Will Keywords in the New Top-Level Domains Give a Ranking Boost?

06 August 2015

As the number of available .com or .co.uk website addresses dwindles, new top-level domains (TLDs) are being introduced. This will give website owners a way to get the URL they really want, without coming unstuck because so many existing domain names are already taken.

Businesses based in the capital can buy .london, photography businesses can grab .camera, and gyms and health centres can get their hands on .fitness TLDs, expanding the number of web addresses like never before.

But will websites using these new TLDs see positive results in their SEO? Will the .discount or .florist URLs be favoured in the search results when people search for discounts or florists?

As is common in SEO, the answer is… complicated.

So, what does Google say?

In a recent post by John Mueller, it is suggested that Google will not favour keywords in the new TLDs in its search results:

“Q: How will new gTLDs affect search? Is Google changing the search algorithm to favor these TLDs? How important are they really in search?

A: Overall, our systems treat new gTLDs like other gTLDs (like .com & .org). Keywords in a TLD do not give any advantage or disadvantage in search.”

That seems clear. But many professional SEOs suspect the truth is a little more nuanced.

Kieren McCarthy, for The Register, reports that there have been examples of SEO testing that suggest that keywords in top-level domains might be significant after all. Searchmetrics found that .berlin domains were slightly favoured when a search was carried out by somebody located in Berlin, and Total Websites found that .company domains showed up more frequently when somebody included the word ‘company’ in their search, compared to when they didn’t.

This suggests that the new domain endings are not being entirely ignored by Google.

There is also some logic in the idea that, if somebody has purchased a URL with a specific new top-level domain, there is a good chance that their website will be relevant to that word. It is unlikely that a URL ending .guitars is irrelevant to guitars, bands or music, for example. And most .boutique website addresses should be relevant to those searching for boutiques to shop in.

It is also difficult to get a clear picture of the situation while the adoption of these new TLDs is still relatively low. It wouldn’t make sense for Google to create substantial new rules or implement huge changes at this point. But, as adoption grows over time, the top-level domain may shift in importance, in terms of the keywords it includes.

However, the presence of keywords in a URL – whether it is before or after the ‘dot’ – does seem to still have some impact on rankings, so incorporating a TLD that includes important information is a good idea from a user-experience point of view, and could also benefit your SEO.