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Google: Not All ccTLD's Are Created Equally in Generic Search Rankings

Michael Berkens

There is a very interesting video posted on YouTube.com from Matt Cutts of Google who answered the question about how ccTLD's are viewed by Google especially when they are being used as domain hacks.

Here is the question:

"We have a vanity domain (http://ran.ge) that unfortunately isn't one of the generic TLDs, which means we can't set our geographic target in Webmaster Tools. Is there any way to still target our proper location?"

In the 2:30 minute video, Matt Cutts makes it clear that not all ccTLD's are going to be treated the same by Google:

As the domain space gets more exhaustive in .com, people are getting more creative using domain names like Ma.tt which is owned by Matt Mullenweg of WordPress.com, which is a very cool domain, but is the country code for Trinidad and Tobago.

Many others are using words that end in .es, and we see a lot of startups that have been using .io (Indian Ocean).

When using these ccTLD as either domain hacks or just because they make a cool domain name or brand, Matt Cutts is saying you have to be VERY careful otherwise the domain is going to be treated as a ccTLD and thought by Google to be only targeting residents the country the ccTLD represents.

"You have to think hard, if its going to be thought of as an international domain or a country code."

Matt calls out .co specifically as one which is treated as generic by Google and not as the ccTLD of Colombia.

"In some sense it comes down to a little bit of a call when a domain becomes truly generic, appropriate to the entire world."

"So like .Co, which I think used to be for Colombia. has become a generic like another .com"

"But if you're using an .es for a word that ends in .es or .li domain, which I understand is being used by a lot of businesses located in Long Island, because it's really a cool address, you have to be careful because in the case of .es we are going to think its related to Spain and in the case of .li we are going to associate it as targeting residents of Lichtenstein because 99% of the domain in use are related to those countries".

"Otherwise everyone starts to use crazy random domain names and they lose the sense of what they were originally intended for and that could be a bad experience for everyone".

A MUST see Video for anyone using or considering using ccTLD especially as a domain hacks.

By Michael Berkens, President of Worldwide Media, Inc.. Michael H. Berkens is a member of the Florida Bar, President of Worldwide Media, Inc. which owns over 75,000 domain name, a Director in RightoftheDot.com and writes a blog at TheDomains.com.

Related topics: Domain Names, Top-Level Domains, Web


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And What About Google's Treatment Of .LA Over The Past DECADE??? Ray Marshall  –  Mar 01, 2013 10:15 PM PDT

Curious why Google treats .CO as a generic and .LA as a ccTLD (see http://www.google.la) even though .LA has been officially marketed for the Los Angeles Metropolitan Area for the past decade (see http://www.la).  Google has ignored my request for an answer to this observation.  Seems like they do not have the courage to address their double standard.

How did you raise the question? The Famous Brett Watson  –  Mar 02, 2013 12:48 AM PDT

Google has ignored my request for an answer to this observation.

How did you raise the question? They don't exactly engage with the public very much, except on their own terms, so the fact that they've ignored your request is hardly surprising: they ignore almost everything that everyone says about them or asks them, unless they consider it to be of sufficient importance to address. Not that I'm singling Google out for this behaviour: most large companies are similarly stony and unresponsive until the matter is big enough to be a PR issue.

Simple Ray Marshall  –  Mar 02, 2013 7:15 AM PDT

I contacted Google via their investor relations department.

Google probably treats all ISO 3166 country Todd Knarr  –  Mar 02, 2013 10:52 AM PDT

Google probably treats all ISO 3166 country code TLDs as ccTLDs by default, then makes exceptions for those that show wide-spread usage as generic TLDs. The difference between how .CO and .LA are treated is probably because .CO shows up in a lot of domains being used as a generic, while .LA doesn't (the reference here is the first time I've seen a site in that domain). It's not a double standard so much as "Show us actual usage first (and don't try blowing smoke, we can see our own search results the same as you can), until then we'll follow the official standards.".

You Are Missing The Point Ray Marshall  –  Mar 02, 2013 11:24 AM PDT

If Google is willing to treat .CO in that fashion, i.e., treat this domain as a gTLD based on a particular usage, then why not use www.google.la for Los Angeles instead of Laos since this domain is officially being marketed for that geographical region (and has been for over a decade which, IMHO, is not blowing smoke)?  Many individuals and businesses in LA have been using .LA for several years (see http://www.erhs.la or http://www.millertoyota.la for two examples).  Unfortunately, the current use of www.google.la leads to consumer confusion, i.e., is .LA for Los Angeles or Laos.

Because Google doesn't look at how it's Todd Knarr  –  Mar 02, 2013 11:49 AM PDT

Because Google doesn't look at how it's marketed, it looks at how it's used. IOW, are businesses in the LA area routinely showing up in search results on .LA domains. You can market it however much you want, but if people aren't using it that way Google likely just shrugs and goes with the official definition.

It's the difference between looking at what marketing departments are spending money advertising vs. looking at what people are actually buying in the store.

Not Just Marketing Ray Marshall  –  Mar 02, 2013 12:25 PM PDT


Usage seems to be key Samit Madan  –  Mar 04, 2013 12:05 AM PDT

Basically Google's algorithm doesn't look at marketing or how we hope it would, what Matt is saying that it depends on geo locations and usage patterns.

In that sense .TV, .ME & .IN can also be similarly slotted as international gtlds given their wide user base worldwide.


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