May 30, 2014
When it comes to the complicated minefield (or money factory…) of new gTLDs, those of us working in SEO really just have one question on our minds: how will the new .something domain extensions affect search results and rankings?
The short answer? They won’t. The longer, more complex one? They might, but no one can really be sure how just yet.
It seems like the only significant benefit of the new gTLDs (other than simply opening up the internet to more people, thanks to more available websites) will be the easy authentication of legitimate companies. People just don’t type in web addresses anymore. Google and other search engines like Yahoo and Bing (not to mention Safari – .LOL) are the go-to for anyone looking for anything on the internet. I personally can’t even remember the last time I typed in a web address instead of just putting key words into my Google Chrome search bar. Even if I do, my iPhone has a “.com” button that speeds up the process. Because of this, the only obviously significant way, other than authenticity and increased freedom in choosing names, that companies can potentially benefit from the new LTD system will be through search rankings.
So what’s the likelihood of that actually happening?
An article on moz.com in 2012 highlighted that the impact Exact-Match Domains had on search ranking was declining. It seems clear that EMDing doesn’t provide any kind of boost for SEO. Bing’s search results are influenced more by EMDs than Google’s, and with everything related to new gTLDs so up in the air right now, I wonder if some search engines will respond differently from Google and its prom king status online.
Google has been kind of vague so far in telling us how their search algorithm might change as a result of these new LTDs, with no official alterations being announced. Having invested over $18 million for 100+ new LTDs in the first wave of .selling, it seemed likely that Google would eventually change their current practice of not favoring domain names in search results. However, Google’s SEO Gandalf, Matt Cutts, released a statement declaring that “Google will attempt to rank new TLDs appropriately, but I don’t expect a new TLD to get any kind of initial preference over .com, and I wouldn’t bet on that happening in the long-term either. If you want to register an entirely new TLD for other reasons, that’s your choice, but you shouldn’t register a TLD in the mistaken belief that you’ll get some sort of boost in search engine rankings.”
So there you have it. Straight from the unicorn’s mouth. Some people still wonder if Cutts’ claims were white lies, but for now, we have no reason to disbelieve what he says. Arguably the biggest driver of consumer behavior online, Google’s plan of action regarding the new LTDs will affect a lot about the internet as we know it.
Regardless of how Google responds to new gTLDs when it comes to rankings, some domain extensions may rank better purely because their domains make them more appealing to the average internet user. An improved CTR (Click-through rate) will organically help the rankings of a website, so a company may benefit from having a more “attractive” TLD.
Though a lot of people feel mild disgust at the idea of search engines favoring TLDs in their rankings, there could be other benefits to a newer system. For example, geographic TLDs such as .london could be useful to people searching for information – if someone searches “things to do in London”, it would make sense that results also including “.london” in their domain name would be favored. This logic isn’t perfect though, as .london is currently open for pre-registry at GoDaddy.com, so technically anyone could buy a domain that ends in .london. The last thing we want is another way for online spammers to trick us into visiting their sites…
It seems that the jury will be out, (and debating fervently), for a while when it comes to the new gTLDs. Only time will really tell how they impact SEO and the internet as we know it, so my advice is for you to stay updated, don’t believe everything you hear, and try not to feel too overwhelmed by the barrage of contrasting information available to you! I mean, if Facebook hasn’t invested, we’ve probably got some time…