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How Do New gTLDs Affect SEO?

Posted 17th June, 2014 by Aliysa

As hundreds of new domain names become available, the big question on many marketers’ lips for the last few months has been ‘will the new domain names impact upon SEO?’ It’s been a bit of a mystery for a while how the new TLDs will be treated by search engines, with SEO speculators taking mixed stances. So what does the evidence suggest?

The topic of domain extensions and SEO has been a long-standing debate, dating back before the new TLDs started launching, when it was just .com, .net, etc. Google’s public stance is that their searches return the best results for users, regardless of a sites gTLD. But if you do some hunting you’ll find articles and forum comments contradicting this - that Google prefers .com extensions to .net, for instance.

With the dawn of the new gTLDs, including .guru, .coffee, .shoes plus a dozen hundred more, the debate has been reignited. Search engines have kept relatively quiet on the topic and despite Google stating that one TLD does not have an advantage over another, this was over 2 years ago, and the cynics in all of us have to question whether what Google says, and what Google does, completely aligns.


How Might New gTLDs Affect SEO?

The new TLDs provide site owners the opportunity to register domain names that contain their keywords, which would otherwise be unavailable as a favored .com or .co.uk. Granted they may be available with more obscure extensions, such as .biz or .name, but the new TLDs provide an opportunity to register domains that include keywords, with relevant extensions. For instance, your keywords might be 'SEO agency', but seoagency.com and seoagency.co.uk may be unavailable, and seoagency.biz or seoagency.name are less ideal as they’re less known, therefore less trusted, and make a lot less sense. A good alternative may be seoagency.marketing, which contains the keywords, makes more sense and is a domain with an extension that is untarnished in reputation.

What we don’t know is whether an extension can double up as a keyword, which is picked up by Google and treated identically to the rest of a domain name. I.e. - would ‘bristolguitars.music’ have more ranking potential than ‘bristolguitars.com’ as ‘music’ is a relevant search word?

If keywords in domain extensions do have some sort of SEO weight, then this needs to be considered in the context of EMDs (Exact Match Domains). The example of seoagency.com is an exact match domain if a user searches for ‘SEO agency.’ EMDs used to be popular when search engine algorithms were less complex, but they since have decreased considerably in SEO weight. However, many believe there to still be some ranking weight in EMDs, although it’s another matter that is fiercely debated by marketers. What’s noteworthy in regards to the new gTLDs, is the possibility of ‘super EMDs.’ For instance, ‘searchengine.marketing’ would be an EMD for the term ‘search engine marketing’ and ‘slough.construction’ for the query ‘Slough construction.’ The launch of hundreds of new domain extensions could potentially spark a new wave of EMDs.

Lets not forget another big factor - user perception. .coms and .co.uks are typically seen as the most reliable, proven and certified domain extensions as a rule-of-thumb by users, and tend to have an edge over other extensions on SERPs. So something that will be interesting over the course of the next few years is as how your average browser will perceive new TLDs. Will the likes of .shop, .pub and .rentals gain the trust of users through their descriptive nature, or will they struggle to integrate into a previously rooted web landscape?


How Could New TLDs Be Used In Search?

If you look at country level domains, and how search engines use extensions such as .co.uk to better target those in the UK, the potential of new TLDs to be used in a similar way springs to mind. For instance, for the search ‘travel agency in London’ some extra search weight may be applied to .travel and .london domains, as these sites are more likely to be relevant. At the moment this is no more than speculation about how they could be used, if not now then in the future. Currently we know that new location domains such as .london and .berlin are being treated as gTLDs by Google for the time being.

There’s also the potential for the rise of search by domain extension. It’s little known, but it’s already possible to do this with a Google search, either through a ‘site:.gtld’ query or through the advanced search page. Whereas this feature is of little use for the traditional extensions, it has much more potential for search with new extensions, such as specific locations searches (e.g. .london) and topic searches (like .marketing or .photography). It may be a feature to look out for.


Despite the possibility of new TLDs having some degree of impact upon search engine rankings, what should not be forgotten is that there are many, many factors which determine the contents of organic search results. Though you should put thought into the domain name you choose to register, do not blow its importance out of proportion. On page factors like content and off page factors such as links have larger SEO weighting and offer a lot more to think about.

Categories: SEO, Domains

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