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SEO and New dot Brand gTLDs

Guillaume Pahud

Search Engines drives traffic to a site that is well ranked for the right keyword

According to a recent study carried out by Custora in the USA, search engines — paid and organic — represent close to 50% of e-commerce orders, compared to 20% for direct entry. A dot brand domain has the potential to boost direct entry, as it can be more memorable than traditional domains. Can dot brand domains also be part of a consistent search engine strategy?

In order to have traffic coming in from search engines, it is necessary to achieve a good ranking: the link in the first position of search engine result page gets 6 times more clicks than the link in the fifth position.

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It is also important that the site is optimised for the right keyword, with enough search volume. For instance, "domain name" is searched 33,100 times per month in google.com, while "gTLD" is searched 1600 times. Being first on a search for "domain name" would generate approximately 20 times more traffic than being first on "gTLD".

How important are domain names in search?

The google algorithm is kept secret, and its artificial intelligence enables it to learn from the past behaviours and trends. This artificial intelligence enables google to show a different result page to every user, based on their profile and search history. It is therefore very difficult to have an exact list of criteria that play a role in the search rankings.

Many specialists try to decrypt and anticipate the algorithm. Moz.com is animating a community of more than 2 million specialists, and every year publishes a list of 90 factors influencing search engine rankings. Every factor is weighted from 1 (meaning the factor has no direct influence) to 10 (meaning that the factor has a strong influence on ranking).

Some of these factors do no depend on the keyword. For instance, the number and the quality of inbound links will show that a domain is more authoritative, and that it should therefore be ranked better. Some factors depend on the keyword — such as the number of keyword matches in body text. The global study is available on here on Moz.

The domain name related factors fall into three main categories:

  1. Factors related to the domain characteristics: These factors include the age of the domain, the duration until expiration, the length of the domain etc.. The corresponding influence score varies from 2.45 to 5.37, which means that they have a relatively low influence.
  2. Factors related to the execution of the strategy: These factors are much more important, and they depend on how well the domain name is marketed and operated by the brand. The raw popularity of the domain. i.e. the number of links pointing to the domain, has a weight of 7.15, while the quantity of citations for the domain name across the web are weighted 6.26.
  3. Factors related to the presence of keywords: There are five factors that are directly linked to the presence of the keyword in the domain name, depending if they are in the root domain name, in the extension or if they are an exact match. These factors have a relatively low impact, with a score varying between 2.55 until 5.83, the highest being when the search corresponds to the exact match root domain name.

Dot brand performance review

In order to check the actual performance of the dot brand domains, we performed searches on the brand name and on the second level domain used by the brand. The analysis was performed on the 60 brands that are significantly ranked in the search engine, corresponding to around 250 websites. The full study is available to our members, but here are some of our findings:

  • Presence of dot brand domains when searching for the brand name:
    • 13% of the searches resulted in a "dot brand" domain names on the first position. Home.cern, group.pictet or engineeringandconstruction.sener are among these domains.
    • 65% of the first result page included at one dot brand domain.
  • Local and global optimization:
    • Barclays TLD is targeting international customers more that local UK: dot barclays is better ranked on google.com than on google.co.uk.
    • Inversely, Praxi targets Italians more than international customers; dot praxi is better ranked on google.it than on google.com
  • Brand and other keywords:
    • BNPParibas and Sener have optimised their search on both searches on brand name and on the keywords from their second level domain name.
    • Some brands such as weir, fage or cern, have optimised search for their brand name, but the keywords chosen for their second level domain are generic and do not give back a very good ranking. usa.fage.
    • Brands such as BMW focused on searches for the second level domain name more than on their brand name. next100.bmw is better ranked when searching for next 100 than for bmw.

Conclusion

A number of brand TLD owners have launched their dot brand domain names together with a clear SEO strategy. Their dot brand websites are very well ranked when searching for the brand name of the keyword composing the second level domain name. Certain brands have not optimised their site and therefore have a poor ranking.

The SEO component of a launch of a dot brand domain must be carefully planned and operated. Dot brand site benefit from the presence of a keyword and a brand name in the domain name. This can help the brand go the extra mile, and will be efficient after the site and the content and the other domain factors have been optimised.

By Guillaume Pahud, CEO
Related topics: Domain Names, New TLDs, Web
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