Time to buy: New gTLDs won’t get cheaper!

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Time to buy: New gTLDs won’t get cheaper!

Fili Wiese
Time to buy: New gTLDs won’t get cheaper!

So many great new domain names on the new global top-level domains (gTLD) are still available, either to register for the first time or to buy already registered. So many times I see missed opportunities for small, medium and large companies alike.

And I understand the reasoning why companies are not investing in these new top level domain names. Then again sometimes I don’t.

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons, the dangers of not investing and the opportunities in embracing the new gTLDs.

So why invest in a domain name on a new gTLD?

There are several reasons why not to invest, the primary one being money. Yes domain names do cost money, especially over time and unless you have a purpose for buying the domain name, it is easy to get lost and buy too many irrelevant domain names. This is what often happens and may make many companies reluctant to invest in new gTLDs.

However, new the new top domain names also offer new possibilities: A new opportunity to communicate the brand to everyone, a new opportunity to inspire the company employees, a new opportunity to show your company's authority in the market, etc.

When growing an online business it is normal to invest in new office space, a new business car, a new phone contract, a new computer, a new employee, a stand at a conference, a television or newspaper or search engine ad, etc. And any of these business decisions are comparable to buying an attractive exact match keyword domain name and investing in its success to grow the business.

So what are some of the primary reasons to buy a domain name in the first place?

Domain names are often bought for one of the following reasons or a combination of:

  • Preventing your competition to buy the domain name and use it to somehow hurt your business.

  • Extending your business with offering specific features on a separate domain name.

  • Branding, to make sure that your users remember your brand.

  • To catch any misspellings of your brand name.

  • Protecting future possible growth opportunities by registering domain names on individual products (which do not have its own dedicated websites yet) or related services which your company may not offer yet but keeping the door open in case this changes.

  • Rebranding, to secure possible names for rebranding the company or business in the future.

  • For marketing purposes, such as shorter versions for URL redirectors, social media campaigns or keyword-rich domains for improved CTRs and conversions with PPC and SEO.

  • Because the management of the company likes the domain name.

  • For potential relevant type-in traffic.

These are just some of the most common reasons to register domain names, but there are many more.

Wait, I thought exact match keyword domain names do not get a ranking boost in Google organic search, so why should I care about PPC and SEO with the new gTLDs?

It is correct that any ranking boost that may have occurred in the distant past does not apply to your website’s signals now. Any gTLD domain name has to build up the same reputation as any other newly registered domain name, e.g., on the dot-com, in the eyes of search engines.

However, having an attractive exact match keyword domain name can help significantly with managing user expectations in their Google search results, either as an ad or organic search result. These often lead to increased click-through rates and more positive user signals, both being factors in organic search algorithms as well as PPC campaigns.

For example, I worked with a business associate on their website, who will remain confidential but allowed me to share some numbers, with whom I did an experiment regarding a new generic keyword gTLD domain name. Now as the disclaimer, the experiment was not scientifically vetted.

We found that the CTR in the PPC campaigns increased by 43%, the overall conversions increased by 17%, the overall cost per click went down by 27% and the average position went up to top positions.

And all that we had done was run the same campaign settings but with a different display URL where the display URL was the new keyword-rich gTLD domain name.

After seeing the success in PPC, we transitioned a part of the website to the new keyword-rich domain name and after a few months the overall CTR in Google Search Console increased by an average of 21% for the related keywords (especially the primary keyword), bounce rates in Google Analytics went down by an average of 14% and overall conversions went up by an average of 11%.

Again this was just one case study, without guarantees, hardly scientifically vetted, focused on the difference between a brand domain to a keyword-rich exact match new gTLD domain name and obviously other factors may have also attributed to the positive changes, however, it is hard to ignore the increases.

When trying to repeat this success, keep in mind that moving content to another domain may result in an additional cost in SEO (temporarily decreased visibility in organic search). And although this is something to be mindful of, it can be extremely beneficial to change.

Just imagine what 17% more sales will do for your business? How long will it take for an attractive exact match keyword gTLD domain name that costs less than 6 digits to pay its initial investment back? How much money can be saved with a lower cost per click in PPC campaigns?

My company owns many long-tail keyword domain names on country level TLDs or dot-com, why invest in the new gTLDs?

So if for example, your company bought a large number of two, three and/or four keyword domain names on dot-com that just sit there, I recommend starting tracking the type-in traffic from these domain names. See how many visitors per month find your company website through those domain names and how many of these visitors convert.

Be critical which ones to renew over time and don't be afraid to drop domain names that do not work for you or if your company moved into a different direction.

If your company owns a generic dot-com, you will know that the value of this domain name long-term is worth the investment. While most generic dot-com domain names are gone or for sale in high 6 digits to 7 or 8 digits numbers, most new gTLDs only cost a fraction of that and are often for available or for sale in 3 to 6 digits numbers.

Can your company really afford missing out on owning potential shorter, better converting, more memorable domain names that cost significantly less than a generic dot-com for the same keywords?

Or do you want to leave the opportunity for anyone else to register the domain name, including your competitors, and set up a competing website?

But new gTLDs are more expensive and not common yet, why spend money on them?

It is true that the country code and old global level domain names (such as dot-com, dot-net and dot-org) can be significantly cheaper in yearly renewal costs over time.

However it is important to note that registration prices a dot-com name was a lot more expensive 20 years ago, and buying an existing generic dot-com domain name is often many times more expensive than the acquisition cost of a new gTLD domain name. Over time, renewal prices for the new gTLDs are likely to go down and be similar to current domain names.

Already we see registration prices for a new gTLDs go down, while acquisition prices of attractive commercial exact match keyword domain names are going up as more people are realizing the potential.

Regarding usage, many domain names have already been registered and new sites are already being created on the new gTLDs domain names. Similar to dot-eu, it is likely to take a few years before the new gTLDs become common to everyone. For example, I frequently run into many websites that have contact and sales forms where the email address validation does not support the new gTLDs. Maybe check now if yours does.

Example of a sales form failing to validate an email address using a gTLD that has been around about three years and has almost 17 thousand registrations.An example of sales form failing to validate an email address using a gTLD that has been around about three years and has almost 17 thousand registrations.

That said, it is important to keep in mind that the early bird catches the worm and first movers often have an advantage. Right now the acquisition cost of a generic keyword dot-com domain name tends to be high and that of the same exact match keyword in new gTLDs is likely to be relatively low, so why wait until the new gTLDs reach similar prices? Now is the time to act and buy those keyword-rich gTLD domain names before your competitors do. If you wait the prices will only go up.

My generic keyword domain name on the new gTLDs is gone but I have a trademark, why was I not protected by my trademark?

During the launch of most new gTLDs there was a sunrise period for trademark owners. In addition to the sunrise period, most registries offered unified methods to secure or prevent certain trademarked phrases from being registered by third parties. And most registries then also offered a landrush phase where a new gTLD domain name could be bought earlier but at an increased price, offering trademark owners that did not file their trademark in time or don't have full trademarks protection for legal reasons another opportunity to still secure the domain name.

After all of this, most registries adhere to a “first come first serve” policy as is commonly used for most global TLDs like dot-com or dot-org. Anyone can at this point register the domain name and based on the premium level of the domain name they may still pay a significant amount in renewal costs and/or acquisition cost.

However trademarks are not offering automatic protection with the new gTLDs. What is often forgotten is that the TLD part of the domain name is unlikely to be considered for a trademark. Which means that if your company owns a trademark on DIGITAL MARKETING, then it is unlikely that your trademark will cover the domain name DIGITAL.MARKETING, as the trademark would only apply to “digital” and not to “.marketing”.

This means that if a (hypothetical) company owns the trademark for the word "money loans" and their (hypothetical) website is "money-loans.com", it may be smarter to buy "money.loans" for a 4 digits as any trademark claims are unlikely to hold up for this domain name and just increase legal fees which can be better spent on the acquisition of the exact match keyword domain name.

