White Paper: Does Your Domain Extension Impact

Saturday, July 23, 2022
White Paper: Does Your Domain Extension Impact

Getting your business to the top of search results is a worthy goal but often presents a real challenge for many businesses.

One of the factors that impacts your placement in search results is your domain name. Businesses often ask which domain name characteristics are the most important. The white paper which you can download below illustrates in detail what you need to know about domain name choice to optimize for search result placement.

What is a TLD and why does it matter?

A TLD or top-level domain is the bit that you see at the end of a URL such as .com, .net. or .inc.

Does your choice of top-level domain impact your search ranking? Google has previously stated that the choice of TLD does not impact your site’s search presence. This white paper will put that assertion to the test.

This is important of course, because the price of say a.com domain can be much more than the price of a .inc domain or a .net domain. Not only that, but the .com domain that you want may be already taken – and owned by someone who wouldn’t sell at any cost.

What is a root domain and why does it matter?

The characters before that dot of the TLD is your root domain. Let’s consider the example of shoes.com – here “shoes” would be the root domain. What are the characteristics of a root domain that is performing effectively in search engines?

One question immediately jumps to the fore – does the length of my root domain improve my SEO performance? In particular, do really short root domains like shoes.com perform better. If a short domain has better SEO performance, then what is the optimal length?

The Impact of Domains on Google Search

We wanted to see what matters most in building your domain name and advice on how to best optimize your domain name for search, so we put it to the test. We ran an experiment and analysis on domain extension preference, looking at how various TLDs are treated through comparing the crawl rates of different top-level domains as well as various domain length.

Two industry experts came together to research, analyze, and write the white paper: Google Search Bias & Domain Neutrality

Meet the Researchers:

  • Professor, Jason Dojc: Jason Dojc teaches digital marketing at Seneca College (Ontario, Canada). Specializing in the effect of digital technology consumer behaviour.
  • SEO Specialist, Berker Gezer: Berker Gezer is a hands-on SEO specialist and UX designer. He has vast experience creating search engine optimized, user-friendly websites.

Experiment Design

To set up for the experiments, four websites were built using a relevant topic (“stay home fashion trends”) with nearly identical content but used different top-level domains. The top-level domains chosen were.inc, .com, .dealer and .net.

To ensure that parity wasn’t related to the topic, four additional sites were launched on a different topic (“gig work”), with the same four top level domains.

Over the 90-day experiment, Google crawled between 10-14pages per day to gather data on these domains.

This experiment design ensured that the researchers isolated the factors of interest in a scientifically appropriate way. All factors were kept identical except the variables under test so that results could be scientifically and statistically significant.

Experiments

Two different experiments were run to test if, and where, there are preferences within the domain name when it comes to Google Search.

Experiment 1: Top-Level Domain Preference

The first experiment tested to see if a top-level domain preference exists.

In this experiment the four different top-level domains were tested with a consistent root domain across the board. As the testing days ran their course it was tracked how quickly each site was crawled, as well as how often.

Experiment 2: Does Domain Length Matter?

The second experiment compared domains with varying root domain lengths (all with relevant words). It has become a common practice to add words on to your root domain in hopes of securing the domain you desire. We wanted to see if a longer domain name impacts the sites crawlability or crawl frequency.

Results

After an appropriate amount of time had passed and the data gathering phase was complete, it was time to analyze the data and generate conclusions for the hypothesis under test.

Experiment 1: Top-Level Domain Preference

The results showed similarity in terms the frequency and rate of crawling. This led to the conclusion that your top-level domain name does not affect traffic, crawlability, or crawl frequency, nor does it affect Search Engine Optimization (SEO) results.

Experiment 2: Does Domain Length Matter?

The results showed once again no discernable difference in the amount of time it took for the site to be crawled nor how often it was crawled. This led to the conclusion that your domain name length doesn’t impact your SEO ranking.

Conclusion

After putting Google’s statements to the test, it is clear they do not discriminate between different top-level domains. Therefore, there is no SEO advantage to having a .com domain in terms of crawlability and indexability.

As we have shown in our experiments, having a longer, more descriptive domain name with .com does not provide any advantage.

As Google isn’t pulling bias towards a .com nor the length, finding domain name that best suits your brand and your business is the most important.  This means business owners should concentrate on having the right name, full stop.

There is no traffic or backlink advantage, no crawlability advantage, nor any

indexability advantage to having a .com domain name for a website. Our second experiment showed having a longer and more descriptive domain name with .com does not confer any advantage. Given a business’s name has heritage, status, brand equity, and mental familiarity, it is not worth choosing a less than optimal name simply to secure the .com version of the domain name.

Download the white paper to get more information (including charts) about the experiment, analysis, and results.

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