Can new-GTLDs disrupt Google's Search & Ad Business
At first sight there seems to be no connection between the two. Google is offering search services and online advertising, and the new-GTLD registries are selling domain names. How can they be related? To answer this question we have to look a bit deeper into how people navigate the internet.
There are three main ways people navigate to websites – Direct, Referral and Search.
Direct traffic is where people go directly to the website. This is mostly done in one of two ways. Either they enter the website into their browser (called “type-in traffic”), or they have it bookmarked, and click on that.
The sites, that people visit the most, are almost always as a result of “type-in traffic”. When I want to go to Amazon's site, for example, I click on the URL bar of my browser and type “ama[enter]”. I know, with confidence, that its going to take me straight to Amazon's site.
Bookmarks are often one of two types. Either a manual bookmark, i.e. you chose to save the link yourself, or an automatic bookmark like Google Chrome's “New Tabs” page which automatically offers you a choice of sites you have recently visited. Social bookmarks are also becoming popular.
Referral traffic is where somebody has followed a link from another site. This is split into Referrals from Social media and other, more general, referrals. This can often be because social media referrals tend to be as a result of PR and marketing activities orchestrated by the site owner themselves, where as other, more general referrals, tend to be built up more slowly over time.
Search traffic is where people found the site in the result of a search engine listing and clicked through from there.
So how does this relate to new top level domains (new-GTLDs)?
The connection isn't obvious and it's quite subtle, but one of the unique selling points that many of the new-GTLDs have over the older top level domains, like COM and all the country-codes, is that quite a few of the new top level domains are made of actual words - i.e natural language, not something that looks more like computer code.
This means that domain names can now not only be made of natural language, in any language, but they can also become phrases, slogans, company names and straplines that match the sorts of things real people actually say in the real world.
As the new top level domains gain more and more acceptance, it is starting to become clear that it is the domain names that form into natural language phrases that are getting some of the most interest, and fetching some of the highest prices - names like job.market, coffee.club, miami.condos and video.games.
UK start-up Names.of.London, under their brand phrases.for.sale, are now offering three-word-phrases such as pugs.for.sale, photos.of.london or gifts.for.men which can be registered as the name of a website, or used to redirect people to existing internet content. People would then need only to think of these phrase, and type them in, to go directly to the content they want - no need to search.
As these phrases become more common they could become the first thing people will try when they are looking for something online. Where people currently default to using a Google search, will they (in future) think first of simply trying a phrase, expecting it to take them where they want to go? Will what used to be Search traffic change to being Direct (type-in) traffic?
If so, will this affect Google's business model, becuase with less search comes less ad revenue.
If this sounds too far fetched, bear in mind, Names.of.London are already seeing hundreds of thousands of people a year using their phrases which, from $25 per year, offer probably the cheapest way to drive targeted visitors to your site. pugs.for.sale gets about 650 visitors a year - that's a lot of Pugs to sell.
Most of the people using these phrases are Generation-Z - they don't remember the first dot-COM boom and mostly access the internet on their phone, not a PC. They have a very different relationship with domain names, and the internet in general, than those of us who are older - Generation-Z have grown up with the internet. They have never known it to not exist.
The world is changing and the old rules may cease to apply.