Will Google’s Algorithm Give a Boost to the Dot Brand?

Google recently announced that it will not weight the Dot Brand higher than other top level domains. This is not surprising, but is not a good reason to write off the benefit of the Dot Brand in organic search.

Historically, Google responds to changes in the digital world as it re-configures its algorithm each year. Matt Cutts of Google has said that when it comes to the new domain extension as a whole, “There will be a transition period where we have to learn or find out different ways of what the valid TLDs are and if there is any way we can find out what the domains on that top level domain are. It’s definitely been the case that we always wanted to return the best results to users and so we try to figure that out whether it’s on a .com, .de, or .whatever.”

Years ago, keyword stuffing actually worked, but then Penguin put an end to that. When mobile transformed the way people search on the go and localization became important to deliver results, Google changed its algorithm with Pigeon. In 2009, Google revised its algorithm to factor in Twitter feeds. When dynamic quality content became critical to internet users, Google responded with Hummingbird. Recently, the threatened Mobilegeddon terrified everyone of what would happen were their web properties not mobile-friendly.

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Because Google changes its algorithm based on how people are changing their behavior, it’s not surprising that when there is essentially no dynamic usage of the Dot Brand space, Google would say it’s not going to matter. Why would it give weight to something that isn’t even happening yet and isn’t understood by consumers? It wouldn’t, just like it didn’t factor in Twitter until it mattered.

But fast forward a year or two and consider dynamic usage by brands. When the Dot Brand actually means something, it will become a signal and it will not be difficult for Google to recognize that signal in its algorithm. At that time, Dot Brands will have a big edge over their competitors without a Dot Brand because they can leverage the asset. It’s not like you can wait to see how it works and then snap up a Dot Brand like you can a domain name. You’ll have to wait until the next round of gTLD applications with ICANN and then follow a complex process, which gives Dot Brands a four- to five-year head start.

Despite minimal usage by Dot Brands today, early search results suggest that while Google’s official statement is that it doesn’t matter, in practice it could. There are only a few examples of actual Dot Brands in the wild, but if you search for those terms, they show strong results for new digital properties.

AXA first used the Dot Brand to publish its annual report with the address, ANNUALREPORT.AXA. If you are looking for the Annual Report of AXA and type that directly into the browser, it will bypass the search listing and go directly to the ANNUALREPORT.AXA website. This could have a big benefit for brands if they build and promote memorable names such that consumers type that into the browser, and rather than producing a search list, the browser takes them directly to the intended digital property. For example, people might easily remember NOW.MLB during the World Series or STARWARS.XBOX during the release of the new Star Wars movie. It’s a big value if they can bypass search lists and directly capture eyeballs with memorable addresses.

Barclays recently launched its HOME.BARCLAYS space. Although they just redirected existing digital web properties, search results show HOME.BARCLAYS already in the number three spot, indicating that the algorithms recognized and organically moved it toward the top.

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When companies like Google, Amazon, Microsoft and half of the world’s brands actually start using their Dot Brand with creative and engaging campaigns, and consumers come to know and trust these spaces, Google’s algorithm will likely respond, just as it has historically done with other big shifts in consumer engagement online.

While many touted Google’s statements as a reinforcement that nothing will change, we all know that if there is one thing we can count on, it’s that things change rapidly in the digital world. It’s a pretty safe assumption that Google’s algorithm will continue to change along the way.

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