Do you really need a .ninja domain?

If you’ve ever registered a domain name in the past, the chances are that you regularly get bombarded with emails from the domain registrar urging you to secure a bewildering array of new versions of your domain.

Generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs) are the group of domains with the suffix at the end that does not have a country designation, the best known being .com and .net. These differ from Country Code Top Level Domains (ccTLDs), which are generally designated to a specific country such as .nz and .uk.  Most NZ websites use a .co.nz domain.

Over the last couple of years, a huge range of new gTLDs has been announced and progressively released by ICANN, the organisation that oversees domains on the Internet. Some of these make sense and others just seen plain weird, such as .ninja or .ooo.

Here are just a few of the 600 new generic TLDs which are either available now or will be soon.

generic Top Level Domains

Frankly I’m of the view that many of these new gTLDs are a complete waste of time and are simply a new way for domain registrars to squeeze more money out of their clients.  (This, by the way, is not a pot-shot at FreeParking who we recommend as a domain registrar and host).

One of the reasons being pushed by some registrars to register a new gTLD domain is that it will supposedly help a site rank better in Google for the keyword in the TLD.

An interesting claim, given Google stopped using keywords in domain names as a direct ranking factor a long time back. In other words, Google won’t favour www.keyword.com ahead of  www.companyname.com for the search term “keyword” simply because it has “keyword” in the domain name.

Recently a sponsored story in SearchEngineLand asserted gTLDs help sites rank better for the keyword contained within the TLD and ostensibly supported this with a case study you can read here.

Essentially the story argued that an American law firm, which changed its domain from a .com to a .attorney domain, saw an improvement in Google rankings and traffic as a result of having the keyword “attorney” in the new gTLD.

The case study is actually disingenuous because the site using the keyword TLD (http://jacksonville.attorney) has way more inbound links than the non-keyword gTLD (http://ericblocklaw.com) previously used for the website.

In response to this story, Google confirmed last week in a Google Hangout that keyword-rich TLDs, such as .attorney do not count for ranking purposes. This reinforces what was stated on the Google Webmaster Central blog 12 months ago when John Mueller, Google’s Webmaster Trends Analyst, said “our systems treat new gTLDs like other gTLDs (like .com & .org). Keywords in a TLD do not give any advantage or disadvantage in search.”

It is worth noting, however, that while a keyword rich domain name or TLD isn’t treated as a direct ranking factor by Google, it may still be beneficial indirectly. This is because many people link to a website by using its url for the link anchor text. If the domain name or TLD contains a keyword, then this means the anchor text contains the keyword and this may help the site rank for that keyword.

Why should you care?

We frequently get asked by clients what they should do regarding buying new gTLD versions of their domain. In most cases we recommend they give them a miss.  Frankly, many of the new gTLDs simply look spammy and we have to wonder how credible they are in the eyes of most consumers (who have been conditioned to see cc TLDs like .nz, .uk, .com.au or the standard gTLDs .com and .net). If you bought every possible variation of your domain name you’d end up spending a fortune.

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About the Author Mark Sceats

Mark is a Partner and Senior Consultant at SureFire which he founded back in 2002. Prior to establishing SureFire he worked for KPMG Consulting. Today Mark heads up SEO, embracing the challenges that can come with complex website implementations. Outside of work, his interests beyond his family are running, snowsports, diving and fishing (badly).

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