Since the new generic top level domains (gTLDs) started being released last year, there has been an inevitable question in many brand managers and marketeers heads: will they have an impact upon Search?
It is not crazy to think that if you own a web address that best describes your business or brand it should have a positive impact upon search. At the end of the day, these new gTLDs are often exact matches to keywords. However, when asked, Google’s staff was categorical in their answer: new gTLDs won’t be a ranking factor. When choosing which sites to display higher it will continue to be about the site content relevance, independent of the domain name.
But, a year after these new top level domains arrived, we now have the empirical evidence needed to confirm that Google’s prediction was incorrect. After tracking and studying for 16 months the Search Engine Marketing effects that the New gTLD domain name extensions are having on the industry, GlobeRunner found compelling evidence that new domain names are converting at a much higher rate than the traditional ones.
The American consultancy created two Google ads, which were exactly the same except for the display URL. In their case study they compared the display URLs www.3caratdiamonds.com vs. www.3carat.diamonds. The first results of the research, published almost a year and a half ago, showed that domains of new extensions were converting at about 34 percent, and .COMs were converting at about 52 percent. However, nowadays the panorama is very different (and favorable for the new gTLDs): new domain extensions are converting at more or less the same rate but, .COM domains are converting now at a record low, of nearly 20 percent.
Previous to this study, SEO experts all over the world had been tracking the new domains behaviour on Search, and most of them concluded that these new extensions did have some degree of impact upon search engine rankings. However the results gathered by those were not as conclusive as what GlobeRunner is presenting now. So yes, we can now loudly say that there is a positive SEO effect. Even if some time ago EMD (Exact Match Domains) stopped being part of Google’s ranking algorithm, the search engine mission is to show relevant results to your search and, it seems that domain names with descriptive words (both before and after the dot) are a great indicator of the relevance of the result.
However, we can not forget that, at the end of the day, what matters most when ranking well in Google is the quality of your site. Even if the SEO aspect of the new gTLDs is a great aspect to bear in mind when purchasing a domain with one of the new extensions and optimising one’s brand’s domain portfolio, it is not the only thing one should take into consideration. Domain names are essential digital assets in today’s digitised world. They have to be considered worth protecting as an integral part of a business brand protection strategy. Reinforcing your brand’s digital footprint will ultimately strengthen your brand’s digital presence.