Will a generic domain name improve my search ranking?

By Adam De Main | Monday, 1 December 2014
Will a new gTLD improve your search ranking?

In a list of FAQs about new generic top-level domains (gTLDs) this question would probably be number one. Everyone wants to know: if they get one of the hot new web domains, will it help them rank higher on their search engine of choice?

The straight answer is that the jury is not yet in on this one.

Google Says "No": Domain Bias A Different Story

Matt Cutts, head of Google's webspan team, publicly stated that Google will not favour new TLDs over traditional extensions. He said:

"Google has a lot of experience in returning relevant web pages, regardless of the top-level domain (TLD). Google will attempt to rank new TLDs appropriately, but I don't expect a new TLD to get any kind of initial preference over .com."

However, this doesn't take into account what is known as domain bias. When you search for a business or product on a search engine, you don't necessarily click the top link on the first page if it isn't immediately obvious that it's right.

Most of us scan down the list of results, even if it's only brief, and then click the link we think is most relevant.

In the article that inspired Matt Cutts' response, New top-level domains to trump .com in Google search results, Adrian Kinderis of ARI Registry Services supports this.

He said:

"In Australia, internet users have become biased towards .com.au domain names because they’ve learnt they’ll end up on a site that belongs to an Australian business.

The same applies with .co.uk, so I’m sure users will become biased towards other TLDs if they’re taught it contains trustworthy and relevant content."

We can speculate further from here. How many times have you searched for a business by name, only to find yourself faced with a list of results and no clearer idea which is the right one?

Imagine you are searching for a local dentist, and among the list of results you see "bestlocalsurgey.com" and "bestlocal.dentist" there is a good chance you will choose the result with the .dentist TLD, because it is more immediately obvious this is the result you are looking for.

Over time, users choosing .dentist over .com will lead to those domains being ranked higher up in search results - not because a search engine favours the new TLD, but because users do.

Coffee.CLUB Is #1

This has already started being proven out.

TheDomains reported this week that one week after launch, coffee.club is already organically ranked #1 in Google search results - beating domain names like coffeeclub.com and thecoffeeclub.com to the coveted top spot.

Elsewhere, a recent study by Econsultancy into the effect of a new .BERLIN web domain has shown that local TLDs can improve search engine ranking for local results.

It said:

"The analysis shows that .Berlin domains perform better in local searches than in non-local searches in 42% of cases. For comparison, websites using the .de national domain ending perform better locally in only about 28% of cases.

We found that domains with the .Berlin extension are ranked 1.18x higher on average in local searches than .com and .de domains (in many cases it was as much as four positions higher).

While the studies so far are limited, and the results anecdotal, the promise is clear: a relevant gTLD could potentially improve the search ranking for your business."