The SEO Battle of the TLDs!
The time has come for you to buy a domain! So you log onto Namecheap or GoDaddy, enter in “yourbusinessname.com” aaaaand it’s taken.
Not to worry! You come across a .ca for a few bucks more, or a sale on a .vip for $3, or a .biz domain for 99 cents.
You add it to your cart, look at the purchase button, go in for the click, but WAIT! You may not realize it, but this can have an impact on your website’s SEO, your dot something (also known as a top level domain or TLD) matters. You may wonder why? Or if it will really affect your rankings on Google?”
So that’s why you’ve come across this article. To find out if it does. And yes, it does… well kind of.
Over recent years, there has been the introduction of new TLDs that sound cool, look nice, are extremely specific, or just random. But which TLD should you choose? Here are some things to consider.
Do You Want To Be Flagged For Spam?
There are lots of internet marketers, especially the black hat marketers, that have abused these new TLDs. These are called Generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs). There are multiple reasons why marketers love getting new gTLDs:
- Keyword Domain: having a keyword in your domain used to be a big factor when it came to ranking. However, in today’s algorithms, it doesn’t matter as much. Some marketers still believe in the old ways, so they try to buy keyword.com, but it’s taken. What’s the next option? Keyword.xyz, keyword.biz, etc. If one of your main keywords is part of your brand name, don’t sweat it. But also don’t spam.
- Price: a major reason why these TLDs get abused for spam is that there are some that are extremely cheap. A lot of times, when you go to Namecheap, they promote certain TLDs for just 88 cents. That’s a steal for a throwaway domain you could use to spam things.
Google says they treat all gTLDs the same, but they do have their guard up against a number of them.
What About Country Code TLDs (ccTLDs)?
Country code TLDs or ccTLDs matter. If you are in Canada, complete a search for London on Google. What’s the first thing that shows up (after Wikipedia)? London.ca. But we had the intention of searching for the city of London in the UK. Why aren’t there any UK sites listed in the top 5?
Try this too: search up “Walmart”, “Home Depot” or “Trip Advisor”. There are .com versions of these sites, but because you’re in Canada, Google will give you the .ca versions.
For local search intent, Google will often favour region-specific TLDs.
But It Makes Sense to have a gTLD in your Industry Right?
In theory, yes, but unless the gTLD you want isn’t an abused TLD, Google won’t treat it any differently. It may change in the future, but we won’t know until it happens. However, it does help with relevancy. Having an industry-specific TLD lets Google know more about your business, but won’t directly give you a boost in the rankings.
Let’s forget SEO for a second. Picture this scenario:
“I love that shirt! Where did you get it?” asks your friend.
You respond, “I bought it online at Shirt Supply!”
When you hear a website name, what’s the next thing that pops in your head? Subconsciously, you probably read that as shirtsupply.com, but the dot com wasn’t even there. .com is the go-to TLD and is what everyone knows. Maybe sometime .ca odes, but most of the time it’s a .com TLD.
Not only that, what looks more trustworthy to you, shirtsupply.com or shirtsupply.store?
Dot coms have the highest social proof when it comes to visiting a website, and adding that layer of suspicion to a website visitor is just leaving a sale at the door.
Your best bet is to use a .com TLD if you can.
So when should I use a gTLD?
Whenever you want! If you think it looks great, are a huge fan of it, or just aren’t able to get a .com or a ccTLD, just go for a gTLD. As long as you aren’t using a known spammy extension, you should be all good to use a gTLD.
Using a gTLD can also bring out your creativity. You can integrate the gTLD into your name, or even come up with a clever phrase. Do you like to eat fish? You could buy “iliketoeat.fish” (yes, that exists). Even Taco Bell has done it. They own ta.co..
But Can I Actually Rank With a gTLD?
YES. Again, Google doesn’t care what TLD you use. Want proof? Search up “Calgary marketing agency” on Google, and you will find clutch.co in the #1 position. A .co beat out a .ca and .com. The reason why clutch.co beat .com’s, and .ca’s is because their SEO is on point. Their domain metrics are amazing and have a ton of backlinks and referring domains to them.
Your SEO efforts matter more than your TLD. The main reason why .com’s still own the majority of top search rankings is because of their domain age.
Takeaways From Our TLD Research
Country specific TLDs help your rankings locally. If you’re not planning on ranking locally, then SEO-wise, it doesn’t matter if you use a TLD that isn’t a .com or a .ca. As long as you aren’t using a red-flag TLD, the choice is yours, but definitely go for a .com.
Updated: April 6, 2020