Group gives no definitive answers about choosing top level domains.
This month’s Search Off the Record, a podcast by Google’s Search Relations team, is all about your choice of top level domain name.
The show starts by butchering what top level domains are (they say gmail.com, example.com, google.com, etc. are called top level domains). Then the hosts kind of, sort of answer questions about your choice of domain and how it impacts SEO. But I walked away thinking it was as clear as mud.
For example, they discuss if you should avoid cheap top level domains:
[00:06:23] John Mueller: …Okay, and among the generic ones, are any better or worse? You said, xyz is super cheap. I don’t know. I haven’t even looked recently. Should I use xyz because it’s cheap, or should I try to get a .com, or should I get .coffee? What should I get? [00:06:45] Gary Illyes: Hmm. I mean, my gut reaction is people should stay away from the cheapest TLDs, especially if they are free. [00:06:55] John Mueller: Okay. [00:06:55] Martin Splitt: Why that? [00:06:56] Gary Illyes: Because of spammers. [00:06:58] John Mueller: Oh, basically, if the TLD is filled with spam, then search engines might have trouble finding your content. [00:07:04] Gary Illyes: Yeah. [00:07:04] Martin Splitt: Or thinking that your site might be the exception to the others. Okay. [00:07:10] Gary Illyes: I don’t actually know if .xyz is overrun with spam. But if we say that .example is overrun by spam, and over 99% of the content there is spam, then we might not want to pick up sitemaps from those domain names because the chances of leading to spam is way too high. But I think this is typically only affecting, or might only affect the free and the really cheap TLDs or ccTLDs exactly because they are cheap and it attracts spammers.
So no answer there. Maybe cheap TLDs with lots of spam sites impact other sites on those TLDs. Maybe not. Or maybe it’s just the impression people will get of them. Then it “might only affect the free and really cheap” domains. Free domains make sense, but how cheap is really cheap? Nearly all of the top 10 TLDs by volume can be acquired for a dollar or two for the first year.
I’ve seen articles about this podcast episode suggesting you should avoid cheap domains. Maybe you should, but I didn’t come away with a definitive answer.
Then they talk about buying a second level domain that’s expensive because it’s taken, and confusingly compare that against an entire TLD that’s low priced for hand registrations:
[00:08:00] John Mueller: [laughs] Okay, Gary, I see you’re raring to go. So, one of the things that I know people struggle with is a lot of domain names are taken and they’re for sale, but someone else registered them and they want to sell them to you for lots of money. [00:08:20] If the .com version of my domain name is, I don’t know, available for like $10,000, and the .xyz one is $5, should I just get the cheap one, or should I try to get the expensive one? [00:08:34] Gary Illyes: This goes back to the cheapest one, right? If it’s the cheapest domain name available, or TLD available, then I would just not go for that. I would find something more expensive that is not basically easily accessible to spammers. But then going back to the $10,000 or whatever funny money domain name, let’s say .com, that should be a business decision. Like, do you need that branding or not for your business? Because if not, then investing $10,000 funny money in a domain name might actually not make it worth. [00:09:13] John Mueller: Okay, so it’s less like an SEO question and more a branding, marketing type question? [00:09:19] Gary Illyes: I think so.
They also discuss choosing a top level domain that matches your content:
[00:09:49] Martin Splitt:
Does it give me any benefit if I own a coffee shop, if I do fantastic.coffee as my domain from an SEO perspective?[00:09:57] Gary Illyes: I think people would be more likely to link to you. [00:10:00] Martin Splitt: (surprised) Oh! [00:10:01] John Mueller: But is there an inherent SEO advantage if you have a TLD that matches your keywords? [00:10:08] Gary Illyes: No. [00:10:08] John Mueller:No?
Google has previously said that keywords that span the dot offer no benefit. I know that at least early on, we definitely saw domains with keyword1.keyword2 rank very well for keyword1 keyword 2 searches. I’m not sure if that has changed. But if Google said it didn’t help then and it did, I’ll take Google’s current claim with a grain of salt.
The show also discusses expired domains.
[00:16:25] John Mueller: I have a bunch of people on Twitter who’ve told me that I should pick up expired domain names because it’s the best way to get a new site rolling. [00:16:32] Gary Illyes: Sure. [00:16:33] John Mueller: Is that a good idea? You’re saying I should check the history, but they’re saying I should just buy an old domain that had stuff on it before. [00:16:41] Gary Illyes: If you have lots of money, why not? [00:16:44] John Mueller: But does it help me for SEO? [00:16:45] Gary Illyes: The anecdote is that it does. Practically, I doubt it, or at least not the way that people think it does. [00:16:55] John Mueller: [sighs] Okay. [00:16:56] Gary Illyes: The other thing is that when you buy one of these domain names, then you might also end up with a domain name that has manual action. And until you actually bought the domain name, you can’t even check it anywhere on the internet. Because to check it, whether it’s affected by a Google Manual Action, you would have to register the domain name in Search Console, right?
I believe Google has previously said that building sites on expired domains doesn’t help, but we know that it can.
Overall, I walked away from the podcast without much clarity.
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