Don’t stop reading! I know the topic of this blog post sounds technical and deadly boring, but it may be vital to your continued success as the genealogy world moves increasingly online. Especially if you run a genealogy website or work as a professional genealogist. So hear me out here!

What the Heck is Going on Here?

ICANN, the body that governs and organizes domain names (i.e. web addresses, such as “www.familysearch.org” or “jennealogy.wordpress.com”) has decided to release a whole bunch of new “generic top level domain names.” In other words, instead of just .com, .net, .org, etc. we are now going to be able to buy domain names that end in things like .inc, .llc, and .plumber. (Yes, .plumber.)

Crazy, right?

Why do I Care About a Bunch of New Domain Extensions?

In my opinion, people who own businesses, provide services or spend a lot of time maintaining a well-respected website should care quite a lot about these new GTLD’s.

Because .Com’s and Friends are Vanishing

If you’ve tried to register a new domain name in the past few years, chances are you didn’t get your first choice. The world of domain names is getting pretty crowded. There’s no way any regular person is ever going to get pizza.com or pets.com. And forget scoring YourName.com. It’s just barely ever going to happen anymore. If somebody else with your name hasn’t already scored the domain name then domain squatters have bought it up with the intention of reselling it to you… for a steep price.

Because You Need Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

At the same time, search engine optimization (SEO) has increased in importance. In other words, if you want to get found online you need to handle your business and make sure that you show up high in search engine rankings when people search for websites like yours.  This is especially true when someone is using a search engine to find a local business or professional. I see stats on this vary, but the general consensus seems to be that about 60% of consumers search online at least once a month to find a local business.

Example: You are a genealogist in Atlanta, Georgia and you want private clients to find your lovingly-crafted website and give you a call or email. Even better, if someone searches “Atlanta Georgia genealogist” or “genealogist in Atlanta Georgia” on Google, Yahoo!, Bing, etc. then you want them to find you first. Not your competitors, and not the Georgia Genealogical Society. (Not knocking them. And hey, they come up as #1 for this search. Good work, guys!)

(Is all this SEO talk making your eyes cross? Sign up for my bite-sized emails with online marketing tips just for genealogists.)

To make sure your website appears up high in the rankings when a potential customer seeks you out, you have to follow several steps. They include providing great content, updating frequently and making sure that your domain name represents what you do. Aha! This is where those pesky GTLD’s come in!

The first thing a search engine like Google looks for when someone performs a search is the domain name. If someone is looking for pizza in Akron, Ohio then Google will immediately know that “Akronpizza.com” is more likely to return the results that that searcher wants than a site named “APZ.com.” The APZ.com site could represent the best pizza joint in Akron, but Google won’t know that. The domain name doesn’t help Google do it’s job.

If you were forced to buy a domain name that doesn’t express what you do – like “SGTD.com” or one that is so long that it doesn’t even fit on business cards – like  “RhodeIslandGenealogyisAwesomeHireMe.com” then these new domains are your chance to start over with a clean slate. …And a domain name that will help your target customers find you through online searches.

Possible New Top Level Domains for Genealogists

The reason I’m writing this post in the first place is that when I’m not geeking out over family history, I own Social Street Media and I’m busily marketing my clients online. One of my clients, GoDaddy, has put together a great resource on all the new generic top level domain extensions. There’s no “.genealogy” (bummer!) but there are a few that you might consider if you’re in the market for a new domain name:

  • .family – For family based sites. I think this one, above all others, is also best for genealogy sites in general!
  • .forum – If you run a discussion-forum based genealogy site, like the Guild of One-Name Studies.
  • .global – You run a site with a global focus.
  • .news – Your site is news-based.
  • .bio – A biography based site. I feel like this one would be great for a site that focuses on one ancestor or relative.
  • .church – For church or religion based sites.
  • .community – For community based sites.
  • .group – For groups or organizations that can’t secure the .org domain extensions.
  • .book – For book websites.

This is only a smatter of the many top level domains soon to be released into the world. Check them all out at GoDaddy’s GTLD Watchlist.

When You Shouldn’t Buy a New Domain Name

We all want the great family history research we do, the great books we write or the great analyses we spend hours on to be found and appreciated. But if you aren’t trying to market a service or business, it may not be worth your while to spend money on a new domain. After all, not only will you have to pay for it, you’ll have to take the time to redirect your old website to your new domain name, and perhaps even change business cards and other marketing materials.

On the other hand, if you ever want your genealogy work to be more than just a hobby, I highly recommend securing a descriptive, unique top-level domain name now – before they all disappear like the dodo and the .com!

For More Information

If you’re interested in finding out more about marketing your genealogy site, please sign up for my mailing list here. I send out easy-to-digest tips from time to time and promise never, ever to spam you or send you something you won’t find useful.

Happy Detecting!

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