Note: This article about generic top-level domains was originally published in 2012. Since then, it has become clear that Google’s preference is a .com domain. If you’re looking for ways to attract traffic to your site, your best options are a website redesign or hiring an SEO agency.
Thinking of forking over $185,000 for one of ICANN’s generic top-level domains? While it may boost your brand, it won’t boost your SEO.
What are Generic Top-Level Domains?
Top-level domains, or TLDs, are the part of the web address to right of the dot, like .com and .ca. There are currently 324 TLDs, 22 of which are generic top-level domains, or gTLDs, which must consist of 3 or more characters.
ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, is currently accepting applications for the chance to create and manage new gTLDs. The new extensions can essentially be any word, including branded suffixes such as .apple or .cocacola, or generic keywords such as .food or .fashion. It’s a way for businesses to purchase a better reflection of their brand, or even profit by selling sub domains.
ICANN calls the new gTLDs “a platform for the next generation of creativity and inspiration,” but many companies see them as a strategic move towards better rankings. But will a keyword after the dot actually have an effect on search engine optimization?
Google says no.
Google Responds to Claims About Generic Top-Level Domains
Matt Cutts, head of Google’s webspam team, finally squashed the rumours in a Google+ post, saying organizations “shouldn’t register a TLD in the mistaken belief that you’ll get some sort of boost in search engine rankings.”
The post was in response to an op ed written by Adrian Kinderis, CEO of a Top Level Domain Name Registry Service, for Marketing Magazine.
“Will a new TLD web address automatically be favoured by Google over a .com equivalent?” Kinderis wrote. “Quite simply, yes it will.”
Google has been known to consider a website’s domain suffix in its search engine before—a .ca website is more likely to appear in Canadian search results, for example—but the new keyword-rich top-level domains will not having any bearing on search rankings.
“Sorry, but that’s just not true, and as an engineer in the search quality team at Google, I feel the need to debunk this misconception. Google has a lot of experience in returning relevant web pages, regardless of the top-level domain (TLD). 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.”