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How Google handles new gTLDs

By Alexandra Gavril - August 11, 2015

There’s been much chatter about how Google would treat new generic top-level domains (gTLDs) like .guru, .xyz or .how. Will Google be looking at the end of a domain to give a few extra brownie points to a site? Or will it rank all of them the same?

John Mueller, webmaster trends analyst at Google, weighed in on the subject and shed some light on how the search engine giant will handle the new domains. The blog post answered some important questions and eliminates some misconceptions related to how these new gTLDs are treated.

How Google says they’re handling the new gTLDs

New gTLDs are treated the same as traditional domains such as .com and .org in users’ searches, according to Mueller’s post published on the Official Google Webmaster Central Blog. In addition, having a keyword in a TLD “does not give any advantage or disadvantage in search”. This is also in line with Google’s exact match domains (EMD) update, where the search engine has devalued low quality EMDs that were used as a shortcut to higher rankings.

What were interesting however were the revelations about geo-specific TLDs and country code top-level domains or ccTLDs. Google will treat new region or city TLDs like .London just like any other gTLD. However, Mueller did indicate that “there may be exceptions at some point down the line, as we see how they’re used in practice.”

When it comes to ccTLDs Mueller revealed that Google does use these extensions to geotarget websites as it helps indicate that a website is likely to be more relevant in a specific country.

How users have tested and have seen Google handling the new gTLDs

Despite Google’s clarifications in an attempt to dispel the belief that new gTDLs will enhance site rankings, there are real examples that show this is actually happening. Let’s take some examples for each statement that Google has made referring to new gTLDs.

  1. “Our systems treat new gTLDs like other gTLDs (like .com & .org)”

While Google states that it treats new gTLDs like any other TLD, there are examples that contradict the official statement. A good example is coffee.club, which Google reads as “coffee club” although the site owner has not optimised it for this particular keyword.

Here’s what the coffee.club domain owner said: “If you do manage to find the right keyword domain name, you will naturally optimize your website for this search term, and just as important, get links with the right anchor text.

“Sure, you still need a quality website, which people like and want to link to, but you do get a head start compared to the classic domain endings.”

  1. “Keywords in a TLD do not give any advantage or disadvantage in search

The truth is that EMDs still work and can get a site to rank higher even if it has fewer links and less content than branded competitors. A study has found that .Berlin domains came 1.18 positions higher than traditional domains when people were searching for things in the city. Another SEO study performed by Total Websites found that “new gTLD domains DO boost SEO rankings and EMDs, even in the new gTLDs, are still favoured in the search engines.”

  1. “Local gTLDs are not treated differently now but there might be exceptions. AND ccTLDs are used to geotarget websites (with some exceptions)

We know that Google uses the ccTLDs for geolocation and maybe they’re not using .london for the same purpose yet. However, using a .london domain for your London business will surely make your website address more relevant to local users. Google might decide in the near future to use .london and similar domains for geolocation like they do with .de, .co.uk and others. At that point you’ll already be ahead of the competition.

While all this information leaves room for interpretation, here are some clear reasons why you should get a new gTLD:

  • It will be treated as any other TLD so you don’t need to worry about having to work harder to rank higher in Google’s search engine results
  • Having a website on a new gTLD can give you better marketing opportunities, getting a domain name that’s shorter, relevant and catchy. Isn’t Sierra.finance more descriptive and clear than sierraep.com? Isn’t stevenyoung.realtor more relevant and attractive than steventherealtor.com? And isn’t Lusso.bike catchier than lusso-clothing.co.uk?

Worried your new gTLD won’t rank as quickly as a traditional TLD?

Don’t. In a post published on Moz on how to get new gTLDs to rank faster, the author explains that with a new gTLD comes a fresh start, which can be a good thing since there are no issues you’ll need to fix.

“New gTLDs are just that: they’re completely new. That means that there’s absolutely no history behind that domain name, which can actually be a good thing. Since there’s no history behind the domain name, and there generally isn’t going to be any links pointing to a new gTLD domain name, you’re starting fresh. Buying a new gTLD domain and immediately putting up a website on that domain name, there may be some value gained from the “QDF”, Query Deserves Freshness. I have seen brand new domain names with brand new websites rank fairly well if they’re promoted properly in the first few months.”

This is the case with any extension you choose to use, provided you get your new website up and running from scratch.

If you’ve decided to switch to a new gTLD, the move isn’t all that complicated. Read our short guide on how to move to a new gTLD like a champ without hurting your SEO to learn how to make the switch while minimising the impact on SEO and organic traffic.

Wrapping up

As you can see, there are many reasons to get a new gTLD for yourself or your business. So don’t worry about having to work much harder to get it to rank highly in search because that won’t happen. Just like with any other website or extension, focus on what’s important: proper SEO and lots of great content.

Have you registered a new gTLD yet? Have you noticed any changes in your rankings?