The amount of new TLDs being added to the web is consistently growing. We’ve come a long way from being limited to the typical .com or .org; now imaginations can run wild with all the gTLDs available to register.
Generic top level domains (gTLDs) can be an effective way to help your site stand out in a crowded marketplace. If you can’t get a .com you can always be a .guru instead. Or maybe you’d prefer .lawyer or .agency, depending on your line of work.
Now that creates a paradox of choice. When it comes to ranking in search results, what kind of impact will the new TLDs have over old TLDs?
We’ve heard that question asked by clients and colleagues many times — in this post, we’ll provide the definitive answers according to official Google documentation.
The SEO Impact of New TLDs Explained
Introducing new domain extensions to the web is a significant change, and with that change comes a slew of questions about how the new domain extensions will be treated in search results.
Will the new TLDs get some kind of ranking boost?
Will the traditional .com extension rank better than the new domain extensions?
Does Google consider having a keyword-based TLD the same as having a keyword in the domain itself?
Here Are Some Answers
Google has officially stated that all generic TLDs are treated equally. There is no extra value in a .org over a .com, or a .com over a .blog. They are all treated the same in search rankings. Even if there is a keyword in the TLD there is no advantage when it comes to ranking in search.
With the growing popularity of the .BRAND domain extension, including some tech blogs even encouraging others to utilize it, there has been particular concern over that TLD. People want to know whether it is being given any more or less weight than a .com extension. Google has given confirmation that no, not even .BRAND is being treated any different than any other TLD.
What about local and country specific domains?
As part of the new TLDs there are now hyperlocal domain extensions like .london and .quebec. At the present time, Google is treating city and region TLDs just like any other generic TLD. That may change in the future depending on how the new TLDs are used in practice, but at least for now they have no effect on search.
Country code TLDs, also referred to as ccTLDs, are a different story. These include extensions like .uk, .au, .nz, .nl, .ca, and a whole host of others. They are not treated the same as generic TLDs.
Google says ccTLDs are used to geotarget the website. A ccTLD is a signal to Google’s search crawlers that content on the website is probably most relevant to searchers in the respective country.
In other words, ccTLDs come with the search benefit of being more likely to surface in search results of the appropriate country.
What if I want to move my site to a new TLD?
It’s not always new site owners who have to face the choice between a new TLD and a traditional TLD. Occasionally we get questions from existing site owners who want to move their site over to a new TLD.
If you feel like it’s the right decision to move your site to a new TLD, you’re certainly welcome to do so provided it’s not already taken. If you can grab the domain you want, Google will treat moving over to the new TLD just like any other site move.
However, any change of domain name can, and likely will, have a negative impact on SEO, at least for a time. Inbound link equity will be partially lost through 301 redirects, unless you can have all of the websites currently linking to you change their link to your new domain name – which is no small feat.
For more information about moving your site, you can refer to Google’s official site move documentation.
In addition to link equity concerns, there are a few more very important potential downsides to consider before obtaining or switching to a new gTLD.
Despite all gTLDs being created equal for SEO purposes, there are a few potential downsides to using them.
- Brand Recall: Quite frankly, .com is easier to remember, which could lead to more direct visits. When choosing one of the new TLDs, you run the risk of potential visitors forgetting how to access your site, and that’s something you need to take into consideration before straying from the norm.
- Public Perception: Traditional TLDs, such as .com, .net, and .org, come with an air of professionalism and credibility that the new TLDs just don’t have yet. Perhaps this will change over time as they become more widely used, but at this time it is still a potential downside.
- New Domain: If you have an existing site and are thinking about migrating to one of the new TLDs, you have to consider all the problems created by transitioning to a new domain. Link equity will be lost through redirects. Rankings and traffic will take a hit as Google takes time to crawl a re-index your new domain. Then there’s the issue of getting the word out about your new domain. You have to consider whether going through that is worth having a new domain extension.
With the exception of ccTLDs, all TLDs are treated equally in search — whether it’s .com or .pizza. If you’re building a brand new site and registering a new domain, don’t worry about how the TLD is going to affect your site in search because there is no difference. Just take into account the brand recall and public perception concerns noted above. If you’re considering changing your existing domain name, then the potential downsides of any domain name change also apply, regardless of the TLD chosen.