Case Studies: Will a new gTLD rank you higher in Google?

This post will cover the inevitable SEO question, when it comes to the new gTLDs.

Will a new gTLD be able to rank your site higher in Google?

gTLD stands for new generic top level domains and define the 700 new domain extensions such as .berlin, .tech, .futbol and .club. Right now 3.4 million domains have been registered over the last six months.

In the following I will look at the studies done about SEO and the new domain extensions. We will surely see many more over the next months and I will continue to add them. Although it’s a very hasty conclusion, both studies conclude that : Yes, there is a positive SEO effect. Anyway chek my own conclusion at the end. Furthermore you should check out my analysis of why coffee.club ranks on page 1 for the term “coffee club”. It’s very interesting.

New Domain Extensions and SEO

This is surprising, since Google denies that new gTLDs will not be a ranking factor (See chief engineer Matt Cutts answer below). Some time ago EMD (Exact Match Domains) stopped being part of Google’s ranking algorithm, so why should it suddenly be the case for the new gTLDs?

SEO and new domain extensions matt cutts

A theory could be that they are running tests right now to check the relevance of new gTLDs. As I have pointed out many times, Google’s mission is to show the most relevant results, and the URL is a huge road sign in this process. If you search for a bakery in Berlin, obviously bakery.berlin seems like a more relevant website than bakery.de.

Let me present to you two new SEO case studies and one Google Adwords study.

SEO Case study 1: Searchmetrics

German SEO specialists Searchmetrics recently published a Google search study, where they compared local search results in Berlin comparing the performance of .berlin, .de and .com websites. Overall the sample size showed that websites using .berlin domains on average ranked 1,18 places higher in the Google search results than the other two extensions.

SEO Case study 2: Total Websites

Houston based SEO consultancy Total Websites’ study took a different angle. They tested whether a new gTLD website could beat an EMD (exact match domain) .com website. They sampled 20 new gTLDs and found that the new gTLD domain name outperformed the .com version like the example below.

psychologytools

These case studies had small sample sizes, so we have to wait for further tests. However it is already now possible to conclude that you’re not worse off with a new gTLD for your website, when it comes to ranking in Google. And while you need to pay a serious amount of money in the aftermarket to get a great .com domain, you can get really great new gTLD domains at normal registration price.

Andrew Allemann pointed out at DomainNameWire that some of the new gTLDs could be favoured by Google if :

1) Their cost price was higher than the price of a normal TLD. This would indicate more seriousness and therefore more relevant websites. .Luxury for instance cost initially 800-900 USD for 1 year. Now the price is still around 300. If I was to start an exclusive line of products today .luxury would be a great investment t distance yourself from the .com sites.

2) If the specific new gTLD had requirements. E.g. .nyc can only be registered for locals. He gives the example of .archi, which is only used by architects.

3) It’s content specific. You can see from the website address, what the website is about. We know that bounce rate is one of the algorithms that Google use. If you have too many visits who will exit right away, then it’s bad for your ranking. This is the essence of the new gTLDs, where they really are superior to traditional TLDs.

John Mueller from Google wrote an answer at Google+, where he again denies that new gTLDs have any advantage over traditional TLDs. However he also says that new gTLDs will perform as well as the traditional ones. As he says “you can make a fantastic website that performs well in search on any TLD.”

John Mueller, Google on new gTLDs

More studies will hopefully appear on new domain extensions and SEO, so we can all be wiser. Personally I would love to see a study on the click through rate of a .com vs. a new gTLD website. How big a factor is the website address, when a user clicks on a result?

Coffee.club

Coffee.club is an online coffee subscription service. It’s a very new service which went live in Nov. 2014. What’s interesting is that they already ranked on page 1 in Google US for the term coffee club after one week. TheDomains.com were the first to mention this.

coffee.club

So how come they are ranking so well for this term? Is it due to the domain name?

First of all, when Dot Club, the registry and Bill McClure, the buyer, announced the deal (the price was USD 100.000), many very authoritative sites wrote about it and linked to coffee.club. To date the site has more than 900 backlinks from 40 authoritative sites. This is a huge boost for any website to rank.

The interesting part though is that nowhere on the page that these sites are linking to (Coffee.club) you can find the key phrase coffee club. Not in the title, meta description, content or alt for any photo. Nowhere. More than 80% of the backlinks use the anchor term coffee.club, none link to coffee club. In my opinion this surely indicates that Google reads coffee.club as two keywords. You can read my analysis here.

Google Adwords Case study: Globerunner

As a bonus addition I would like to mention the Google Adwords study done by American consultancy Globerunner. They created two Google ads, which were exactly the same except for the display URL. In their case study they compared the display URLs www.3caratdiamonds.com vs. www.3carat.diamonds. The test showed that the new gTLD performed as well as the .com domain.

Conclusion

To rank well in Google you need a quality site no matter if your domain name is .com or .whatever. The good thing is that Google doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t favour a .com over a .guru. It’s about the quality of the website. I presented a couple of studies from Searchmetrics and Total Websites. The data size is just too small to conclude anything. I know that the industry is very eager to jump on the bandwagon as soon as there is a glimpse of a SEO advantage, but don’t hang your hat on these studies.

What’s interesting for me was the coffee.club observation. Sure, you need to be one hell of a linkbuilder, but Google does seem to read a new gTLD as coffee.club as two words. We need more tests of this kind of course.