Note I am not a lawyer and some of this may still need to be tested in the courts, however given the opportunities offered to trademark holders by registries, regional laws which may play a limiting role - e.g. does your trademark include the geographic area of the current domain name holder - and the “first come first serve” principle, it may be unlikely that a lawsuit will be cheaper than just buying the domain name up to 6 digits.

In which case, my recommendation is to take the hit and just buy the domain name instead.

Why is it reasonable to pay up to 6 digits for keyword-rich new gTLD domain names?

Most keyword-rich exact match new gTLD domain names go for 3, 4 or 5 digits in dollars, pounds and/or euros. Often this can be compared to:

  • Three digits being similar prices as buying a new Google Pixel phone, a new computer, a television set, etc.

  • Four and five digits being similar to the one year salary of a single employee, the price of a stand or sponsorship package at a single expo or conference, one month PPC budget or a company car, etc.

The cost levels are in comparison to the marketing opportunities likely to be quite low for small, medium and larger companies alike. Especially if you consider that once acquired, most domain names renewal costs are just a fraction of any marketing budget and you can benefit from the domain name marketing potential for the next few decades. It is rare that a sponsorship package at a single conference will provide your business with a long-term growth potential, but the right domain name can do just that.

Equivalent exact match keyword-rich dot-com domain names often go for 6 digits or more. So ask yourself, which of the following examples is likely to be more expensive, and which one do you want to have or can you afford: digital.marketing or digitalmarketing.com, digital.photography or digitalphotography.com, cheap.flights or cheapflights.com?

So which names should I focus on? My company does not want to waste money.

That is a very good question and I recommend you look at the primary generic keywords you are trying to rank for or bid in PPC campaigns on in search engines or converting visitors use to find your company. To name a few examples:

  • Buy.Jewelry can be interesting for a company such as Tiffany & Co;

  • Customer.Support can be interesting for any large company or support platform;

  • Digital.Marketing can be interesting for any digital marketing agency;

  • Direct.Marketing can be interesting for a company any direct marketing company;

  • Easy.Money can be interesting for a company such as easymoney.com or transferwise.com;

  • Holiday.Apartments can be interesting for a company such as 9flats.com or AirBnB;

  • LastMinute.Flights can be interesting for a company such as skyscanner.net or cheapflights.com or lastminute.com;

  • London.Tours can be interesting for any tour operator in London;

  • PPC.Marketing can be interesting for any SEA/PPC agency;

  • Rooms.London or Rooms.NYC or Rooms.Berlin can be interesting for a room/flat sharing website in any of these cities;

  • SEM.Services can be interesting for any SEM agency;

  • WeightLoss.Surgery can be interesting for any beauty clinic.

Do I need to say more? Some organizations are already utilizing new gTLDs, for example:

  • ABC.XYZ

  • Belgrade.Taxi

  • CarService.NYC

  • Car.Vegas

  • Cheap.Flights

  • DebtRelief.Management

  • Delaware.Accountants

  • FlyFishing.Tours

  • Hotel.London

  • Melbourne.Florist

  • Model.Fitness

  • Offshore.Support

  • YouthAssembly.NYC

And many others... Can you afford not to be one of them?

Just remember, when choosing to invest in a gTLD domain name make sure you focus on the primary money keywords and do not get distracted by similar yet unattractive domain names, e.g. holidays.apartments or 1sem.services. Save your money for those really attractive exact match keyword gTLD domain names.

When in doubt, if a name is available for your budget you often just need to reach out to the domain holder and ask for a price or submit an offer. Like any other TLD, in most cases, prices can be negotiated.

Conclusion

Now is the time to secure your new exact match keyword gTLD domain names cheaply. Focus on your primary money keywords and buy them now before prices go up, or your competitors beat you to the finish line. New gTLDs are here to stay and it is commercially illogical not to prepare for the future if your company is doing well and is growing.

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Fili Wiese is a renowned technical SEO expert and former senior member of the Google Search Quality team. At SearchBrothers.com he offers SEO consulting with SEO Audits, SEO workshops and successfully recovers websites from Google penalties.
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