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From Toad to Princess - New TLDs Are No Magical Wand in the Kingdom of Search Engines

Hans Seeuws

Co-authored by David Hallam, Business Development Director NCC Group and Hans Seeuws, Managing Director OpenRegistry.

Google has posted details on Ranking of new gTLDs (new gTLDs) in search. John Mueller, Webmaster Trends Analyst, said that new gTLD's will be treated the same as other gTLD's such as .com. He stated: "Overall, our systems treat new gTLDs like other gTLDs (like .com & .org). Keywords in a TLD do not give any advantage or disadvantage in search." The ambiguous use of the word "overall" in the statement, may leave some doubt as to whether the 600 .brands — new domain extensions operated by brand owners — are included or excluded in any VIP search ranking treatment. One could speculate that the vague wording is perhaps driven by commercial reasons. If Google had announced that all domains within a .brand domain extension would be valued higher, why would those same brands then bother to register their names in any of Google's new domain extensions such as .home or .site?

Google's comment on new domain name ranking wasn't the first of its kind. The message became somewhat of a mantra each time an SEO study around new Internet extensions claimed to have discovered a domain ending that brings specific search benefits.

  • German search engine optimisation specialist Searchmetrics found what appeared to be a 1.18 position improvement in .berlin domains when web users were searching for information while physically located in Berlin. Search engines often use your IP address to deliver better results.
  • Total Websites took screenshots that appeared to show how a domain ending in ".company" would do better than an equivalent dot-com domain if someone used the term "company" in their search. It found the same pattern across other new domain extensions as well.

A domain extension — whether or not it contains a keyword — is only one part of the entire URL. It's no magical wand that will transform any toad into a high ranking Google princess. Far more relevant is that .brands can utilise their seizable investment to create a domain naming strategy that aligns with consumer search behavior. Combined with proven SEO methods, this can pave the way to 'click through rate' heaven.

The Only Way for .brands Is Up

Having full control over every character between the two dots unleashes a powerful weapon with several ways for .brands to attract attention.

  1. The presence of search terms in the domain name leads to higher organic rankings or a better ad quality score in pay-per-click ad ranking algorithms. Studies show that using the ideal generic name produced 45 per cent more clicks on an ad. Don't make a term like 'home', 'domains', or 'nic' your online operating basis, but look for keywords that match closely with what your customers are searching for.
  2. Shorter snappy titles get read first — myproduct.brand instead of brand.com/myproduct
  3. We tend to give more attention to words at the end of a sentence or line. .brands will shift the consumer's attention away from a generic .com towards a meaningful and relevant brand.
  4. Last but not least: keywords in a search show up in bold in the URL. How's that for an online neon sign?

"The fundamental way to increase your rank is to increase your relevance," Google CEO Eric Schmidt quote. Billions of Internet users each day decide what is relevant and what is not, by clicking. The more that new .brand domain extensions start actively using their extension AND host content rich sites, the more Internet users will prefer URLs that they know and trust, and click on them. The more visitors, the better the click rate, one of the search metrics that factor in determining a search engine rank.

Things to Consider when Launching Your .brand

  • Consistency in domain naming - If you type in www.example.brand, but then your type in just example.brand and the "www" does not redirect to www.example.brand, that means the search engines are seeing two different sites. This isn't effective for your overall SEO efforts as it will dilute your inbound links, as external sites will be linking to www.example.com and example.com.
  • Bad redirects -Shifting from a .com to a new .brand domain extension requires the right precautionary measures to avoid the risk of causing search engine issues. Set up the redirects on a page-to-page basis such that sub-folders and deep content pages are redirected to corresponding sub-folders and deep content pages on the new domain. SEO specialists should avoid redirecting all pages from one domain to the homepage of another domain.
  • Duplicate content - If you decide to build your new domain extension AND keep the .com alive at the same time, there needs to be sufficiently different content on each website to avoid a duplicate content penalty.
  • Frivolous forwarding - Registering domain names and redirecting them to another site has long been a practice employed for SEO reason. Though this has been effective in the past, Google largely devalues URLs that simply forward.

One More Thing…

Google is trying to find the most relevant search results, not the sites that best game the system. And relevance and brands are closely linked according to Schmidt, back in 2008 he said: "The Internet is fast becoming a cesspool where false information thrives. Brands are the solution, not the problem. Brands are how you sort out the cesspool." Not a single brand has paid the $185,000 ICANN application fee to game the search engine system. What better way for a brand to be considered relevant online than to create its own gated community and put a lid on that cesspool?

