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Marketing Intelligence

.Gay Domains Are Open – Are you Ready?

by Limor Barenholtz , Director of SEO at Similarweb 5 Min.
September 10, 2020 | Updated August 4, 2022

If you work in the SEO industry there’s a good chance you’ve heard about this news already, – .Gay Top Level Domain (TLD) name registrations are opening on September 15th! If you are just beginning to learn about SEO strategies, this is a great time to learn why this is such big news – a company’s identity is very attached to its TLD and new TLDs are only created every few years. 

Let’s Start at the Beginning: What are TLD names?

TLD means Top Level Domain, and is the highest domain hierarchy level available on the internet. A URL in its entirety looks like some variation of www.website.com, and it always includes three key components:

  1. www (WorldWideWeb) – domain prefix, used for websites typically
  2. Website – any name you choose, providing it hasn’t been purchased by anyone else. Typically this will be the company/brand name
  3. .com – The TLD!

All website names are monitored and managed by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), along with IP addresses allocation and Domain Name Server management. The purpose of which is to globally ensure that all domains and IP numbers are unique. Therefore, the ICANN is responsible for TLD grouping. 

Historically, TLD names were divided to 3 main groups:

  1. Countries – .co, .uk, .ru, .co.il etc.
  2. Categories – .com, .net, .gov, .edu, .org
  3. Multi-Organizations – For very large organizations, often composed of other organizations. Ex.: CSNET with cic.csnet, hp-labs.csnet, sj.ibm.csnet

Later on, the ICANN changed TLD grouping slightly, separating restricted (rTLD) and internationalized (ccTLD) domain names from General Top Level Domain names (gTLD), which included 22 allowed TLD names. This move allowed the ICANN to categorize a range of test domains, sub-categories of restricted domains, and non-latin character set domain names. 

gTLDs, the most commonly used TLDs, are composed of 3 letters that represent their category use. For example:

  1. .com domains – for commercial use
  2. .gov – for government websites
  3. .org – for non-profit organizations 
  4. .edu – for educational institutions websites
  5. .mil – for military and military-related websites

types of domains

As time went by, several discussions about adding TLDs to the pool took place. Around the year 2000, the ICANN approved adding TLDs such as .biz, .info, .name and several others to help make URLs better represent the purpose of organizations’ websites. In 2011, the first ever .xxx domain went live to specify sites for adult audiences, and in 2014 over 2,000 new TLD names were released and available to the public. Until now that was the latest change to TLDs.

What are .Gay Top Level Domain names?

.Gay TLDs are the latest addition to the TLD reserve under the umbrella of gTLDs. This new domain is meant to act as a natural space for websites that serve the LGBTQ community and more accurately represent the website’s purpose regardless if it is for causes, organizations, businesses, people, and more. Although nobody can predict what the future holds, this might also indicate that in the future there will be even more TLD options available to choose from to allow websites to even further customize their URLS and better reach their target audience.

The launch was initially set to start for February 10, 2020, and roll out until May 20, but was delayed due to COVID19 outbreak and was re-announced on April 1. Nevertheless, it seems at least one company was quick enough on its feet – Pink Media were the first to launch ilove.gay in February. In fact, there are over 6k .Gay domain names already registered right now that were purchased during the pre-sale stage, otherwise known as the Sunrise Period, for trademark domains. The Sunrise Period began February 10, 2020, despite the fact that the new TLDs are only available to the general public on September 15, 2020.

example for a .Gay domain

So What’s the Launch Plan for the .Gay Domain?

All TLD launch plans follow a 3-phase process, and although this launch was delayed due to Coronavirus, its process will follow a typical rollout plan. 

The .Gay TLD launch schedule:

  1. Sunrise Period – February 10, 2020 – September 4, 2020 – During this phase, registration is not open to the general public yet. This is a required phase for registered trademark holders, which includes matching and approving their trademarked domain names for the new TLD.   
  2. Sunrise Period II – This phase is open for Active LGBTQ groups, as a recognition of it being a sign of diversity and inclusion, as well as for corporate brands.
  3.  Early Access Period (EAP) – September 8-15 2020 – Early birds get early access to their desired domain names at an increased cost. The registration is open to everyone at this phase of the launch, and if you wish to get your hand on a popular or highly desired domain name, you must be willing to pay more for the chance to claim it. This means that technically .Gay TLDs are already available!
  4. Open for General Demand – Starting September 16, 2020 – Domain registration is open for everyone at a standard price. This is the final stage, and once all the eligible and interested parties register their desired domain names at less desired prices, every other name is open for registration. The price set for .Gay domain names is predicted to be around 30$/year.

With 6k domains already registered, it is very possible that by the end of the EAP period the numbers will have doubled, especially since LGBTQ organizations worldwide are interested in the TLD, along with LGBTQ focused businesses and ventures. While LGBTQ organizations might opt to change their domain to the new TLD and perform a full migration to their content, most businesses will simply add the domain to their existing one so they only have to migrate only small parts of it or simply create the relevant content.

Will .Gay Domain Names Affect Google Rankings?

From a users point of view, there might be something compelling about having .Gay TLDs in the results when you search for information, products, or services related to the gay community. However, as all SEOs know, having a .Gay (or any other dot) domain does not affect website ranking in organic search as is for all TLDs.

When you buy a .Gay TLD you do not automatically rank for searches relating the LGBTQ community. Therefore, to get high ranking for LGBTQ-related content or services you will still have to do the research, create relevant content and optimize it, as well as enhance your entire website. However, it does add context and authority to a website url. Case in point, consider how .gov immediately indicates to readers that they are on an official government website, or how .edu points to content that is trustworthy and educational.

In terms of how this new TLD will impact a website’s off page SEO, the same rules of SEO will apply – the linking website itself has to be relevant and authoritative on its subject matter for its links to deliver value. Although the TLD itself will not have any pull power for Google website ranking, the main advantage is that a website might have a better chance in finding relevant outreach and linking prospects with the new TLD.

Other Planned TLD Launches

2020 and 2021 are going to be big for marketers and SEOs since there are 3 more planned TLD launches (for general availability) in addition to .Gay. They are as follows:

  1. .Contact : September 12, 2020
  2. .Basketball : October 12, 2020
  3. .Cpa : January 15 ,2021

Want to See the Data as The Release Unfolds?

Register for a free trial of Similarweb to keep up with the latest SEO trends and to monitor how these newly registered domains are winning traffic. To have the latest data at your fingertips and uncover how you can stay competitive in your niche register here.

This blog was written in collaboration with Sarah Mehlman, Content Manager at Similarweb.

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