You’ve probably heard the noise about new branded top level domain names and how they’re going to change the web forever. But what are they and does your business need one? We'll explain what they are, using the example of our new regional top level domain .melbourne and give you our take on who could benefit from having one.
What is a top level domain?
A top level domain is simply the extension at the end of a web address, after the dot, such as .com, or the country specific .com.au. Another example is the new .melbourne domain (.sydney also released), which as now been released to the public. With domain names you can register the element before the dot, such as airconditioning.com or airconditioning.com.au, depending on the top level domain name that is available.
Think of a .melbourne domain name as you would a .com.au, .net.au or any other top level domain. .melbourne domain names are similar in that they have a single word after the dot.
The generic domain names like airconditioning.melbourne and bars.melbourne went to a public auction in August 2014. Once that phase had been completed the ability to register anything that was .melbourne, that was unregistered became available. The question is why would you want a .Melbourne and who can get a .Melbourne?
Who’s Eligible for a .Melbourne domain?
Eligibility for .Melbourne requires you to have
- a registered Victorian business name,
- be an Australian citizen or resident living in Victoria or
- be an associated entity; that is to have a direct relation to the exact or partial match of the domain name.
Get Started is able to register getstarted.melbourne because the company is called Get Started and is based in Victoria.
There is understandably a restricted list of domain names which cannot be purchased such as Government related domains. These will include anything like council.melbourne.
Read more here for the complete Registration Policy including Eligibility Criteria.
Why have they created .Melbourne?
There are 25 million .com domain names registered, over 10 million .net and in Australia there are over 2.2 million .au domain names. Arguably there is a saturation in the current market. ICANN (International Council of Assigned Names and Numbers) govern the internet space and possibilities for domain name extensions. Over several years they have considered the saturation of the name space and identified that the merits of leaving it closed were insufficient compared to the practice of opening it up.
Now companies such as Google could apply for .google, IBM for .ibm or apple could apply for .apple. In the case of .melbourne, the Victorian Government and City of Melbourne, with a bid supported by AUDA, applied to ICANN for .melbourne and were successful.
A Melbourne company, ARI Registry Services – which is part of the Bombora Technologies Group which also includes AusRegistry, the appointed Registry operator for the .au name space (on behalf of www.auda.org.au) – were then contracted to operate .melbourne on behalf of the City and the State of Victoria.
Very few companies (think Google, Apple, IBM) can afford to create a top level domain. It costs a few hundred thousand dollars a year and only around 300 have been registered in English (there are a range of other top level domain names in different languages such as French and Arabic). Several companies and groups have concerns about creating new top level domains such as .melbourne and .sydney, because it can often mean companies have to register them, in their view, solely to defend their brand in every namespace. However, it does also present them/you with the opportunity to create a new complete site such as yourbusiness.melbourne.
Why you would want .Melbourne?
Your business name may not be available in .com, .com.au or .net.au. As a business that operates in Melbourne, there is a sense that if you can have ‘bobsflowers.melbourne’ as opposed to ‘bobs-flowers.com.au’, you will have greater ease with advertising your business on a sign or a business card, and will more importantly associate your business with your geographical location.
Having a domain extension specific to your geogaphical location could potentially push your brand as a trusted local company as opposed to a generic .com.au name.
This is largely the reason why you should purchase a .melbourne address. A domain can not only reflect your geographical location, but also develop an increased level of trust and convenience whilst extending and strengthening Melbourne’s brand through an online environment. Just as you are more likely to buy from a trusted .com.au site, people will be inclined to seek out your .Melbourne site, as an Australia or Victorian resident.
Will it affect my search engine ranking if I have a . Melbourne?
The other argument to why you might purchase a .melbourne domain name is that it may improve your search engine optimisation rankings with Google. Google have indicated that they will take into account a .Melbourne address in their search engine, acknowledging your business as a reputable search result based on geographical location.
Arguably, there could be an improvement in your search engine results when consumers are conducting a search based on geography.
For example, Bob may have an improved search result for “flowers Melbourne” as Bob has purchased the domain bobsflowers.melbourne.
Will this new name space drastically increase the traffic to your site? Essentially the answer is no. This will not replace online business marketing. Placement in search engine rankings is a component, but paid search is also a critical part of any search engine marketing strategy, especially for new domain names that came take some time before they are indexed by major search engines.
Our final takeaway
If you purchase a .melbourne domain, be willing to advertise it. The market is not accustomed to automatically searching for a .melbourne address at this point, just as .com.au took some time before it became a default domain name extension for consumers when typing in a domain address, however this will change over time.
Registering .melbourne now, given that it is available, can also be a positive defensive approach, to ensure that you have registered the domain for when you require it in the future.
Also if you think promoting your geographical location could potentially help your site, we suggest that you purchase the domain and redirect it to your existing .com.au address. Activating a .melbourne address would otherwise require a campaign to support the launch for the new domain.
Therefore our suggestion is to, at the very least, buy it and park it.