A question of search: SEO considerations for gTLDs


Ludvik Høegh-Krohn

A question of search: SEO considerations for gTLDs

New gTLDs constitute a step into the unknown, not least because no-one knows how search engines will treat them, as Ludvik Høegh-Krohn reports.

New gTLDs constitute a step into the unknown, not least because no-one knows how search engines will treat them, as Ludvik Høegh-Krohn reports.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) originally accepted applications for new generic top-level domains (gTLDs) from January 12 to April 12, 2012. It extended this deadline to April 20 owing to a technical glitch in the online application system that exposed some users’ file names.

A TLD is what comes after the dot in a website address—the most well-known being .com. Any organisation can now apply for its own TLD, so we can expect TLDs like .hotel, .facebook and .ibm. This will completely change the structure of information in the domain name system.

One of the main questions for companies applying for a gTLD is how it might affect their rankings on search engines. This question ties in to a specific field of marketing known as search engine optimisation (SEO), which covers all the techniques used by website owners to maximise traffic to their sites, and revenue, from search engines.

There is no need to rewrite the SEO rules for the new gTLDs; specific considerations apply, however. As the major search engine, it is in Google’s interest that there is some openness about how it ranks web pages, so that the playing ground is as level as possible for companies competing for SEO rankings. For this reason Google is quite open about its ranking algorithm. However, much about the internal weighting of these rankings factors is left to guesswork.

Brands will need to choose carefully between a specific set of high-level SEO strategies. Implementing these strategies is hard enough for a single domain, but working across several domains on a gTLD adds to the complexity.

These are some of the things we advise clients to consider when applying for a gTLD:

Exact-match domains

The search engines will still rank exact-match domains higher, so with your own gTLD you can create as many exact-match domains as you want. For example, for the name ‘credit card’, creditcard. com is an exact-match domain. This is a well known technique but search engines might detect it as spam. It is easy to be tempted by this, but we suggest caution here, especially if brand considerations are important.

Tightly-themed TLD

The search engines will boost rankings for tightlythemed websites. There is a Google patent that clearly shows that Google might also use the TLD as a ranking factor. This means there is a possibility that a gTLD such as .hotel might get higher rankings for hotel queries, but have lower rankings for other searches.

There is a well known example of this in the US: the .gov TLD ranks very high for all searches related to cities and municipalities, and also ranks higher than websites which, from a purely SEO perspective, should rank much higher.

Domain considerations

When searching using Google, it might look as though the .com TLD has some extra authority. However this bias, if it exists, is only marginal. Google says it does not favour one TLD above another.

The reason why the .com domains usually rank better is probably because more is invested in these domains. For most brands this will probably be true: more has been invested in the [brand].com domain than in most other domains that the brand owns.

Content is king

There is no substitute for great content. A website without unique and useful content will seldom be able to rank for anything but singular, specific search phrases.


When moving from a single website to a TLD, this might mean that you have to split up the content, making each website ‘thinner’ than the original, single, website. How you split up this content will be very important for the content ranking.

The search engines give preference to websites that are tightly themed. There should be some logic behind splitting up the content: taking this logic and showing it to the search engines will therefore be very important.

Thin content

There is a risk that when a website owner moves from a single domain to several domains on one TLD there might be too little unique content on each domain. This should be a problem only in extreme cases where a TLD owner splits up the content across large numbers of domains.

Migrating to the new gTLD

Redirecting in the right way is vital when moving content, so that the search engines can figure out where it has moved to. All too often this is done incorrectly and search rankings are lost, sometimes permanently.


One of the major ranking factors is links pointing to a website. The total number of links to a website is called link equity. When you split up several websites across a TLD, it is important to consider how this will affect your link equity. Again, how this splitting is done will strongly influence search rankings.

All in all, benefiting from SEO in a competitive market has become a highly specialised and difficult task. The rules are unknown or difficult to guess, the competition is fierce and competitors will constantly use techniques that are banned by the search engines (and, regrettably, this is often very effective).

The complexity rises to a new dimension when this task is to be mastered on not just one single domain, but simultaneously on a large number of domains. Knowing how to do this in a controlled manner will put large pressure on any SEO team or SEO manager, and should not be dealt with lightly.

OMG provides strategic advice and execution within all areas of marketing, communication and customer experience. OMG’s philosophy is always to deliver the highest quality to our clients in the areas of SEO/SEM and web analysis, user experience and design, social media, strategic advice, concept development, market research and CRM strategies and services.

Ludvik Høegh-Krohn is the director of search marketing at OMG, a Norwegian online marketing company. He can be contacted at: post@omg.no

This article was first published on 01 May 2012 in World IP Review

gTLDs, SEO, domain names, ICANN

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