In the world of blogging Google is absolute authority, king, queen and knight. But, the "word of Google" isn't as gospel as you might think. It pays to test!
That is why I am so excited to have James from Names.Of.London guest posting with us again. He has recently tested some of Google's comments around domain names, and how much of a ranking factor they really are.
Over to James!
That's right - despite numerous comments from Google that the domain name does not make much difference to a site's rankings, we managed to get a brand new dot-CLUB domain, with no relevant content, ranked top-10 in the UK (ranked No.5) and the US (ranked No.7) within 24 hours of purchase.
The fact that Google even knew the site existed is pretty impressive – but to get top-10 ranking that quickly is almost unheard of.
Clearly, in our example, we've hit a relatively rare search term, giving less competition, but there is further anecdotal evidence that new-GTLDs can boost your search ranking.
Maybe they're both right and here's a possible explanation.
When you see a hyperlink on a page, it comes in two parts. The linking text you see and the URL, you will be taken to, that you don't see. Google was the first search provider to fully exploit the concept that the text that you see, the link-text, contains important clues about the content of the site you will be taken to.
So let's look at the HTML code of a typical link – here is some HTML that might be emended in the code of a web page ...
Now lets consider the domain names cars.for.sale – on many social media platforms, like Twitter, this domain name will be recognised as no different than more traditional domain names like www.barryautos.com and so cars.for.sale will be converted into a hyper-link. Effectively cars.for.sale will be converted into the HTML code.
And Twitter is not the only site that will do this – many other social media sites and message apps will do the same. On Facebook, you would be required to enter the full URL to get it to be hyper-linked. In this example you would need to enter http://cars.for.sale/ - so you would end up with HTML code that looks like this.
So, when coffee.club went live, which was widely reported, every time it was mentioned it was also probably hyper-linked. So instead of just reporting the website as the plain text “coffee.club” people made it clickable by using the full hyper-link, like this.
On Twitter, you normally have no control over the link-text. Twitter simply uses the URL, or domain name, as the link-text. Therefore the only way you can control your link-text on Twitter is by using a descriptive domain name. This is common to many social media platforms.
Research by bit.ly shows that attractive links on social media achieve a 34% higher click-through rate. So the link “cars.for.sale” will almost certainly get more click-throughs than either barryautos.com or some URL shortener - as well as giving the site an SEO boost on the search term "cars for sale".
A further boost can be gained from type-in traffic. Domain names, usually new-GTLD names, that exactly match common search terms will get type-in traffic. We see about 10,500 users a week entering a search term that matches one of our new-GTLD domain names.
This may be because they have accidentally typed in a dot instead of a space, or it could be that, as these are mostly young users (55% 18-to-34) on phones (88% on mobile), they simply expect domain names like gifts.for.men or puppies.for.sale to work.
Google knows that direct type-in traffic is a valuable recognition of the user's familiarity with the website. For sites we do not often visit, we usually start with a search. But for sites we often visit, we either type the name directly into our browser, or we have the site bookmarked. If the site has Google Analytics installed, Google will see all this Direct traffic and this implied familiarity can provide an additional boost to the site's ranking.
If you buy a domain name, probably a new-GTLD domain name, that exactly, or very closely, matches the search term that you are trying to optimise for, it will almost certainly give you an SEO boost on two fronts - as well as coming with a bunch of free, targeted, visitors - but the boost is not from the way Google deals with the domain name itself, but the way people interact with it and the way other sites handle it.
Its probably the cheapest boost, to your online business, that money can buy. So if you want to rank high on nikes.for.sale or gifts.for.mom, maybe you need to consider buying the corresponding domain name - but the boost does not come for free, you will still have to work for it.
In some ways, it seems obvious. The search term you are trying to optimise for is the phrase you most want to associate with your site. So if your target phrase is "tours of london" owning the domain tours.of.london has to be an advantage.
But, remember, the old rules also still apply – if you don't have relevant content the visitors will just click-away so any gained traffic will be valueless.
If you have multiple domain names pointing to the same site, to get the best ranking, you should host the site on only one of the domain names, then use a permanent redirect (HTTP 301 redirect) at the other domain names, sending all the traffic to the primary location. That way Google knows all the domain names are effectively synonymous, and aggregates your ranking.
This is a republished post, the original came be found here.