Lean Domain Search and the Coming Change in Domain Name Search

DomainNameWire published a really interesting article last week titled The Coming Change in Domain Name Search where Andrew Allemann talks about the impact of gTLDs on domain search:

This year will truly be the end of an era. Saying it’s the end of an era because of the elimination of the drop down box, a staple of domain search for over a decade, misses the point. The bigger story is a move from “dumb search” to “smart search”. Most registrars currently have basic search systems. Give them a query, and they’ll respond with the match. That simply won’t cut it going forward. Smart domain search is a big, complex problem.

For a practical example, consider a pizza shop owner looking for a domain name:

Perhaps it makes sense to show johns.pizza, johns.restaurant, johnspizza.restaurant, or johnspizza.food to this customer. Showing these top level domains to most consumers, such as those that search for generic terms, doesn’t make sense. Registrars will need to determine when it makes sense to show a new top level domain ahead of .com in the search results. In the case of a search for “Johns Pizza Shop”, showing JohnsPizzaShop.com makes no sense because it is already registered. Unless it’s for sale on the aftermarket, the registrar won’t by able to convert a registration for the domain. Search results may include other .com domains, but registrars will need to analyze their data to determine exactly what to promote for each individual search.

Lean Domain Search is in a good position to help bring order to the coming chaos, but the real question is whether or not it makes sense to do so.

In the past I experimented with including a link to the .net and .org search results for your search (the default is .com) and only about 2% of visitors viewed them. Let me say that again because it’s worth emphasizing: When presented with the option of viewing potentially better .net and .org domain names, only about 1 in 50 visitors even bothered checking them out.

That begs the question, does it even make sense to include the results from the new gTLDs?

The answer might lie in a hybrid approach: rather that letting you view the full search results for other TLDs (.net, .org, .restaurant, etc) maybe I only display the exact-match domain names if they are available and I do that directly above the .com search results. If you search for “JohnsPizza”, for example, Lean Domain Search will return the standard .com search results, but it also checks whether JohnsPizza.net, JohnsPizza.org, JohnsPizza.food, etc are available.

It might look something like this:

And then maybe based on the search term, it could prioritize how to order the gTLD results. For example, if your search term includes something related to food, then show the food ones (.restaurant, .food, .pizza) above the tech ones (.app, .blog, etc).

It’s a hard problem and one that most of the major registrars are probably looking at right now. It will be interesting to see how it goes.

What do you think? Should Lean Domain Search include search results from the other TLDs or stay focused on .coms? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

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