SEO

Non–Latin Character Domain Names – Why Should We Care?

An interesting thing happened last week. Scarily enough it was brought to my attention, not from my usual RSS feeds, but rather from my sister, who usually runs screaming from phrases like SEO and online marketing.   She was listening to NPR on her drive home from a weekend trip when a news story came on about the recent approval of non-Latin characters in domain names.  After hearing this news, I immediately did some research and found some articles related to what the future holds for international domain names and international online marketing.

Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) announced on October 30, 2009 that they have approved the introduction of domain names containing non-Latin characters. These domain names will be called “Internationalized” domain names (IDN’s) and, according to Rod Beckstrom, ICANN’s President and CEO, “This is only the first step, but it is an incredibly big one and an historic move toward the internationalization of the Internet.”

Prior to this change domain names were restricted to Latin characters – the 26 characters in the English alphabet, ten numerals, and the hyphen.

It will allow nations and territories to apply for Internet extensions reflecting their name and scripts in like Chinese Hebrew, Hindi, and Korean will be allowed in the URLs.   Presently these IDN only applies to certain country codes such as .jp for Japan, .cn for China, or .ru for Russia.  Top Level Domain (TLD) names such as .com, .net and .gov, for the moment will remain in the Latin character form.

Why do we care?

I began to think about how this will affect online marketing as a whole, especially when it comes to branding and search engine optimization.  Here is something to think about and why perhaps we should care.

Will global brands now have to purchase their IDN also?  According to the Middle East North Africa Financial Network, companies will probably be encouraged to purchase their domain names in non-Latin script languages to prevent others purchasing them and creating “spoof” websites.  What is a spoof website you ask?  According to Wikipedia, spoofing a website is the “act of creating a website, as a hoax, with the intention of misleading readers that the website has been created by a different person or organization.” This means people could be tricked into logging into a site they think is real, when it is, in fact, the “spoofed” or fake site.  For sites that ask for personal information, this could open the door to fraud.  Substituting a non Latin character for a Latin character creates a completely unique URL that looks just like the domain name the reader is familiar with.

While IDN’s have been approved only recently, I feel those involved with online marketing should be aware of this change and begin to brainstorm the implications for global brands and the internet as a whole.

In conclusion, I thought you might be interested in listening to an interview with Google’s CEO, Eric Schmidt on what he feels the internet will look like in five years.

Here’s the full version of that interview:

6ce2ffdfe564c2d39eaf61ac19493b05 64 Non–Latin Character Domain Names – Why Should We Care?
Victoria Edwards has been working in SEO and Social Media for eight years and currently works for GuideWell, a health and wellness e-commerce startup, based in Jacksonville, Florida. Victoria is their Marketing Manager and focuses on Social Media, PR and Blogging for the company. You can find her tweeting under the handle @TallChickVic.
6ce2ffdfe564c2d39eaf61ac19493b05 64 Non–Latin Character Domain Names – Why Should We Care?

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9 thoughts on “Non–Latin Character Domain Names – Why Should We Care?

  1. I completely agree that there should be domains in Cyrillic at least. Just because as part of EU we have the right to write in languages that are official in EU. This applies to domain names as well. It will be a bit harder for us, SEO professionals, but still we’ll have to adapt.

  2. I might be misunderstanding this article, but non-latin characters are already supported on many TLDs. For example, I have a URL shortener at this domain:

    http://維.net
    (Not sure how that will get rendered in your comments)

    From the ICANN article, I think the new thing is allowing non latin characters in the TLD suffixes.

    Will browsers still be required to change all IDNs to punycode (the xn-- version) once they are allowed in the TLD?

  3. Heh =) So you like the Cyrillic doamins? =) I really don’t. This is because:

    1. The Russian internet will become even spammier that before. The “spoof” sites will be popping up like crazy.. somebody might steal your brand name, and then good luck with trying to get it back in Russia hehe =)

    2. It’s too much hustle to type the domain in Cyrillic and then switch the keyboard to Latin to type the TLD. I think people will still use latin more. People are lazy!

    3. Right now you can create URLs for pages in Cyrillic (like WIkipedia does for example). Try to copy and paste a URL from Wikipedia somewhere.. It will look like http://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D0%9F%D0%B0%D0%BD%D0%B0%D0%BC%D0%B0 .. although it says “Panama” in Cyrillic in my browser.. Imagine if the domains will look the same way? Annoying huh?

    Besides, SEO-wise .. from my experience, Yandex (talking about Russia, we are talking Yandex, right?) does not give so much weight to keywords in the URLs, neither Cyrillic or Latin characters in the URLs make any difference for your rankings…

    I am very curious however what they will say about these Cyrillic domains. No official announcement was made so far.

  4. Just a little confusion: weren’t IDNs around for a long time? I own 4 of them, all of which I’ve purchased last year, but I’m pretty sure they have been around way before that (registrars like Godaddy have been offering them for years). Does this article mean that the actual extension will be in non-Latin characters, like the .com part?

  5. I am very interesting how a domain name Cyrillic or Latin will affect the ranking in google. For example what kind of domain are you going to buy if you would like to make a eshop for echography apparatus – ехограф.бг or echograf.bg. If you use a translitaration tool between Latin and Cyrillic the result will be ехограф.бг=echgraf.bg. Should I buy both of them?

    The situation with the domains have to be similar with the company foundation in the Cyrillic countries. If you have registered company with Latin name you have rights of the transliterated Cyrillic name as well.

  6. I am very interesting how a domain name Cyrillic or Latin will affect the ranking in google. For example what kind of domain are you going to buy if you would like to make a eshop for echography apparatus – ехограф.бг or echograf.bg. If you use a translitaration tool between Latin and Cyrillic the result will be ехограф.бг=echgraf.bg. Should I buy both of them?

    The situation with the domains have to be similar with the company foundation in the Cyrillic countries. If you have registered company with Latin name you have rights of the transliterated Cyrillic name as well.