Let’s Not Jump the Google Gun Just Yet

Josh Bourne ⬥ 6 December

Because ICANN’s new gTLD program will open up the domain name system on a scale that we have never seen before, there has been a great deal of speculation surrounding the implications of the program and the new domain names that it will produce.  For example, some have claimed that domain names with new gTLD extensions will rank higher in Google that domains with traditional gTLDs like .COM.

I have to question the accuracy of this claim, and people’s readiness to accept it as fact as opposed to speculation.  First and foremost, Google ranks pages according to a proprietary formula that rates a web page’s importance based on the number and quality of outside pages that link to it.  This “page rank” is combined with a variety of other factors, including how often the search term (or its synonyms) appears in the page, whether the search term appears in the title, and whether the term appears in the URL of the page, to give each page a score.  The pages with the highest scores appear at the top of Google’s results.

Presumably, people who assume that sites hosted on new gTLD domains will rank higher in Google believe this to be true because Google does account for the presence of the search term in the URL of a page in determining the page’s rank.  This is why generic keyword domains have the potential to rank highly in searches.  For gTLD domains, there will be an additional place for keyword (branded or generic) – to the right of the dot.  So given what we know about Google’s ranking system, new gTLD domains could outrank traditional domains in certain searches.  But so many other factors come into play that in Google’s ranking that it is difficult to make this claim with absolute certainty.

Moreover, there is no way for us to know what Google has planned for dealing with new gTLDs.  Google is obviously highly innovative, and it wouldn’t surprise me if the company adjusted its search and ranking algorithms to account for the presence of new gTLD domains.  But, we should not forget that .COM “challengers” are not new and keyword extensions like .TRAVEL have been around for years with little effect.  I challenge anybody to show me a .TRAVEL domain that ranks well for popular travel-related search phrases. 

Tags: .com, .TRAVEL, domain names, Google, gTLDs, ICANN, page rank, search term, URL, web page

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