When you search for available domain names using the Midphase website’s Search field, over 300 separate results will be returned. Each entry represents a unique top level domain – the abbreviated letters used to conclude web addresses. These come in two flavors – country code TLDs intended for use in that nation’s domestic market, and generic TLDs suitable for websites with a particular focus or industry.
Different levels of quality
It might surprise you to discover that Midphase only markets around 20% of available top level domains. However, this is a deliberate strategy to protect our clients. There has been a gradual dilution of quality as more and more TLDs have been introduced to the market, and many of the latest additions offer little perceived benefit to consumers. Some are proprietary and only suitable for use by franchise holders or employees of a particular business – .bmw and .google, for instance. Others will be allocated exclusively to institutions able to demonstrate authority in a particular sphere – examples include .law and .bank.
More worryingly, some of the latest TLDs launched by domain registries have developed unsavory connotations. Since its foundation in 1998, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has subcontracted the sales and management of each domain to the registry which applied to launch it. Sadly, some have done a better job than others. Many of the latest TLDs were met with a collective shrug and fell into obscurity, which can adversely affect SEO performance. Google and Bing also mark down TLDs associated with spam or malware; some of the less conscientious domain registries have seen the vast majority of their websites registered for nefarious purposes. Estimates suggest 100% of .zip and .review sites are in some way dubious.
So are the latest TLDs worth considering? In truth, it pays to be cautious. Research suggests it takes the public at least ten years to recognize and accept a new domain, as its increasing prevalence builds a sense of familiarity and trust. Choosing a domain launched this decade is, therefore, a calculated risk, even though the majority of TLDs in existence only emerged since the floodgates opened in 2014. There’s an obvious correlation between the domains in existence prior to 2010 (including .com, .org and .net) and their perception among consumers and search engines alike. There’s a reason why almost half of the world’s websites still use .com to suffix their URLs.
Google and Microsoft deny that alternative gTLDs damage SEO, and that’s probably true in terms of algorithmic calculations. However, niche domains could deter potential site visitors, and web traffic volume is itself a key contributor to SEO rankings. The domain name, TLD and brief page description are the only elements of a website search engine users get to see, so using an obscure domain like .kim or .link may still have an indirect effect on SEO performance.
There’s also the long-term financial consequences to consider. Some less scrupulous domain registries have increased annual hosting costs by 3,000%, while others market their domains at astronomical prices in the hope someone will be gullible enough to pay them. As a consequence, Midphase would always recommend that consumers focus their investments on reputable TLDs from established registries. The 300 domains we market on our site all have a track record, minimal associations with spam and modest year-on-year price rises (if at all). Regardless of how well the latest TLDs might spell your company’s name or sound phonetically, niche and obscure suffixes are best avoided.
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