suffixes have been applied for:
What Does This Mean to You?
ICANN will be reviewing the applications for the next several months. In cases where there is more than one applicant, there may be an auction process to determine who the registrar should be. Regardless, most likely in 2013, some of these gTLD extensions will be available for registration.
If you are a lawyer, surgeon or dentist, there are very good reasons to snap up some of these domains. Since we have found that the domain name itself seems to influence rank, we believe that domains like personalinjury.lawyer, mesothelioma.lawyer, birthinjury.attorney, philadelphiainjury.attorney, chicagodui.lawyer, dallas.dentist, denvercosmetic.dentist, denvercosmetic.surgery, and tampalasik.surgery may all have have value if purchased by the right practice. In other words, when they open up the registrars for these gTLD extensions, you will have the opportunity to purchase a domain which, with the right website supporting it, could rank very high for some of you high priority search phrases.
In most cases, these domains should be used as secondary domains in a multiple website marketing strategy. Effectively, they will give you the opportunity to rank for search phrases where you currently don't rank. Even if you do rank for specific search phrases, a multiple domain website strategy (using keyword rich domains) may allow you to push some of your competitors off the first page of the search results. Obviously, this gives you the opportunity to generate more leads for your practice.
We will be watching this process carefully and will discuss domain acquisition and multiple website marketing strategies with our clients as we get closer to the time when the new registrars make domains with these extensions available to the public.