ICANN New Top Level Domain (TLD) Extensions Approval: Impact on SEO

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

At the end of June, the board of ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) has approved a proposal to implement new names for the internet domain addressing system. The final version of the proposal is set to be decided in the second quarter of 2009.

What are the changes introduced by the new ICANN proposal?

Currently if you want to register a Top Level Domain (TLD), you can choose between a set of 21 domain extensions ( .com, .org, .net, .info and more). Under the new ICANN proposal, you will be able to self-create your own extension to meet your business needs.

According to the CEO of ICANN, Dr Paul Twomey, it is expected that applicants could choose geographic extensions such as .sydney or . australia, industry related extensions such as .travel or .hotel and even brand extensions such as .brandname.
The new domain extensions will also support foreign languages, which will offer more opportunities for development in Asia and Russia.

ICANN's new proposal also bring some real issues

While the proposal offers great opportunities to develop the internet real estate landscape, the ICANN proposal will introduce many issues:

- Trademarks will not be automatically reserved. In theory, it means that anyone could claim the .yahoo or .google extension. The attribution of a new domain will have to go through an objection based process, but it does not protect any brands!

- The cost of acquisition is high between $50,000 and $100,000. Even if the cost is prohibitive for "cybersquatter" the cost of acquisition is high and requires brands to invest more to protect their brand. This is especially unfair for small businesses, which might not have the sufficient funds to compete against big corporations.

- Introducing new extensions is highly likely to confuse the average internet user. As mentioned in Webmaster World Forum internet users are used to 3 letters (.com) , 4 letters (.info) and 5 letters (.com.au) extensions, and offering an unlimited number of the extensions could lead to real confusion.

The new ICANN proposal will also have an impact on SEO as URLs is an important factor used to determine rankings in search engines.

The Impact of ICANN's new proposal on SEO

- The ICANN new internet addressing system improves the opportunities for 'keyword rich' URLs. As mentioned in the last SEOmoz Search Engine Factors, keyword rich URLs have an impact on your rankings. For example if you choose the TLD www.hotels.sydney, this might help to improve your ranking in the Google Local SERPs.

- Aaron Wall has also mentioned that the impact of new domains extensions on Search Engine Rankings is highly dependent on how Google will treat these new extensions. In other, there is no proof on the real impact. Aaron Wall pointed out the numerous issues with spam associated with .info domains which has resulted in more stringent filters for these domains.

As a result, the real impact on SEO is still unknown...so if you think of buying your own extension for SEO purposes, you better think about it considering the investment!

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