By Hans Seeuws, Managing Director at OpenRegistry

Related topics: Top-Level Domains, Web

 
   
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Comments

I don't think we should put too Christopher Hofman Laursen  –  Aug 05, 2015 12:23 AM PDT

I don't think we should put too much into official Google statements. Over the last years Google favours brands over non brands in the SERPs. Think up five major brands in any industry and try to do a Google search for a "purchase intent" keyword (e.g. "Book a trip") and you will see brands, brands and brands on page 1.
Dot brand is only one more signal to Google that this is a serious brand, so I'm certain that changing domain is a win. While it's the right thing to do long term, don't forget that there are people in every organisation putting their jobs on the line when doing the switch - why fix something which isn't broken - so it does take some b.... to make the move.

Not the First Time Google Has Made This Statement Bill Hartzer  –  Aug 05, 2015 4:01 PM PDT

Interesting article--I'm glad that you brought these issues up. It turns out that this isn't the first time that Google has publicly made a statement on how their organic search engine algorithm deals with the new extensions. First time for an actual blog post about it that we have all paid attention to. Google's Matt Cutts addressed this issue in a YouTube video back in 2012, nearly three years ago: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ldFPcJZulXQ and their stance hasn't really changed, which isn't unexpected.

All domain names and URLs are treated the same from the beginning. It only makes sense for Google to do that, from an SEO perspective. Google doesn't need to give any preference to certain extensions, as the key ranking factors are not related to the domain name itself: the quality of the content on the and off-page or off-site factors. That doesn't mean that a keyword rich domain name won't help rankings, though. If you have a keyword rich domain name or new extension, then other sites tend to mention your site, refer to your site, and use keywords to describe your site. It's those type of factors that could ultimately influence rankings, not any preference that Google might give "just because" you have a keyword rich new extension or domain.

Certain domain name extensions that require domain owners meet certain qualifications isn't necessarily Google's issue, either. Other websites could choose to only link to certain websites with high standards (like an Attorney directory only listing .attorney sites). It's not Google's decision, but Google's algorithm may tend to really like that particular directory. It's not Google directly deciding on the preference of .attorney domain names or sites with that extension.

When it comes to PPC, Google AdWords, and keyword preferences of Google AdWords, the Memorable Domains study is helpful, but not necessarily relevant to this article. What's more interesting is the research that Globe Runner has done to study the effects keyword rich new extensions versus .com domains: https://globerunner.com/com-vs-new-gtld-domain-names-8-months-later/ that shows the results of testing .COM versus the new extensions.

The Domain Name Association has recently released a white paper about SEO and Domain Names that addresses several of these issues, and moving to a dot brand domain.

Finally, the statement "Not a single brand has paid the $185,000 ICANN application fee"… is untrue, as I recall Barclay's bank already using a .barclays domain name, and several others that I won't mention.

Fully agree, Bill, but can you explain Christopher Hofman Laursen  –  Aug 05, 2015 10:33 PM PDT

Fully agree, Bill, but can you explain the case of coffee.club, where it does seem that Google ranked them on the term "coffee club" solely due to the domain name? An early experiment?

http://blog.europeandomaincentre.com/google-reads-coffee-club-as-coffee-club/

Christopher Hofman Laursen, just like I mentioned, Bill Hartzer  –  Aug 06, 2015 9:23 AM PDT

Christopher Hofman Laursen, just like I mentioned, it's NOT the domain name itself that is giving the boost to the coffee.club rankings. It's the fact that the anchor text used is boosting the ranking. A lot of the anchor text used is the site's URL, which contains their keywords, that helps rankings.

So, if you have a keyword rich domain (.com or even a new extension) then it just helps--people will link to you with your preferred keywords.

So what you're saying is that Google Christopher Hofman Laursen  –  Aug 07, 2015 5:06 AM PDT

So what you're saying is that Google actually gives keyword value to the right side of the dot. That's a pretty important finding. Meaning if you want to rank for buy gold, then if people link to buy.club using the anchor text buy.club Google will read it as buy gold?

Christopher Hofman Laursen, I don't think I Bill Hartzer  –  Aug 08, 2015 11:21 AM PDT

Christopher Hofman Laursen, I don't think I ever said or meant to imply that Google gives keyword value to the right of the dot.

What I'm saying is that ANY url has the same chance to rank as any other URL. It could be the domain name, it could be an actual page or file (such as a .PDF file) that ranks.

If you want to rank for "buy gold" and people link to www.buy.club then Google will potentially rank it for "buy gold".

If you DO have a keyword rich domain, including one that has a keyword in the extension, then it's more likely that people will link to you using those keyword(s). So that's why you're ranking.

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