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Will New gTLDs Give Ranking a Boost?
Written by David Iwanow
Tuesday, 27 March 2012 13:00

Now before you get back up on that soap box quoting Matt Cutt's recent Google+ response to Adrian Kinderis, let me explain why I think they will.

The issue arose when Mr Kinderis stated that the new gTLDS would trump .COM domains and rise to the top of Google SERPs and quickly received a hosing down via Matt Cutts on the issue. There is certainly conflict of interest for Mr Kinderis to say that it will help SEO and for Mr Cutts to say that it doesn’t help your SEO.

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Earlier last year SEOs were making whole bunch of noise about how Google's new algorithm was favouring big brands. This discussion came from Google's brand algorithm which was better able to understand brands due to their authoritative links, volume of branded search queries, and external social factors.

At first glance it seems that the new gTLDs tick all those boxes to keep Googlebot happy, so there might be some substance to Adrian's claims. Also the article points out that the new gTLDs may have a higher CTR which could be a viable ranking factor at some point so it will help one of many signals to some level.

Trust Factors?

Even if you are still paying retail prices, anyone can register a domain from $6.99/year, which is a very low barrier for entry for anyone to setup a website. This compares to the new gTLDs, which require a company to submit an initial USD$5,000 deposit which is followed by the remaining USD$180,000 with your full application.

This is followed by a proof that you have financial support for at least 3 years to keep your new gTLD registry operational even if your business plan fails.This requirement would support the general idea that any company/brand seeking a TLD has a far higher barrier to entry so should guarantee some level of quality.

While this doesn't guarantee that the business or brands using the new gTLDs won't spam the hell out of Google from the assumed safety of their new gTLDs, I believe they are still going to benefit from Google's brand algorithm.

New TLDs vs Existing TLDs

It seems that Google has always shown a preference for sending more global traffic to top-level domains like .com but will the same will occur with the new gTLDs. The only issue might be that Google may struggle to understand the geographic relevance to its users of new gTLDs and force you to be associated with where your company is based.

So, the new gTLDs might not be the perfect solution to reach a global audience if you’re chasing global traffic and registered in an offshore tax haven, meaning you might be screwed from day one.

Who is entitled to that gTLD domain?

A quick example is the Australian Football League. They’re applying for .AFL. But what happens if the American trade union AFL-CIO also wanted that same domain? The question is around new gTLDs string similarity that might be triumphant if multiple applications are chasing the same extension.

You can also quickly use ICANN’s string similarity assessment tool to compare your new gTLDs against existing TLDs and any reserved names, but it’s still going to be a land rush to secure that premium domain.

Domainers may lose out?

Currently the Australian Football League doesn't own AFL.com, and the price that they would have to pay would likely be much more that it would cost to apply to create the new .AFL domain.

I would assume some of the perceived value of holding a global .com domain may have slipped with the ability for businesses/brands to register whatever they want, and they may no longer care to over pay for their .com variation.

Just because Facebook paid $8.5 million for FB.com in the past doesn't mean it will happen again. They might just decide $185,000 for .FB is cheaper next time.

Exact Match Domain Fail?

Last year I thought I would test the relevance of whether Google would accept a whole domain as an exact match, so I registered the domain hack applianc.es. But so far, other than it branding well, there hasn't been any instant SEO win.

So the question will be how much money might be gambled by organisations/brands on trying to secure that perfect domain hack to spell out dictionary words for marketing or SEO purposes.

So while Matt Cutt's is technically right that your new gTLD won't offer magical powers, big brands will likely bring enough authority to their new domains to rise to the top of the SERPs based on brand algorithm and investment in SEO.

Also, exact match domains can do wonders in PPC campaigns and could certainly better guide offline marketing activities to digital marketing but you need to ensure you invest in making the domain work.

What About Branding?

I would assume some of the biggest brands or those operating in the most competitive industry verticals would be the primary applicants who have the most to benefit from gTLDs. Some of the many gTLDs that have been discussed in media or most likely to appear soon:

  • Gambling - .poker, .betting, .888, .casino, .odds
  • Location - .nyc, .usa, .cali, .nsw, .sydney
  • Travel - .flights, .hotels, .tickets, .rooms
  • Retail - .westfield, .asos, .amazon, .shopping, .gifts, .eBay
  • Insurance - .policy, .quotes, .rates, .insurance
  • Finance - .bank, .loans, .credit, .savings, .bankrupt
  • Fashion - .shoes, .skirts, .tshirts, .fashion,
  • Technology - .nfc, .rfid, .ipv6
  • Marketing - .sales, .clients, .leads, .brands
  • Real Estate - .property, .estate, .rent

Indemnity from the US Government?

It's also not clear if the move to the new gTLDs might offer online businesses some protection from US government seizure of poker domains as happened last year? If this is the case then it could offer businesses a higher level of protection for the new gTLDs that the US government won't shut down your site. It's unlikely but any extra level of insurance for gambling sites and would be a strong benefit for securing their own domain.

Consumers Don't Understand Most Existing TLDs

Microsoft’s research on issue of domain bias in web search shows it could flip a user’s preference around 25% of the time. But I believe most businesses and certainly most consumers seem to struggle to remember beyond a handful of existing domains which ones can be trusted.

There is certainly a hesitation by businesses to build a business off an .info or .biz domain and the number of alternative options often appears overwhelming to new businesses trying to protect their brands/trademarks.

Unless carefully planned, more gTLDs will further confuse consumers/customers by offering .anything extensions, leading to a possible loss of trust in new unknown domains.

I’ve seen that typically ccTLDs seem to perform better in localised Google searchers and most users seem to understand .com is global but a .com.au or .co.uk would more likely be a localised version.

As much as brands will likely spend insane amounts of money on advertising their new custom domains, its likely consumers will be confused and end up Googling your brand/product anyway as most struggle to recall URLs used in advertising. If your consumers are having trouble remembering your current domains, making up new extensions won’t likely help your case.

New TLDs are Great for Mobile

Think about how easy it will be to enter into your mobile device Movies.Westfield to find local theatres/times or Bondi.Westfield to get access to center operating hours, outlets or discount coupons. These don't directly relate to mobile SEO but do make it much easier for consumers to ensure they are visiting the authentic website, if they know it exists.

Do Google Bans Await gTLDs?

Just as Google decided back in July 2011 to ban the whole .CO.CC domains, it is possible if you upset Google you might find your brand new TLDs thrown out of the index. So while your keyword friendly subdomains still seemed to be working as part of your SEO activities, if you over-optimise across your whole portfolio you could get caught out with an expensive gTLD that doesn't appear in Google. With some very aggressive competition it’s easy to see this happening very quickly if someone secured .Insurance as a gTLD both for PPC but also for SEO:

  • Vehicles.insurance
  • Vehicle.insurance
  • Motor.insurance
  • Car.insurance
  • Cars.insurance
  • Auto.insurance
  • Autos.insurance

If done with some self control, I really do think that it can be done really well and certainly some awesome campaigns and tests could be done to discover what URL delivers the best CTR or conversion rates.

Give It a Go If you Have the Budget!

So if that last response to buy the .com version of your brand as part of your global aspirations was too high, why not use these new gTLDs as a bargaining tool?

If you are working in an organisation or with a brand that is dipping their toe in the water I would be interested to hear in the comments below if it was for branding, SEO, brand protection or something else.

David Iwanow -

David Iwanow used to run his own agency but can now be found working inside digital marketing agency Amnesia Razorfish. I enjoy a bit of social, love some web analytics data, and try to make sense of affiliate marketing and performance marketing. also hook up via Read More >>


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Last Updated on Tuesday, 27 March 2012 13:24
 

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