Most people are aware of the two-letter country codes used as top-level domain names (ccTLD), like: .uk, .ca and .de.
Perhaps less well-known are the new geographical top-level domains (geoTLDs) released a few years ago such as .london, .bayern, .wales, .paris. These allow businesses to bring a narrower, more regional focus to their domain name than the official two-letter codes.
SEO and ccTLDs
Companies operating or based outside the USA can register domains with relevant ccTLDs for each country in addition to their .com or .org domain names (although there are restrictions for some ccTLD applications).
Websites using ccTLDs, rather than generic TLDs like .com, will show up when users access their local country version of Google. For example, Google search results will give more weight to a .au domain over a .com domain, but only if it determines that the searcher is in Australia.
SEO and geoTLDs
When it comes to the new TLDs, Google analyst John Mueller was very clear that, whether geographical or not, they would be treated the same way as any other existing top-level domain. But that was in 2015 and the possibility of change was left open: “There may be exceptions at some point down the line, as we see how they’re used in practice” he said.
No exceptions have been made so far, as far as we know, but it’s worth remembering that SEO isn’t just about getting high up in the rankings, it’s about conversion too. Evidence gathered from a real PPC campaign by digital marketing company Globe Runner showed that a generic TLD (.diamonds) initially converted better than the same site on a .com domain, although the difference eroded over time. Even better, the gTLD was half the price per click – an unexpected benefit.
Clearly .diamonds is not a regional domain name, but the point should transfer over to a geoTLD. As domain names are prominent on search results, geoTLDs matching the customer’s location could well draw prospects to click-through to a site.
Benefits of a geoTLD extend into other areas of business too. Domains like www.coventgarden.london, www.excel.london and www.centralstreetcafe.london are easier to say and read out in TV and radio ads, or when talking to people. Using a geoTLD lets people know where the business is based immediately; there’s a clear location reference.
Relationship to keyword-specific domains and search preferences
There is one more relevant point. In 2012, Google made a significant update to its search algorithms to demote exact-match domains (EMDs) with poor quality content. These are domain names that are registered to match keyword phrases that businesses are targeting – e.g. www.buymywidgets.paris and contained thin, low quality content.
Whilst established EMD domains containing high quality content such as hotels.com continue to produce strong rankings in Google and benefit from a strong branding element.
In addition, through the use of Google Search Console, site owners can configure their website to serve a preferred geographic audience overcoming previous difficulties with using TLDs.
Find out more
If you’re interested in the wider benefits and potential of using geographical TLDs for your business and how they can dovetail with your SEO strategy, download our white paper.