The Domain Name Association (DNA) commissioned a study conducted by Web Traffic Advisors to better understand whether Top-Level Domains (TLDs) are a possible factor in the way search engines rank sites for specific terms in queries.
Knowing that well-established TLDs such as .com and .org can perform positively, the research conducted in December 2016 set out to find examples of strongly performing domains for the less common new TLDs such as .google, .microsoft, .seo, .agency, and other words that might drive traffic to a specific Web site.
Chris Boggs, founder of Web Traffic Advisors, led the research and came up with four specific TLDs to use as examples. He said the research is not intended to show that these extensions perform better, but that they stand on equal ground with .coms across industries.
Rowe Digital performed additional analysis on the data, providing an overview of the Domain Authority of the Web sites being researched. Large data sets were analyzed to measure the incidence of traditional .coms and custom domain name extension.
"The research shows it only took an average of a domain authority score of four for non-com pages to rank well across the keyword search engine results pages versus those that had an average domain authority of 33," Boggs said. "You can argue it's a hidden advantage, but I don't want to say that these domains will rank high without improving optimization, because that would be irresponsible of me, but the evidence shows there could be a hidden advantage, at least across these four examples, for specific target interests and keywords."
Four categories yielded strong case study candidates: Sports & Entertainment, B2B such as .parts and .agency, Retail by Industry such as .jewelry and .fishing, and Retail Shopping such as .shopping and .gifts. Four domains — SEO.agency, TheFun.singles, Rapala.fishing, and Diamonds.pro — were used in the study.
The "hidden advantages lie in strong keyword, such as "agency," driving a lot of traffic from search engines to the brand's Web site. Boggs suggests that brands may want to consumer using keywords as TLDs that drive strong traffic such as services.agency rather than services.com.
One mistake often made is that marketers think they don't need to optimize content when making pages and sites relevant to the theme. Not true, Boggs said.
Boggs admits that the shifting landscape of search could change rapidly alter the outcome of these findings, but for now the report provides proof that having a relevant domain name and delivering strong user-oriented content, while getting enough link authority to compete against tenured brands, is enough to rank for many competitive and lucrative searches happening each day.