Can the New Domain Extensions Improve SEO?

November 6, 2015   //   SEO, , ,

At SWC, one of the core digital marketing components we provide our clients is search engine optimization (SEO). As SEO consultants, we examine everything from the architecture to the content of our clients’ websites to find opportunities to improve their search engine ranking.

Lately, we’ve been getting more and more questions about the SEO benefits/impact of generic top-level domains, or gTLDs. gTLDs are the newest wave of domains, encompassing everything from .fitness to .ninja. But are gTLDs being recognized by search engines? What is the SEO impact of gTLDs?

SEO-Benefits-to-Top-Level-Domains

How important is a domain name in search engine ranking?

Although domain name does contribute to a website’s search engine ranking, it’s not as important as, for instance, updating your site with fresh content, optimizing your pages for the right keywords, building high-quality backlinks, maintaining an organized HTML structure, and creating a user-friendly website. In addition, it can be more beneficial to have a “brandable” name that people will remember (i.e. Twitter) rather than a keyword rich domain name; it just depends on your type of business and your business goals.

How does Google score these new domains in search?

According to John Mueller, Google’s Webmaster Trends Analyst, Google’s algorithm treats gTLDs just like other top-level domains (i.e. .com or .net). With that being said, some gTLDs are common search keywords, so they could potentially rank higher. One such example comes from coffee.club, which ranked #1 for that search term only one week after going live, besting out coffeeclub.com and other websites which have been around much longer. This is an exception, as domain age also plays a part in search engine ranking.

What about restricted, verification-required gTLDs?

In order to register a restricted gTLD such as .organic, your organization must meet certain requirements. Because these domains need to be verified, it is likely they have highly relevant content and as such, will be weighted more in search.

Should I migrate my website to a gTLD?

It depends. If you “got stuck” with a domain you never wanted, the domain is difficult to remember (is long, contains hyphens or numbers), and it doesn’t say much about your brand, then you may want to consider moving to a more relevant domain. Keep in mind that because of the unfamiliarity and spammy reputation of some generic top-level domains, potential visitors might be apprehensive. However, country code or city code top-level domains are seen as more trustworthy.

If you do decide to migrate to a gTLD, you want to at least keep the search engine ranking you have built up. In order to do this, you should:

  • Place a “coming soon” page (if not a bit of content, too) on your new site to let search engines index your site and see that it is an active and not a parked domain.
  • Migrate your pages to the new domain and create 301 redirects to tell search engines that your pages have permanently moved. 301 redirects should transfer domain authority and search engine rankings. Use a 301 checker to make sure every page has been moved properly.
  • Tell Google you’ve transferred your domain.
  • Update your most reputable backlinks by reaching out to those webmasters.

What does Google think of the future of gTLDs?

If Google’s applications for over 100 gTLDs (such as .book, .drive, .movie and .store) are any indication, gTLDs are going to play a part in search.

As John Muller said,

“If you spot a domain name on a new TLD that you really like, you’re keen on using it for longer, and understand there’s no magical SEO bonus, then go for it.”

Optimize your website for the future

Are businesses or customers finding your website in search? Contact our team of SEO experts to get an analysis of your website’s SEO strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities, or register for our next complimentary Chicagoland Digital Marketing luncheon on Web Design, SEO, and Digital Strategy to see what is working for today’s market leaders.