Jul30
new TLDs

How Will Search Engines Treat the New TLDs?

Posted by Jessica Furseth

Jessica Furseth explores the new TLD debate: Will Google favour .com or .photography?

The release of new top-level domains (TLDs) means a whole host of alternative web addresses are available in addition to the traditional .com. But how will the newcomers fare on search engines?

It may have been all about the .com for a long time, but choices of Internet domain names have recently been blown wide open. Now you can have .technology, .finance, .clinic, .today, .photography – you name it, and if it’s not available yet it will be soon enough.

While it’s clear that a wider choice of Top-Level Domains (TLDs) is great for getting additional information across in a web address, a frequent question is how these new domains will be treated by search engines. The choice of new domains means you can get the exact website name by adding a different suffix, if the classic one is taken, but which domain will get priority on Google?

The answer to this question may change as search engines work out how to treat this relatively new phenomenon. Right now, all the new TLDs are treated as “generic” (gTLDs) by Google, alongside classic names such as .com, .gov, and .net. However, location-specific addresses, such as .co.uk for British sites, are treated differently. They get priority in searches within the UK, but the site could be downgraded in searches from Europe, where it could be deemed less relevant.

“We currently treat the new TLDs as gTLDs, even if they sound like they may be region-specific (eg .berlin). If, over time, our analysis shows that they’re clearly limited to only websites from those regions, that might be worth reconsidering. In the meantime, you should be able to set geotargeting manually for these TLDs,“ said Google’s John Mueller in a product forum discussion this May.

Beyond the issue of geo-targeting, the initial consensus seems to be that search engines will treat camera.com and camera.photography pretty much the same, in the sense that the best ranking will go to the site with the best seach-engine optimisation (SEO). If this is the case, then there are a few tricks you can use to make the most of your new site’s SEO. However, it’s not inconceivable that maybe camera.photography will come out better in some cases, considering that search engines use words from the address to determine the content.

A blow for domain squatters?

A wide choice of TLDs may also have the benefit of shifting the power currently held by so-called domain squatters, where a TLD may be owned by someone who is simply looking to sell it on for an inflated sum. Right now, chocolate.com is an empty page, with a message stating it’s for sale, but only “offers in the seven-figure range will be considered”.

For small business owners just starting out, this can be a significant sum. Nicole Cliffe, co-editor of online magazine The Toast, found herself in this situation last year, when she wanted to buy thetoast.com. The domain squatter’s price was too high, she tweeted, meaning The Toast can now be found on the-toast.net, which was available at a reasonable rate. While .net was the less-common suffix at the time, this doesn’t seem to matter much anymore, as Cliffe got the last laugh: type “The Toast” into Google, and her site pops up first.

By this example, it seems the new TLDs should do just fine on search engines. They may even become one of the elements that contributes to a more democratic Internet in the long run; an Internet where any site will have the chance to rise to the top of the search page.

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About Jessica Furseth

Jessica Furseth is a London-based technology journalist. She loves the internet but has too many tabs open. Get in touch on Twitter on @jessicafurseth or find her on her website.

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