Before any website makes its way up onto the information superhighway, the domain name attached to it must be registered with a hosting provider. Here at 4GoodHosting, we’re a top Canadian web hosting provider among many and we can certainly take care of that basic and straightforward formality for you. What we’re going to discuss today, however, is the way that your domain name’s extension (.com being the most common) can have direct and measureable results on your SEO, and search engine ranking more specifically.
Let’s review the basics briefly; a domain name is a unique internet address that is made up of a name and extension (such as .com, .ca etc.). This extension is also referred to as a Top Level Domain (TLD) and it is the most relevant part of your domain name. We’ll move now to putting you in the know with factors that influence choosing the right domain extension and how it dictates your SEO rankings in a significant way.
Various Types of TLDs
In the infancy days of the Web, domain extensions were initially introduced to facilitate browsing across different domains. There were 6 general top-level domains (gTLDs) marketed to folks looking to get themselves up and running, and we saw different domain extension for different types of organizations. Some may be surprised to learn that the .com extension was actually introduced for websites for commercial purposes, and has nothing to do with the term computer.
Much more common nowadays are domain extensions with a country code, also known as country code Top Level Domains (ccTLD). These took off between 1985 and 1990, and examples of these types website name domains are .ca for Canada, .kr for South Korea (who have the fastest internet speeds in the world) .in for India, .co.uk for the United Kingdom, etc.
1998 saw the creation of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), an international nonprofit organization designed to keep the Internet secure and stable. New gTLDs were released in 2001, including .info and .pro, designed for informational websites or those representing certified professionals.
The number of domain extensions has quickly expanded since. There are now even domain extensions that utilize Arabic characters instead of the usual Latin characters. A complete list of all extensions (with Latin characters) can be referenced at the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) website.
Specific SEO Benefits for Each Domain Extension
- Country code Top Level Domain
A ccTLD provides Google with the strongest and clearest indication of where a website originates. Provided all other SEO factors are equal, the ‘example.com’ website will be better ranked by Google than an ‘example.ca’ or ‘example.co.kr’.
The primary disadvantage of a ccTLD is that you will be required to purchase a new extension for each language, which will add to the cost quite considerably. Further, Google’s crawlers (aka ‘bots’) do not recognize multiple websites as one website because they have different extensions. Each website must develop its own authority.
By authority we mean the value that Google assigns to a website. More authority results in Google’s bots staying on the website for a longer period of time and indexing deeper pages of the site. This of course is very beneficial for SEO. Higher authority leads to a greater likelihood that your site will rank high on Google’s SERPS (search engine results pages). There are other factors that determine how well a website performs in this regard, and in fact Google uses more than 200 signals to determine which results are most relevant.
- Generic Top Level Domain
Generic domain names are increasingly popular these days, with examples like .pizza, .amsterdam and .club, websites that distinguish the nature of the business or venture very explicitly. People continue to speculate about the advantages and disadvantages of these new extensions as they relate to search engine rankings. Google has shared that the new TLDs are not more likely to score high with Google than older TLDs or ccTLDs. However, there are several examples that suggest otherwise, at least to some extent.
Coffee.club is one of them. It climbed to the first page in Google US search results within the span of a week. That’s worth taking note of, as it takes a lot of time to get to the first page on Google US, and that can be true even if you’ve built up plenty of authority.
Coffee.club was purchased in November 2014 and received several links from authoritative websites that announced the transaction. The backlinks had 80% of ‘coffee.club’ as clickable text, and one week after the launch the website was already on the first SERP for the term ‘coffee club’. We can understand that when a gTLD (in part) matches a keyword you want to match in Google, it counts only links with the domain name in the clickable text.
Simply, ‘coffee.club’ is interpreted by Google to be “coffee club”. In such instances a TLD with a relevant keyword will indeed have an SEO advantage over a traditional TLD like those ending with a .com.
Google still insists that there is no advantage or disadvantage to having a new gTLD, stating that each gTLD has the same opportunity to rank well. With a gTLD, it is possible to specify which country the website is intended to serve within the Google Search Console. This of course is done via international targeting, but keep in mind that when you expand your website with a different language you must adjust or disable international targeting.
Choosing the most appropriate domain extension
Your best choice for a TLD will depend on a number of factors. Want to score well on Google.com? Then you’ll be best served by choosing the overall top level domain, a .com. Conversely, if you only sell products in Canada, you’ll be wise to choose the .ca extension. Google will then recognize that your website is intended for the Canadian market and that your aim is to score better on Google.ca.
It continues to be that SEO is often not taken into account when people are weighing which TLD extensions is best for them. For example, there are websites that buy a ccTLD so the website has a nice name and is easy to remember. For example, ‘autorepair.ca’ may seem like the ideal choice for the nature of your business, but it’s probably not going to score well on Google.com. This is because you indicate to Google with the .ca extension that your website is taking aim at the Canadian market explicitly.
When your website is in fact targeted to a specific country, though, it is advisable to choose the ccTLD of that country. In this case, you may need to purchase a new domain with another TLD at any international expansion. The country-specific nature of the ccTLD will definitely have a positive impact on your search engine results.
When you go with a gTLD, Google will not see it as a .com, .pizza, or .whateveritmaybe. GTLDs have as much chance to score well and as a result do not affect SEO status of your website. And yet, even while Google insists on the validity of that, there are cases like those coffee.club mentioned above that show that links with only the domain name in the clickable text are counted in Google search results. This is the case when a gTLD will create a partial match with a keyword you want to match.
The important thing to keep in mind when using a gTLD is that you communicate this choice to the consumer. Consumers will often undertake searches including the domain extension in the search terms. If you choose a gTLD, make sure that you make that fact very clear to your target audience, and that’s most commonly done by presenting your company name WITH the extension attached in Headers or any other component of the communication piece that will be visually grabbing and readily identified
Also – last but not least – go into your Google Search Console and make sure to set the international targeting to the right country.