27th October 2016
VARN Original Research: How your domain name could be damaging your business
Top level domains (TLDs) are the abbreviations at the end of website addresses, such as .com, .edu, .gov, etc. Since 2014, business owners have been able to apply to create their own TLDs and since then over 1000 new TLDs have been introduced. Many thought this would be a game changer for marketing and SEO, with millions of websites using these new TLDs, but in reality over half of all websites on the internet still use .com as their domain.
There are many ways that businesses can use TLDs- whether to signify which industry they are in, e.g. .fashion or .finance; as a creative solution to shorten their URL, e.g. from smithreeddentists.com to smithreed.dentist; or for big brands, using their name as the extension e.g. .barclays. But what do users think?
70% of people don’t trust newer website domains
To find out we surveyed 1000 people from across the UK who represented a range of ages, and asked the following question:
Do you trust companies with .co.uk and .com domains more than those with other newer domains like .eu, .biz, .net, .fashion, .london, .digital etc?
– I trust .co.uk and .com domains more
– I trust all domains the same
– I trust .eu, .biz & .london etc domains more
The answers varied depending on the group of people surveyed; it seems women are more cautious than men, as 74% of women trust .com and .co.uk domains more compared to only 67.3% of men, and while 29.1% of men said that they trust all domains the same, only 22.9% of women felt the same. We also found big differences in results when comparing the different age ranges of the UK, as younger respondents seemed much less trusting of new domains than their older counterparts.
Of the 25-34 year-olds surveyed, 77.6% chose ‘I trust .co.uk and .com domains’, and only 21.3% of them confirmed that they trust all domains the same. Compare this to the 55-64 year olds: 35% of them answered ‘I trust all domains the same’, and 61% of them trust .com and .co.uk domains more- a whopping 16.6% less than the younger generation.
How do domain names affect SEO?
TLDs such as .auto, .london, .bank etc may help to make website addresses more memorable for users, but what about search engines? Google has confirmed that their algorithms treat new TLDs the same, and will rank search results according to their relevance to the searcher’s query, regardless of the TLD. There are still questions around whether using TLDs as keywords can positively affect rankings- the use of keywords in URLs generally can have a positive effect on rankings, and there have been examples of companies seeing a boost in rankings after changing to a top level domain which is also a keyword relevant to their brand, suggesting that in some instances the Google algorithms are interpreting the URL as a keyword phrase. However, Google have since warned webmasters not to switch from their current TLDs to new TLDs just in the hope of boosting rankings, as changing domains involves a lot of work and can even result in a drop in rankings.
In terms of search engine users, some people may be more likely to click on results which include keywords as the TLD, as search terms are shown in bold within the search results and so users may judge them more relevant to their query. However as our survey results reveal, some users do not trust newer domains as much as more familiar ones, and so this might mean they are less likely to choose them from search engine results pages (SERPs). So why do people not trust newer domain names as much? Well security seems to be the main reason. Some internet users associate the new domain names with spam, or fear that the site may not be secure so personal information and payment details may be at risk.
What does this mean for your website?
Ultimately we can summarise it as trust= CTR= rank. If users trust older extensions such as .com over the newer ones then websites with new TLDs will have lower click-through rates (CTR), which could then over time mean they perform less well in rankings. If you are considering moving to or registering a site on a new TLD, consider which will be best suited to your brand and website, and avoid uncommon domain names in case users consider them to be spam.
If you’re worried about the SEO impact of your domain name and want some advice, contact the team here at Varn.