Opportunity #1: Increase search term density in domains
One well understood SEO technique is to maximize the density of search terms in the domain. That’s the idea behind using subdomains for SEO purposes. By eliminating useless words like .com, you can increase that density.
Opportunity #2: Place the most critical search terms in the second level domain
A common Google behavior is to grant better position to pages with the searched term in the second level domain. That’s why microsoft.com does so well on the term microsoft. Unfortunately it’s a difficult fact to make use of since any term with competition for search position most likely doesn’t have the appropriate domains available.
Once you control your own domain space, that all changes. You can generate as many pages as you need to, focusing each on the most perfectly relevant term you seek to win. You can add and remove pages and content as you will to optimize your results.
Opportunity #3: Generate more clicks in any given search position
I’m not aware of any research looking specifically into this question, but it seems likely that a friendly domain will gain more clicks in any given search position than an old-fashioned TLD will. Let’s say you search on laptop. The page at laptop.bestbuy is highly likely to contain useful product information and be a place you can purchase. That’s a strong cue for a consumer to choose this result over other results. Or let’s say a search turns up login.usbank (or for that matter login.paypal). I can imagine the typical visitor feeling more confident that she’s visiting the real bank and not some phishing site - and therefore choosing this option over others.
Remember, nearly 100% of the extensive SEO effort that goes on in the world is for purposes of bringing more visitors to your site. The traffic is the true goal. Search position is just a method of gaining this traffic. If there turns out to be a method of increasing clicks from the same search position, that’s tantamount to improving your position in search results. Being in the #9 spot but getting the same number of clicks as the guy in #8 is every bit as good as being #8. Over time, especially as consumers learn to look for your friendly domain, I expect that preference will just continue to increase.
Note also that these three opportunities apply to your paid search results as well. SEO value influences search placement, potentially putting your listing higher than just your pure bid value would lead one to expect. And increased preference for your listing can increase the return on your SEM spend.
Future proof your SEO strategy
Of course, we’ll have to see exactly how everything shakes out. The algorithms don’t exist today, as do neither the TLDs nor the content under them. So we’ll all be exploring these ideas together.
One thing about which there is no question, however, is that only those of us who obtain our own TLDs will have the opportunity to participate in this upside. Whatever SEO improvements the world identifies, only those on control of a domain space will be positioned to take advantage of them. Right now companies must decide if they want to be a part of that progress, however it shapes up, or if they prefer to sit on the sidelines and let others overtake them.