Don’t Fall Into The New TLD Trap

Ninja (almost) Domain ExtensionsWith the launch of the new top level domain extensions, such as .london, .ninja, .tax and .events earlier this year, and more to be made available in the coming months, Google has been slow to announce how they will handle them. The result is that many e-commerce store owners just don’t know what to do.

In the past, we’ve seen spammers use extensions such as .info and .international which seemingly degraded their usefulness as a branding and search tool. Latterly we saw websites launch as .co domains without thinking (too much) that this extension relates to Colombia and Google may filter your website out of their results in other countries. Thankfully Google realised this mistake and belatedly resolved this issue. But if you choose to use other extensions, particularly local ones, how will Google and the other search engines treat them?

Generic Domain Extensions
Firstly we should remember that keywords as part of your name doesn’t, in itself, give you a particular search ranking advantage. The benefit does come when people link their website to yours with that keywords as the text link. If this happens enough from large, important sites then you could, conceivably, rank number one for that term. This particularly true for generic top-level domains (gTLD) as Google will treat them as a .com or .org. Here you will have to sign into your Google Search Console and assign a geographic target.

Location Specific Domain Extensions
These extensions essentially com in two forms. You can have country based ones such as .ie, .nl, etc. which Google will use as a geotargeting factor.  While you may have, a retail store focused on a regional marketplace. Perhaps you sell books about London or travel items for Johannesburg you might want to use the .london or .joburg. Google will treat these extensions as generic, and you will still have to set geotargeting if required.

Other Generic Extensions
You can buy other extensions such as .coupons, .best, .bargains, .auctions, .cheap, .codes, .fashion, .sale and the like. Again, Google will treat these as ‘generic’, and you will have to assign geo-targetting if required.

Action Points
If you’re working on a branding project where search engine visibility isn’t a priority work through the normal SEO practices of ensuring that any links the site does acquire is put to the best use.

Alternatively, if this is a long-term project where you actively aim to sell on the new domain, primarily to one national audience, then you should ensure that you’re fully aware of how the search engines will treat that domain. You can significantly improve your visibility to your target audience by assigning geographic targetting. Even if you have a domain that you believe is targetting an audience, it is best to confirm Google and Bing have been instructed to treat it in the way you wish.

If you currently use a gTLD domain .co.uk don’t automatically think that you won’t get any foreign traffic and sales. If your SEO is good enough if your products are special enough, and your shipping costs not prohibitive, you will get sales from other countries. You don’t necessarily have to go to the time and expense of using these new country-specific domains to target these customers. But setting up multiple country-specific websites without the proper use of hreflang tags you could be causing more harm than good.

And my gut-feeling about them? Perhaps it’s my experience with .info and .international fifteen, or so, years ago, but I would look at brandable .com and .co.uk domain names – unless SEO is of little importance.

Here some useful posts about the wider SEO impact, or otherwise of the new TLDs: