Five years ago, there weren’t that many options when it came to domain name extensions. You could only register a domain with a .com, .org or .net extension -- and good luck if the name you wanted was already in use! More recently, however, domain name registry companies have expanded the list of options, thanks to the growing demand for URLs.
You now have dozens of other options for top-level domains, including .car, .business, and .app. And while it may be tempting to consider investing in one of these extensions in order to procure a premium name, it’s important to consider the impact such extensions will have on your website’s SEO before you do take that step.
Does using a new domain extension hurt your SEO?
The general consensus has been that .com, .edu and .org tend to rank the best in the search engines. Consequently, many SEOs have argued that using new domain name extensions is a bad idea because of the risk of damaging your search engine rankings.
However, there hasn’t been much research to corroborate this belief. Daniel Negari, CEO of .xyz -- a domain registry operator that manages URLs with a variety of new extensions, such as .car, .auto and .theater -- has expressed his belief that a lot of the hype about the problems with new top-level domains is inaccurate. Negari even set out to conduct his own case study to determine whether or not there was any truth to the claim.
Results of Negari’s case study
Negari wanted to prove that the .car extension could rank just as well as a TLD like .com. To test his hypothesis, he collaborated with Lucra Cars -- an automobile manufacturer in Southern California, which replaced its old domain, Lucra.com, with Lucra.cars. All Lucra.com URLs were redirected to the new domain, and the site structure was kept intact in order to eliminate other factors that might affect Lucra’s SERPs.
Although the domain initially lost search rankings, they subsequently rebounded, and the company has since regained its number one ranking for its own domain name. Negari says that this case study proves that the new domain name extensions don’t hurt SEO.
Limits of the case study
Negari’s case study shows that it’s definitely possible for a brand to rank on the top of Google’s SERPs (search engine results pages) with a new domain name extension. However, there are some limitations to the study:
- It is obviously anecdotal, not scientific. A more formal study with a larger sample size of sites would be needed to draw any concrete conclusions.
- Negari evaluated Lucra’s only rankings for its own brand name. It’s obviously much easier to rank for a branded term than a more competitive one such as “boutique car manufacturer.” Since Negari didn’t analyze the impact on industry keywords, it’s difficult to determine how Lucra would have ranked for the specific keywords for which other brands were actively optimizing.
Negari has pointed out that other domains using his extension are ranking for more general terms. For example, abc.xyz appears on the front page for the term “alphabet” -- even outranking Wikipedia. Of course, “alphabet” isn’t exactly a highly targeted term, but it is even stronger evidence that brands can still rank well with new domain extensions.
While the results of the study are far from conclusive, they do suggest that brands using new extensions may still be able to rank well. Further research is needed, though Negari’s evidence at least encourages brands not to automatically reject new domain extensions out of SEO fears.
Google algorithm could change to reflect new domain extensions
Even if Google’s current algorithm does penalize domains using these new top level domains (TLDs), the company might change its algorithm in the future. Jennifer Wolfe of Search Engine Watch made a very interesting point earlier this month when discussing Negari’s case study. She said she believed that search engine users will eventually prefer shorter and more relevant domains, and that Google may respond by changing its algorithm to give preference to these domains over the traditional TLDs.
Though the jury is still out on whether or not these new domain extensions will have a significant effect on your rankings, it appears as though the expected negative impact is actually lower than the SEO community predicted.
What do you think? Is your business making use of these new domain extensions? Share your opinion by leaving a comment below: