4 steps to prepare for the new gTLD expansion

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The internet is about to expand on a massive scale in 2013, and we can see the possible contours of that expansion with the recent release of the list of more than 1,900 applications for new generic top-level domains. When you consider that, currently, there are only 22 top-level domains -- the portion of a domain name located to the right of the dot, the best known of which is ".com" -- you can appreciate the impact that 1,900+ new ones will make on your brand's digital presence.

Reflecting the growing importance of tablets and smartphones, the most hotly contested new top-level domain, or TLD, is ".app," sparking 13 individual applications for the term. No matter which applicant earns the right to operate the TLD, brands will be watching the decision carefully to see how the ".app" affects their brand's mobile strategy.

4 steps to prepare for the new gTLD expansion

Similarly, broad terms like ".store" and ".shop" may impact ecommerce strategy, at least in English-speaking markets. While the rules set by ICANN, the non-profit responsible for overseeing the domain name system and orchestrating this historic expansion, may preclude two similar names becoming reality, one of them is almost certain to be open for business in 2013.

Understand how generics impact your brand's digital presence

The first step for brand managers is to understand the generics that impact their business category -- terms like ".film," ".fashion," ".sports," and, yes, ".sucks." All of these terms represent actual applications that have been submitted; in fact, more than 1,100 of the applications are true generics, many of which come from entrepreneurs who hope to build businesses around offering the public the ability to register a domain name to the left of the dot, such as "brand.fashion," "brand.sports," or  "brand.sucks." 

There are also 66 applications for geographic terms, such as ".nyc," ".london," ".osaka," ".paris," ".rio," and ".capetown." If your brand has a presence in any of those locations, does it make sense to register your brand in that TLD and forge a stronger link to that area? Do those generics represent an opportunity for the brand to reinforce its digital presence or open new web possibilities? Or are these generics another potential headache from cybersquatters who take advantage of brand names and scammers who steal brand-bound traffic?

Given the wide variety of generics, it seems inevitable that domain portfolios will be burdened with additional defensive domain registrations, especially when you consider that, on average, large companies see about 80 percent of their portfolio dedicated to defensive registrations.

Even if only 20 percent of the generics make sense for your brand, registering domain names in a couple of hundred new TLDs isn't economically feasible, especially when you consider all the permutations involved -- your corporate name, product and service names, titles of movies, books, software or games, names of corporate officers. Now is the time to purge your existing portfolio of domain names that no longer justify their expense, so that, if necessary, you can afford to register key terms in any new TLDs that make sense for your brand.