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Best TLD for SEO: do some TLDs rank better than others?

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Folk have been arguing for a while about which is the best TLD for SEO, and the SEO benefits, or not, of new gTLDs, arguing that some TLDs rank better than others. Some people say that a site on a .COM domain will rank better than a site on one of the new gTLDs, others argue the opposite. A widely shared article from 2012 got the ball rolling on this argument, and ruffled a few feathers, by saying: ‘New top-level domains to trump .COM in Google search results.

However, Google was quick to squelch this article’s conclusions – within a couple of hours of its going online, Matt Cutts, an engineer on Google’s search quality team, wrote on Google+:

‘Google has a lot of experience in returning relevant web pages, regardless of the top-level domain (TLD). Google will attempt to rank new TLDs appropriately, but I don’t expect a new TLD to get any kind of initial preference over .com, and I wouldn’t bet on that happening in the long-term either. If you want to register an entirely new TLD for other reasons, that’s your choice, but you shouldn’t register a TLD in the mistaken belief that you’ll get some sort of boost in search engine rankings.’

Two years later, with the argument showing no signs of letting up, John Mueller, Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google, re-iterated the point, writing:

‘They can perform well in search, just like any other TLD can perform well in search. They give you an opportunity to pick a name that better matches your web-presence. If you see posts claiming that early data suggests they’re doing well, keep in mind that’s this is not due to any artificial advantage in search: you can make a fantastic website that performs well in search on any TLD.’

best tlds for seo

In some ways, that’s case closed: there is no inherent SEO benefit to the new gTLDs, but there’s no SEO penalty to the new gTLDs either.

In the same way, .COM doesn’t come with any SEO advantage over other TLDs like .NET or .ORG. So if .NET or .ORG is a better fit for your business (or organisation!), or if the keywords you want are available in a .NET or .ORG domain, there’s absolutely no reason to shy away from them for fear of losing SEO juice.

There is another aspect to this story. SEO experts Globerunner ran extensive tests in 2014 and 2015 to compare the search engine marketing benefits of .COM vs the new gTLD .DIAMONDS. In their 2015 test, they found that it was substantially cheaper to run ads using Google AdWords on a .DIAMONDS domain name, but the conversion rate for the two domains was almost the same. On the .COM domain the conversion rate was 31.76%; on the .DIAMONDS domain it was 29.11%.

They also found that the .DIAMONDS domain was given more AdWords impressions by Google, leading them to conclude: ‘it appears that Google AdWords actually favors use of the .Diamonds domain name, giving it more impressions and even better positioning’.

In other words, on some metrics the new gTLD was outperforming .COM, but the cost of a campaign on the new gTLD was much cheaper.

So while there may not be an inherent SEO advantage to new gTLDs, they’re a great choice for search engine marketing. And, as we’ve pointed out before, the fact that gTLDs are often exact matches for search keywords helps with SEO rank, a point that’s also argued by SEO gurus Moz. While your preferred keywords may already be taken in .COM there’s a very real chance they are still free and available as .NET or .ORG, or one of the new gTLDs.

So don’t despaire if you can’t find the .COM you want—if you’re hesitating over whether or not to get a new gTLD for your website because you’re uncertain of the SEO effects, hesitate no more, and go for it!

Main image: India7 Network.
Content image: Tristan.