Should You Use a Custom Domain?

Should You Use a Custom Domain?

Once upon a time all websites were either a .com, a .net or a .org. That is far from the case anymore. New top-level domains are being released all the time, like .golf or .gold. That leaves business owners with questions—and often, misconceptions. How does Google handle these new domains? Are they better or worse for your SEO? Should you move your site to a new one, or have sites using several of them?

To answer these questions Google has released a new FAQ page. Here’s everything you need to know about their answers, and our recommendations on how to use domains.

Google Says…

If I had to sum up Google’s FAQ in one phrase, it would be “chill out.” Google seems to get a lot of questions from webmasters worried that choosing one domain or another will affect their SEO. The basic answer is, it won’t.

A few highlights:

  • All of these new domains, no matter how obscure, are treated like generic top level domains (gTLD’s). In other words, .faith is treated exactly like .com or .org. None of them has any search advantage.
  • Domains don’t count as keywords. Your site will not rank better for golf just because it ends in .golf.
  • Domains can affect your geo-targeting. This applies to country code top level domains (ccTLD’s) like .es (Spain) or .us (the United States). Google assumes sites at these domains are aimed at users in the appropriate country, and may up-rank them locally. However…
  • City or regional domains do not affect geo-targeting. For example, .london or .asia won’t be up-ranked for London or Asian searches. This may seem surprising, but Google is playing a “wait and see” game to see how they’re used.

What does all that mean? Google’s main message her is simple: choose the domain extension that best reflects your business, or works best for your branding, and be happy with it. It’s not about SEO.

In practice, however, there’s more that business owners need to know.

The Right Way to (Not) Use Domains

Google’s FAQ leaves out a few crucial bits of information. From an SEO and marketing perspective, here are some recommendations of my own:

  1. Don’t change domains. Occasionally a business has a really good reason to change domains (like if you finally managed to buy yourexactbrandname.com). But usually a domain change will hurt you. The FAQ says that a properly managed domain change will not hurt your SEO, but in reality it’s messy. And even Google admits the change “can take time to be processed.” Do you want to go weeks or months with reduced traffic?
  2. You don’t need multiple domains unless you’re in multiple countries. It can be tempting to put up sites on several “targeted” domains, like .golf, .uk and .com. But Google has explicitly said this doesn’t actually help target at all. The .uk site is the only one you need. What’s worse, duplicate content is penalized and all your sites will take an SEO hit. The only time to run multiple domains is if you operate in multiple countries and want a local site for each one. (Google will allow this, but still doesn’t recommend duplicate content.)
  3. The new domains are really not that great. At a glance, custom domain extensions like .golf sound perfect for your brand. But they don’t help SEO, and unlike ccTLD’s they don’t boost geo-targeting. Plus, customers aren’t used to them and might have a hard time remembering them. Go with your nation-specific code or the well known .com if you can help it.

If you need to boost your SEO and get more organic local traffic, EverSpark Interactive can help. Contact us for your free SEO consultation today.