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What Do The New Generic Top-Level Domains Mean For Webmasters?

June 27, 2014 0 Comments RSS Feed

New Top Level Domains and SEO for webmasters

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re probably aware that domain registrars and web hosting companies have started to offer a large number of new generic top-level domains. There is some confusion among web hosting clients as to the status of these new domains, so I thought it would be useful to explain what they are, why they were created, and the potential benefits to hosting clients.

What Is A Generic Top-Level Domain?

Top-level domains are the final part of a bare domain name; “.com”, “.net”, and “.me” are all common examples of TLDs. Domain names come in a couple of different varieties: generic domain names (gTLD) and country-code domain names (ccTLD). The latter are intended to be used for sites that have a relationship to a specific geographic area, “.fr” and “.jp”, for example, although that is somewhat complicated by the way Google regards some ccTLDs, such as “.me”, the ccTLD for Montenegro, which for SEO purposes are treated the same as a generic TLD. As the name suggests, gTLDs have no ties to specific regions, and can be used by anyone. There are other top-level domains with a slightly different status, like “.cat”, but for our purposes the distinction between gTLDs and ccTLDs is sufficient.

Until fairly recently there were only a handful of gTLDs, around twenty or so. As anyone who has tried to come up with a short and original domain name knows, the small number of gTLDs makes it difficult for companies and individuals to register something appropriate — all the good domain names are already taken. In an effort to help companies brand themselves, expand the namespace of the domain name system, and raise money, ICANN, the organization that manages the DNS, has been slowly working through a process for increasing the number of generic top-level domains from a couple of dozen to several hundred. Late last year the new gTLDs started to come online, with more coming in the future.

Will A New gTLD Hurt My SEO?

In short, no. New generic top-level domains are treated exactly the same as a domain like “.com”, at least for the present. Google is interested in returning the best results regardless of the domain, and although its algorithms make take some hints from a TLD like “.plumbing” as to the content of a site, it’s unlikely choosing a particular gTLD is going to harm your ranking, all else being equal. From a branding perspective, obviously it’s better not to use “.plumbing” if your company makes violins, but that’s a different issue.

Will A New gTLD Help My SEO?

Again, no. Some in the SEO industry have seized on the new gTLDs as a potential strategy for improving ranking, but, according to Matt Cutts, head of Google’s webspam team, that’s not the case, so don’t transfer your site to a new gTLD in the hope of getting special treatment in the SERPs.

When Should You Choose A New gTLD?

You can use the new gTLDs much as you would the older generic domain names. Obviously, it’s better to choose a domain name that’s relevant to your business and that will improve the branding potential of your web address: “franksmith.plumbing” communicates more than “franksmith.com”, but otherwise, there’s not much difference from the perspective of web masters except a far larger pool of top-level domain names to choose from.

Posted in: Nexcess