Bill Sweetman is president and lead ninja at domain consultancy Name Ninja. If you can forgive him the “ninja” title, he’s got some important information about upcoming changes to how the Internet is organized.
“I registered my first domain name in 1994 and sold it for $10,000,” recalls Sweetman. Since then, the business or buying and selling domain names (the part that comes before a .com or .ca extension) has remained more or less the same. “Now, things are changing in a big way,” says Sweetman. “It’s the biggest change to happen in the Internet name space in the history of the internet.”
The change has to do with top-level domains (tlds)—the extension that specifies website type and location, like .com or .org. There are currently only a handful from which to choose. But a massive expansion will see 1400 possible tlds becoming available over the next year. Name a keyword and it will most likely be available in a few months, from .baby to .music. to .cats.
“It’s going to create a lot of opportunity—and a lot of confusion,” says Sweetman.
The first batch of new extensions have already been added to the route, though they’re not yet available for purchase one yet. Sweetman says it will be at least a few more months before businesses, bloggers and anyone else with a personal website can start personalizing their URLs.
This expansion is both good and bad news.
The bad news: North Americans are conditioned to going to something.com or something.ca. “All of a sudden, we’re going to start to see marketing campaigns driving people to go to something.apple or something.pizza,” explains Sweetman. “This is going to require quite a mindshift for some people, and it’s certainly going to cause some confusion.”
The good news: For certain businesses, this is a giant opportunity to capture more web traffic in a specific vertical. “Think about the keyword value of these new extensions,” says Sweetman. “If, from an SEO perspective, the word ‘art’ is important to you, you could be specific pages like find.art, Canadian.art or antique.art.” Sweetman advises SMEs to start thinking about whether there particular niches that they really want to showcase themselves around. “If you look at that list of 1400, you’ll see some synchronicity there with what you’re trying to accomplish strategically,” he explains. “For example, it’s important to position myself around .quebec because I’m serving that province.”
How much would .quebec cost you? It depends on how serious you are about shutting out the competition. The initial application fee for a company that wanted to be the proprietor or manager of that extension is $185,000. However, if you’re happy to be one of many with the same extension, you can buy these an extension from its proprietor for as little as a few dollars. The process is identical to purchasing a domain name. When it comes time for these extensions to be released, you can go to any domain name registrar and reserve the one you want. The Domain Name Association has launched an information site about this to learn more about these new extensions with more helpful tips and a good overview of how this will all work.
If you’re wondering whether or not to bother will this, Sweetman says it depends on how important you feel it is to brand yourself as the place to go for .music or .pizza. “Using the example of Italian art, ask yourself how much business you would lose if your competitor got Italian.art,” he says. “What’s that worth to you? You’re the only one who can say.”
For more of Sweetman’s advice on how to capitalize on this new opportunity, listen to this week’s PROFIT BusinessCast by clicking on the iTunes logo below.