In June of 2011, Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which oversees the world’s domain name system announced that Starting January 2012, established public and private organizations can apply for the rights to the gTLD(s) of their choice – both branded (e.g. .nike) and non-branded (e.g. .shoes).
For $185,000 per application, businesses or organizations can have their own gTLD based on the final approval from ICANN.
The evaluation process can take anywhere from 9 to 20 months, so it can be assumed that the first of the new gTLDs will go live in 2013.
The new gTLDs aren’t likely to dramatically affect the SEO landscape. ICANN hasn’t confirmed anything directly about how the new gTLDs might be helpful in term of SEO. The only possible SEO benefit these new gTLDs can bring us is more keyword URL possibilities. These new gTLDs would increase the opportunity, or at least the potential availability, to include keywords in domain names. Although, it is still very questionable whether it’s worth it to spend $185,000 for a particular keyword opportunity or continue focusing on the industry best practices and strategic SEO optimization, because keyword usage in URL is only one small factor of many other highly weighted on-page SEO elements, such as Title Tag, Meta Description Tags, and Header Tags. However, the new gTLDs can improve more than just the URL structure. Online safety/reputation for a brand can be enhanced, because under the new gTLD, domains that abuse trademarks will be taken down immediately.
Search engines and the hundreds of signals that comprise their ranking algorithms are still dialed in to focus on quality content and enriched link portfolios as drivers to visibility and rank. Many top level search marketing agencies and experts also expressed that there will be little to no impact on SEO from new gTLD. One of the existing organic ranking signals, domain age, is still relevant, so it’s very possible that a new gTLD would need time to garner equity before a search engine like Google assigns it appropriate value. Plus, with more than 95 million active .coms populating the Web (and millions more websites housed under the other current gTLDs), it’s safe to say that the value of having a .com or .net isn’t likely to change anytime soon.
In conclusion, if there is the budget necessary to purchase a gTLD, it could be a wise option to consider down the road from a branding and marketing standpoint – especially if competitors are swooping in and doing the same. Due to the rise of social media networks, mobile devices and the “I need information right now” attitude of those who use them, as well as micro blogging sites like Twitter that rely on URL shortening services, the speed at which consumers communicate is picking up by the day.