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The Impact of Domain Name TLD's on Paid Search Results

Published: March 9, 2015

Author: Todd Mintz

Bill Hartzer was one of our invited speakers at the SEMpdx SearchFest conference in Portland this year. At the SearchFest pre-conference cocktail hour, I was chatting with Bill and James Svoboda when Bill shared with me some research that he did on the impact of Domain TLD’s on paid search results, which I somehow missed hearing about when he published it. I was totally blown away by what he told me and I encourage everyone to read his post and download his case study. It would cheapen Bill’s work to summarize his writing…instead, I’m going to channel what Nicholas Baker did with John Updike and write a post solely based on my perceptions of our chat.
The number of Domain TLDs has exploded in the last few years, and I’ve always thought the people who had to market them faced a huge uphill battle in generating widespread adoption. The idea that any additional SEO value exists from having a relevant keyword as your Domain TLD has been debunked. So, using a unique Domain TLD is pretty much a branding play. Because the great majority of the public lives in a dot com world (combined with the relevant country specific TLDs), and the educational hurdle to adopt something new and strange is so high, adoption of new TLDs outside of obvious keyword synergies remains very sporadic.
However, Bill presented me with very convincing evidence of the value of relevant TLDs in paid search.
As we all know, success in AdWords is predicated on Quality Score, and I’m nearly certain that Google will not give an automatic quality score boost based upon the advertiser having a niche TLD that contains a keyword relevant to their product or service.
But, one of the top components of Quality Score is CTR…and it’s entirely possible that having a more relevant TLD would lead to an increased CTR – which, indirectly, would lead to an increased Quality Score.
Let’s examine this comprehensive list of TLDs. If you sell clothes (as an example), you can buy a dot clothing domain name. While you likely have already established your website as a dot com, it would be very simple to purchase dot clothing just to host your paid search landing pages. You definitely would want to A/B test the dot com and dot clothing domains, but if the latter achieves better overall ROI, it would be a simple and legitimate technique to either use dot clothing as a doorway to your dot com site, or keep a separate dot clothing website only for your paid search traffic (blocked from the search engines so it doesn’t interfere with your SEO efforts).
Anyway, I hope you study Bill’s whitepaper with the eye towards trying new ways to increase the viability of your online business.

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