Your website’s top-level domain or TLD is a vital part of ensuring its accessibility, and it is one of the most visible parts of your online brand. It looks small, at least when compared to your palette, the font you use, or the style of photos you have on your site, but it is just as significant. Here are things you should know about TLDs.
What is a TLD?
A top-level domain is the last portion of a domain name. In our case, www.ranked.ai, our TLD is .ai. Every website has an extension like this, from simple ones like .com and .org to unusual ones like .coach, .online, or even .pizza!
The top-level domain you choose should provide users with an idea of the type of services you have, the sector where you work, or the location of your business.
Do TLDs Matter in SEO?
The short answer is no; top-level domains do not directly affect your rankings. According to Google, custom TLDs do not provide any advantage or disadvantage—it does not affect your SERP placement.
However, SEOs still want website owners to consider the TLD they will use carefully. It can still influence what people think of your brand, and therefore, affect your click-through rate. Some TLDs seem more legitimate than others—for example, .com and .net appear to be the most trustworthy TLDs.
Different Types of TLDs
According to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers or IANA, you can group TLDs into three categories: generic, sponsored, and country-code TLDs. The IANA Root Zone Database has a list of all the active TLDs today. Here is a closer look at these types of TLDs.
Generic or gTLD
As the name implies, this is the type of top-level domain you’re probably used to seeing. Some popular ones are .com, .org, and .net. Though we call them “generic” top-level domains, they still tell visitors a lot about the site they are visiting. For example, .com stands for “commercial,” while .org stands for “organization.”
There are also gTLDs for specific companies and organizations. You can now visit websites that end with .apple, .google, and .amazon. There are also geographic gTLDs or GeoTLDs, extensions associated with a city or similar size area.
Examples are .berlin or .paris, and unlike country-code TLDs, geographic top-level domains are not automatically geotagged. GeoTLDs can make you appealing to local audiences.
Sponsored or sTLD
Businesses and governments are the ones who typically use this type of top-level domain. Examples of sTLDs are .gov, .edu, and .museum. There are fewer sponsored top-level domains since the IANA has stricter criteria for using sponsored TLDs.
Websites with sponsored TLDs are usually informational. For example, a .gov domain will likely have posts, videos, and other resources that address very particular government-related concerns.
A website that wants to use sTLDs needs to be trustworthy since they are supposed to efficiently help users find official information.
Country Code or ccTLD
Finally, there are country-code top-level domains, which are country-specific two-character TLDs. Some examples of ccTLDs are .de, for Germany, .uk, for the United Kingdom, .ca, for Canada, .fr, for France, and .in for India, among many others. There are currently over 300 ccTLDs in operation.
One significant upside to using a ccTLD is it lets customers see what country you serve or where people can find your headquarters. It also helps geotarget your website.
Note, though, that ccTLDs do not geotarget languages. For example, if you have a U.S.-based company with a .us domain, but you want to expand and accommodate Spanish-speaking audiences, you must ensure your post follows multilingual SEO.
How to Choose the Best TLD for Your Site
When deciding on a top-level domain, you need to keep your site’s purpose and target audience in mind. If your goal is to attract local audiences, a country code TLD or a geographic gTLD might be a good option. If you have a global audience, it is better to go for generic TLDs since people are most familiar with them.
If you’re concerned about how your TLD affects your site, you can see whether it helps or hurts your SEO using a site audit. Audits help you see technical errors that cause you to lose organic traffic.
Should you use unique TLDs?
One of the things you would notice about our domain is our TLD, .ai, which is a ccTLD for the Caribbean country of Anguilla. However, since it looks and sounds like the acronym for artificial intelligence, many companies—this one included—use it to represent their business. If you would like to do the same and use a ccTLD different from your main office’s location, go ahead. However, note that you need to comply with the domain policies that come with the type you want to register.
Some people are afraid that using a unique TLD will affect their website’s SEO. However, we go back to what Google says—older top-level domains like .com do not have an advantage over newer ones like .website, .site, etc. Meanwhile, others express concern over how expensive .com domains are and consider unique gTLDs a viable alternative.
While both concerns are valid, what should matter to you are the contents of your website, the quality of on- and off-page SEO you put into it, and the value you bring to your target market. Your domain name is essential, and it can affect customer perceptions of your business, but it is not as important as what you do when relating with customers. Think of a good domain name, and settle for a gTLD or a ccTLD that you can afford today—you can always get a more expensive .com in the future.
TLDs play a vital role in your website’s performance. Though they do not directly affect your SERP rankings, the right TLD will make the right impression on visitors to your website. If you haven’t chosen a domain for your website, we hope the points we raised here gave you things to think about!
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