What Do New gTLDs Mean for SEO?

As new Generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs) become available, many business and Internet marketing agencies are contemplating the possible benefits of utilizing a new gTLD to create a second version of their site. Is this beneficial from an SEO standpoint?

Before we dive into possible SEO benefits, let’s take a step back and clarify what TLDs are and what the change is. The acronym gTLD stands for “Generic Top-Level Domain” – one of the domains at the highest level in the hierarchical Domain Name System of the Internet, like .com, .org, .net, .gov, etc. There isn’t an endless list of TLDs and the release of new ones has been a scarce practice of the ICANN. However, the ICANN has been expanding the list of gTLDS and recently announced plans to make available over 1,300 new gTLDs over the next few years.

The new gTLDs cover a range of topics from location specific such as .berlin or .miami to food “.pizza,” business “.ceo,” and more. There’s no guarantee if or when a new gTLD will be released however many have been released so far and continue to be released.

This site has great organization of new gTLD types by category and will allow you to pre-register for a domain if you choose.

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(Source: www.mindsandmachines.com)

Even More Domain Name Possibilities

Selecting a domain name is an important business decision and the new gTLD options create more possibilities for the name of your new site. Previously a site like “manayunkoffice.com” would inform us that their site was probably about offices in Manayunk but could also be about renting office space in Manayunk, working in Manayunk, or businesses in Manayunk. Now, with the possibility of the gTLD “supplies” the site could be “manayunkoffice.accessories.” Right away, we see a bit more information and can infer that the site is about an office accessory store in Manayunk… and if we’re looking to buy office accessories for our Manayunk office, we’ll know we found the right site. However, it is a rare occasion to come across a link to a site without accompanying text or images that would give us the contextual information.

Do gTLDs Provide Organic Ranking Boost?

There’s also some debate as to whether having a specific gTLD could provide intrinsic SEO value in that it provides greater detail and more keyword optimization right in the domain URL. At first thought this seems like an easy win, noting our example above where “.accessories” gave greater detail of the purpose of the site.

However, just like in our example, the domain URL is not viewed in isolation by users and neither is it viewed in isolation by Google. Google’s algorithm is complex and evaluates many factors to determine a website’s rank and display in Search Engine Result Pages. Factors such as what the content is on the site, popularity of the site, types of inbound links and more are combined to rank the site. It’s also important to note that Google also has to learn to parse these new TLD’s so that the site can even be considered for ranking, per Matt Cutts:

Matt Cutt’s on Google Parsing the New TLDs: http://youtu.be/ldFPcJZulXQ

The Local/Language Effect

One more possible discernable organic ranking boost is for gTLD for city, region or new character sets. For instance, Clickz illustrated that with the new gTLDs, a business such as Reuters in Chinese is able to resolve its Chinese website from a URL such as ??.??? (Reuters’ Chinese website) rather than cn.reuters.com.

Fully internationalized URLs can help potential website visitors know that the content is localized to their market and may entice additional traffic. It also leads to a much more memorable web address, especially for those who are more comfortable with their language’s characters (consider Chinese, Thai, Russian, Greek and so forth) and now the additional layer of meaning such as .accessories (in the target language’s characters) vs .com.

While this is not a direct organic ranking boost, increased traffic and popularity of the domain would be positive ranking factors that Google includes as part of its ranking algorithm and could thereby have a secondary impact of improved rank.

Still, as noted by Matt Cutts above, Google must first learn how to parse and rank sites with the new gTLDs. Time will tell on the exact organic ranking benefits of many of the new gTLDs.

If you’re hungry for more information ad insights into localized rankings, check out this Detailed Guide to Organic Local SEO and Cristie’s post on how to setup a Localized Paid Search Campaign for a National Brand.

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