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European Domains: Changes & Opportunities For SEOs

I recently spoke at the Domainfest conference in Prague. The conference, of course, was all about selling and buying domains, but they asked me to speak about search.

“Domaining” is related to search, but somehow the two worlds rarely intersect. Yet they do need each other. In this post, I’d like to show you around the European world of domains. This because it differs from the US and because there are some opportunities there.

The European Domain Market: A Quick Overview

There is one huge difference between the American and the European domain market. Where in the US domains usually end with “.com” in Europe every country has its own top level domain (TLD). That makes the choice of a website-url a very different one than in the US. Where in the US you typically need only register a .com domain, in Europe you’ll need to register and create a website for every country you are targeting.

This means that there is a huge market for TLD’s in Europe. Just a few figures:

The biggest number of local European TLDs can be found in Germany. The .de domain consists of over 13 million country-code TLDs, making it the biggest in the world.

Six of the top ten most numerous domains in the world are in European countries. Next to Germany, the UK (.uk, with 7.8 million) and Holland (.nl, with 3.5 million) are very big domain markets. Though the Netherlands is a very small country, there is no other country with so many domains per actual number of internet users.

Be Aware Of Future Changes

The domain field is subject to a lot of changes at the moment, which will affect the European market heavily, but will also mean changes for the rest of the world.

ICANN, the organization that oversees internet names and numbers, is planning changes which will affect everyone. If all of ICANN’s proposed changes go through, we will not only be seeing domains based on a country level, but also on a city level. This means we could well be seeing .berlin or .paris showing up soon.

Next, Twitter has spawned a whole new business: that of the shortened urls. Twitter itself recently chose t.co (Colombia) as their short url and without a doubt many other companies will follow shortly. That makes country urls even more interesting. Inside Europe, domainers are buying up addressed with TLDs which not only “feel nice in the mouth” but are also useful. The Polish .pl TLD than suddenly becomes interesting. Anyone can be owner of .pl domain. You don’t need to have address or live in Poland to own a Polish domain name and there is also no limit of number of domains you can have. The Polish market, now dominated by three big companies buying and selling domain names, is likely to see explosive growth because companies will be looking for a short url domain (for example, Apple Computer might want to acquire a.pl).

The third factor which will also affect the domain selling business in Europe, but also worldwide, is the search engines. Features like Google Instant could heavily affect the way people use domains. When you are using Chrome, Instant might already be starting when you start typing in your browser bar. That will change the way that people use domains.

Opportunity Knocking

Does these changes mean the domain business is doomed? Maybe. But it also offers an opportunity, especially for shrewd SEOs. Domain owners used to be interested only in acquiring domains, parking them and selling them for a huge amount of money later on. That still happens, but parking isn’t the holy grail anymore. Domainers want to make something of the sites and therefore need to optimize the websites as best as they can. Here the SEOs can find a whole new market.

When optimizing these domains and especially in Europe, there are a few things to keep in mind though:

  • There are lots of different countries in Europe, and that means you need to do local targeting, optimizing for each specific TLD.
  • Get your settings right in Webmaster Tools. Using a .nl domain? Target the Netherlands in your settings.
  • Make sure you have your languages right. Italian for the Italians, English for the UK and so on.

With all the different domains in Europe there is a whole new world of opportunity for clever SEOs.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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