It’s a well known fact that the cupboard is bare when it comes to buying a .com domain name for your website. Most of the good ones have long gone and many are finding their way onto the market through sites like flippa.com, often at very high prices.
Unless you are lucky, the chances of getting the .com that you hanker after are low to non-existent, unless you are willing to pay the considerable cost of buying one on the open market or in an auction.
Enter the new generation of TLDs, (Top Level Domains) which include such options as .London, .club, .store, .lawyer and many more. Most of these cost quite a bit more than their .com equivalents but if the .com you want is taken then you will probably be offered one of these as an alternative.
The big question is should you take it or should you stick to one of the more tried and tested alternatives such as .org. .net, .info etc?
The big answer is, well, the jury is out. One thing that Google have been keen to stress is that there is no advantage in terms of search engine ranking, to using an industry or keyword specific TLD. So, if you are a lawyer, and you buy fredbloggs.lawyer as your domain name, the fact that the word lawyer is in your top level domain (i.e. after the “dot”), will not give you any advantage over, say, fredblogs.org, for example.
This should not be confused with the somewhat older and well-established practice of embedding your most important keyword or phrase into your url. For example toplondonlawyer.com would normally outperform fredbloggs.co.uk in a search for “london lawyers” even if Fred was a highly regarded London lawyer with a great looking and well indexed website with lots of relevant top quality content.
It is generally accepted that including your main keyword or phrase in your domain name does give you an advantage in search results provided that all other aspects of your website are in order.
Top Level domains – A sound commercial decision?
Our take on it is that if the .com you want is unavailable, or only available at a premium price, then you should probably go for it. Leaving aside any gains that may or may not be made in terms of search engine ranking, it is better to have a top level domain that is close to what you would have liked as a .com, than have to compromise too much in order to get a .com at all costs.
So, from a commercial point of view I would go for it but, as Google’s John Mueller pointed out in a recent Google Hangout, keyword-rich TLDs, like .Live, .News, .lawyer, and so on will not affect your website ranking strength. In fact, Mueller was quite specific in saying that Google completely ignores words in the TLD for ranking purposes.
I was recently asked by a client if he should purchase all the relevant TLD variations of his main named URL just to prevent competitors from getting them. This, of course, is a commercial strategy rather than an SEO related decision. Since I was aware that he could easily afford to do so I advised him to get them. It should be remembered however that the price you are quoted is normally only for 1 year, or multiples, so the cost will be recurring.