.brand sites have the potential to be better ranked than other TLDs, but it will actually be the brands’ responsibility to make it happen.
There have been numerous studies about the potential benefits of new gTLDs and whether they will help SEO rankings. Some were written by domain name industry experts, which may not be the most independent or interest-free sources, and others were conducted by SEO agencies. Unsurprisingly, the results differ leaving it still unclear as to how .brands will affect SEO rankings in the future.
Last week, on Google’s Webmaster Central Blog, “Answers to Common Questions About New Domain Name Endings,” Google explained how to suitably transition a site to a new gTLD reiterating these four basic steps. An excerpt that caught our attention was “your new domain name is expected to work just like your old domain name,” confirming what they had already communicated in this post during the summer. Essentially Google will treat new gTLDs just like other gTLDs.
So instead of worrying about whether a .brand gTLD is better or worse than a legacy gTLD, let’s focus on what is important for the search engines—providing Internet users with the best possible answers to their questions. This means providing results that are the most relevant and trustworthy.
Thinking first about new gTLDs in general, it seems logical that if a TLD can help organize sites into certain categories or interests making it easier to find information, it will be positive for the user. In that sense, the more specific a TLD is, the better (if I own a taxi service, arnaud.taxi would be better than arnaud.online). As consumers catch on and start to trust these category-type extensions for relevant results, the tide may then organically turn towards better SEO rankings for that TLD.
Taking this a step further, if certain restrictions were in place to ensure that only related businesses could register under that extension (e.g. only taxi companies could register under .taxi), this would be an added advantage to help guide users and gain their trust. Unfortunately, it is not realistic to ask registries to implement such restrictions, as their business model is based on volume, and in reality anyone—even non-taxi services—can register a domain at .taxi. (Notable exceptions are .bank, .law, and .ski, where such restrictions are in place and will likely be beneficial for both end users and the industry in the long term.)
If we now apply this logic to .brands, what could be more relevant, specific, and trustworthy when searching for a brand than a site ending with .brand? As .brand names can only be registered by the brand owner, it is safe to say that the information found on such sites will be highly relevant to the user searching for that brand.
All things being equal, when searching for something on google.fr, a .fr site will be better ranked than a .com because it is supposedly more relevant. Why wouldn’t this “relevance” logic also apply to .brand? In practice, if a consumer wants to find information about Nike shoes, visiting shoes.nike would be a logical place to go to get genuine information, or at least be in Nike territory. On the other hand, nike.shoes could be registered to someone else (it is not, but .shoes being an open, generic extension, it could have been registered by a third party). In other words, user trust is key here, and is probably the most important differentiator.
At CSC, we believe that over time .brand extensions will serve as trusted destinations for Internet users, and consequently, probably for search engines too, boosting SEO. However this won’t happen automatically as soon as a new .brand is delegated; it will take time for Internet users to catch on and will require action by brand owners to make their .brand successful and SEO friendly.
Here are some steps that .brand owners can take to potentially help build the SEO value of their new digital asset:
- Use the new gTLD
- Put the same effort into making a new gTLD site as SEO friendly as any other important site
- Engage with the search engines, and tell them about the .brand
- Share and discuss with other brands to create standards, and help the public become familiar with new gTLDs
- Promote the use of the .brand, and make it visible online and offline
New .brands can be powerful digital assets. Transitioning all online assets to a new gTLD might not be the best option right now, but in the future, people might very well be typing .brand domain names in their browser. So it’s an important piece of future digital brand strategy.
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