Matt Cutts: Be Careful About How You Choose Your ccTLDs

Google considers many ccTLDs to be specific to a country, so be careful about how you choose your TLDs. Particularly, you need to be careful when you're using a ccTLD with the intent to be something different from how it is generally used.

Date published
August 01, 2013 Categories

Matt CuttsWith great .com names becoming more and more scarce, and with the resale value of fabulous .com names being worth thousands or even millions of dollars, many businesses have resorted to that great name – but in a country-specific TLD (ccTLD), even if it’s a country they don’t do business in.

But in a world where Google is geo-targeting search results, could using a country specific TLD hurt your search rankings in Google, or can Google figure it out for themselves that your domain isn’t actually a business located in Tuvalu?

Because this is an issue that more webmasters have been dealing with, the latest Google webmaster help video is all about dealing with ccTLDs and how it could affect rankings.

As memorable .COM domains become more expensive, more developers are choosing alternate new domains like .IO and .IM – which Google geotargets to small areas. Do you discourage this activity?

Google does consider many of the ccTLDs to be specific to that country when it comes to search results, so they are warning to be careful about how you choose your TLDs. Particularly, you need to be careful when you are using a ccTLD with the intent to be something different from how it is generally used.

For example, Google’s Distinguished Engineer Matt Cutts talks about a business wanting to use the .li ccTLD where the .li would stand for Long Island. However, .li is the ccTLD for Liechtenstein, and the usage for that particular ccTLD is overwhelmingly sites about or targeting Liechtenstein. So using .li to stand for Long Island would be trying to change the intent of that ccTLD and would not be in the best interest of searchers and would likely not produce the best search results for a site that wants to target Long Island.

“There are a few ccTLDs that are sort of generic,” Cutts said. “Because for stands for something related to the Indian Ocean but there were very few domains that were actually relevant to that and a lot of startups were using that and it was something that was really much more applicable to the entire world.

“And so we do periodically review that list and if we see something that’s primarily used worldwide and is not really all that specific to that country that we might go ahead and say okay this is a generic ccTLD so go ahead and even if you have a .io domain, don’t target it just a the Indian Ocean, anyone worldwide could potentially see that in their search results or are more likely to.”

He does caution webmasters that they shouldn’t assume that all ccTLDs will be considered generic or will be considered generic in the future. So be careful about the ccTLDs that you might want to misappropriate for your own use.

“But I wouldn’t get too far ahead of it, because if you jump on to a certain, for example, there’s .KY, and if you say, oh, I’m going to make that all about Kentucky, well, that might work for you, but it might not work for you. And so it’s the sort of thing where if you assume that you are going to be able to take things away from the Cayman Islands and turn it into Kentucky, well, if the Cayman Islands is already using .KY, then I wouldn’t assume that you’ll be able to necessarily apply it in this general or generic sort of way.”

Finally, earlier this year Google released an updated list of various ccTLDs, rTLDs and gccTLDs that Google now considers to be top level domains when it comes to search results. And yes .tv is on that list, along with other popular ccTLDs such as .me, .bz and .ws, along with .io from Matt’s example.

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