How will gTLDs impact SEO?

We’ve been used to the same TLDs (top level domains) for a while now, everynow and then a drip of new TLDs has come onto the market however they’ve not had a massive impact.

From an SEO point of view those original national level TLDs have remained the most important types of domains with the .com; .co.uk and we’ll all know the other ones that are (or include) .gov, .biz, .info, .net, .org etc

Altogether over the last twenty years there has been around 250 – 300 tlds to deal with. Over the years I’ve had a look at various tlds and their benefit (or otherwise) including .biz domains.

From an SEO perspective there has been some definite advantages to using certain. in 2005 Google began to recommend organisations used country specific TLDs (http://searchengineland.com/whats-the-real-value-of-local-tlds-for-seo-140519), which saw many of companies selecting their domains based on them being locational ie .co.uk (incidentally, for the UK – you’ll soon be able to get the .uk version of a .co.uk if you’ve got one).

This was important because it wasn’t until 2007 that you could let Google know which country you wanted to target – so the only thing they had to go off at that point was the way your domain ended.

Even after Google let you tell them where you’d like to target the local tlds was still important in helping them working out what your content was targeting.

How will the new gTLDs help your seo

So let’s fast forward a bit – now we’re talking about new tlds or generic top level domains (gTLD). This year there are about 1900 generic TLDs about to come out (a bulk load have already been launched).

So what will be the benefit from an SEO point of view of all of these new domains? Well probably not a lot to start off with. In 2012 Matt Cutts clarified things by saying he wouldn’t bet on a new gtld having any kind of benefit over a .com any time soon (or indeed in the long term) (https://plus.google.com/+MattCutts/posts/4VaWg4TMM5F)

Remember also, Google has put a lot of work into reducing the effectiveness of buying up exact match domains in outranking branded domains. However, this points us in one direction in how Google deals with domains. Google isn’t looking at the tld rather they’re thinking about the domain.

The difference between things like the locational tlds and the likes of .org, .biz, .gov etc is the latter are specific to certain types of organisations (many of them have geographic alternatives as well).

In a video cast last year (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ldFPcJZulXQ) Cutts said they want to return the best results – he said that Google will have to come up with ways to figure out what the best or most valuable top level domains are that return the best content for certain subjects and then they’ll start to have more impact on search.

This suggests that to start off with at least, gTLDs won’t have a massive impact on search marketing for Google, as Google is going to take “a wait and see” approach. Interestingly in December it was reported that some of the early released domains appeared in Bings results but not Google (http://domainincite.com/15335-bing-already-recognizes-new-gtlds-google-doesnt), so there might be something to be had there with the new domains – although let’s be honest, how many people have had much success with Bing? Rankings but no traffic is no way to run your seo strategy.

This also suggests that Google won’t take into account the word that makes up the tld when ranking a domain, with Cutts saying they’ll have to do some additional coding if they become worthwhile and valuable in a certain search content.

Anchor text issues with new gTLDs

I think this does raise some questions around anchor text though, over the last couple of years we’ve been moving away from using exact match anchor texts – and even to some extent partial match anchor text.

Other than branded links, my favourite anchor text at the moment is simply the URL of the page I’m pointing to, ugly and kind of counter intuitive but I believe this is a sustainable way to build offpage links, but saying that, if we start seeing more keyword orientation in the URLs themselves due to the domain, I might be inclined to just use click here or more info instead of the URL for fear that that prominent inclusion of a keyword might eventually lead to Google doing the same things with these that they did with exact match domains that we all built microsites with a few years ago.

Location and new gTLDs

There are going to be a number of new local tlds registered and I reckon, other than a few corporate tlds (such as .movie etc), it’s the localised tlds you’re going to see creeping into the results for local search queries. This is going to have an impact in a few ways as it’s been all too easy for companies to create landing pages and then create some crap content to go on that page for that page to be able to outrank every local listing because of the strength of the overall site (I know because I’ve done it many times). Now it’s likely we’ll start to see local domains finding it more easy to compete with national brands locally. Before Christmas there were reports that Google was trying this out with .la searches in Los Angeles.

Google spend $18 million on new TLDs

So after saying all of the above I’d like to add a small caveat here – Google have invested something like $18 million dollars recently in gtlds according to a list revealed by ICANN (http://searchenginewatch.com/article/2184179/Google-Pays-18.6-Million-Applying-for-101-New-gTLDs), although $18 million dollars is chicken feed for a company that has made many of even its junior execs multi-millionaires, I can’t help but think if you invest your money in something like this you’re going to make sure your software works nicely with your investment. I expect they’ll have already developed something to help them work with the new tlds over the last couple of years since they made these acquisitions.

If you take a look at their applications you can see that although they said they’d mainly be protecting their trademarks with the applications (http://googleblog.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/expanding-internet-domain-space.html) they’ve gone a lot further in applying for things like .car, .music, .movie, .family, .love (there are some fairly disturbing ones really!) etc.

All this suggests to me that Google has plans for generic top level domains however based on what Cutt has to say for now it would seem Google haven’t quite worked out how they’re going to handle them.

Ultimately the best advice is to not worry too much, protect your brand if necessary, buy domains where it’s likely tlds will become important or where those tdls will be used as part of a additional strategy to give customers confidence when buying (in the events sector I’m thinking .tickets for example). Concentrate on content and being competitive about how you go about getting it out there and the things you write. Reinforce the brand wherever possible and remember not to bankrupt yourself by buying all these domians – a domain is nice to have but it’s not a website until you’ve built something on the site, and even then it has no history and no authority until you start doing something on it and getting the word out there about what you’ve done.

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