Google's algorithm changes have made keyword-oriented domains a thing of the past, as it was evident that these were being exploited. Nowadays brandable domain names offer an even safer way to rank on search engine results pages (SERPs). A brand that people trust to provide them with quality, relevant and useful information.
Whether you are a small business trying to make your mark in the world of online retailing, or an established player looking for new ways to reach more customers with tailored services - choosing wisely when registering domains can be one overlooked step that sets apart great brands from average ones.
Where do Top-Level Domains come into play?
It's vital to be careful when trying out new extensions, since your desired domain may already have been taken by someone else. The only drawback with this approach, however, is that you are not guaranteed the exact extension needed unless one of these alternatives: .org., net or co- has caught their eye first!
Hence, you want to know if using an alternative Top-Level Domain (TLD) will affect search engine rankings?
Let’s dive deeper into this topic and check if TLDs really matter in SEO.
Warning! Your website might look Spammy
The internet has grown exponentially since its inception. As more people take advantage of this technology, new domains need to be introduced so that websites won't get lost in cyberspace! Therefore, different TLDs were created, we'll only focus on Generic Top-Level Domains(gTLDs) and Country Code Top-Level Domains(ccTLDs) as these are the main ones used for business and blogging.
The internet was not always a happy place. With over 1,500 top-level domains being used worldwide until 2017, they were thankfully cleaned up by Alphabet Inc. Unfortunately, a handful of gTLDs were associated with spam pages as well, including ‘.biz’, ‘.info’, ‘.zip’, and ‘.review’ and many more. By choosing an alternative gTLD, you're risking the trust of your visitors. They could easily view your site as spammy or even harmful!
Google has confirmed that alternative gTLDs do not affect a website's search rankings, but it is possible for them to influence the audience’s perception of your brand and hence the click-through rate.
The ‘.com’ TLD is a gigantic advantage when it comes to fostering credibility because most people are familiar with this domain and will know how serious your company is! You will notice that these juggernaut brands use them as well – Facebook, Apple & Microsoft among others.
Below are the top 10 extensions you should avoid:
New gTLDs have the potential to be a great way for your domain name to not only capture who you want it to represent but also what industry or niche market. Tech and tech-related domains are trending now, like ‘.tech’ or ‘io’ to refer specifically towards the internet of things (IoT) topics. Users are more likely to click on sites with the ‘.tech’ or 'io' extension because they want an authentic source of tech-related information.
The overall branding effort can be enhanced by using a specific gTLD in certain situations. For example, the ‘.me’ gTLD can match a site with an action-oriented domain name:
So far, we have seen that alternative gTLDs can be risky and now it's time for localized TLDs. Is there a difference between an alternative gTLD and localized TLD?
Geo-targeting using gTLD
So, what's the point in having a local domain extension or country code top-level domains? Well, for starters, spam association isn't really an issue, in fact, these are usually preferred by some audiences!
There are multiple surveys that reveal, ‘.co.uk’ domains are more reliable than ‘.com’ when it comes to the perspective of the audiences. There is also a little benefit in using these local or Country-code TLDs that allow for geo-targeted searches and can be easily translated into other languages with ease.
For example, websites with “.de” TLD, will appear when people search for things like "German Academic Exchange Service".
In addition, using the ccTLDs can improve buyer confidence by ensuring that goods or services in a specific location are available. It also signals your local business and makes potential customers feel as if they know where their purchase will be made from, making them more likely to buy with your company!
Using ccTLDs with Google Search Console
Geo-targeting your website can be a great way to get more traffic from Google searches. To maximize the effectiveness of this technique, you should use Search Console with ccTLDs in mind and start by logging into an account for that property type on their site where you want geo-targeting enabled.
Once you have access to your dashboard, go down and select ‘Legacy tools and reports’ and then ‘International targeting’ from there. The ‘International targeting’ window will open separately. You can then choose a country in which you will be targeting audiences.
After that tick the “Target users in” checkbox, select the target country from the dropdown.
And Save it.
Congratulations! Your domain has optimization has been enhanced for users from a specific location.
Let’s see a few more tips on how we can improve our search engine rankings using ccTLDs:
Another reason specific audiences choose localized domain extensions is that they expect the site to be shown in their native language. For example, if you use ‘.de’ as your web address then users might think that all content on this webpage will also have German text!
Hence, don’t forget to set the right language set in Google Search console as well.
Hosting is critical
It's important for your geo-targeting efforts to be fruitful and beneficial for your audience and users. For a smooth and error-free website experience, look for web hosting companies that offer localized servers. You can also opt to use content delivery networks that are globally distributed instead of having your site handled by just one server in the US or UK!
Local Business? GMB is there for you only!
Google My Business (GMB) is a great way to give your brand an online presence. Registering through GMB will help you rank in Google Maps, Search engine results pages (SERPs), as well as other services like local reviews sites like Yelp!
Now we know how important the TLD is for your website and for your CTR. Back to the same question, does a Top-level Domain extension affects your SEO? It all depends on the perspective of users mainly. The impact could be negative or positive depending on your website's Top-level Domain and your audience!