Google Search Advocate John Mueller has shed light on the difference between generic top-level domains (gTLDs) and country code top-level domains (ccTLDs), offering practical advice for businesses and SEO professionals.
His comments come amid Google’s recent update that classifies .ai domains as a gTLD, moving away from its previous association with Anguilla, a British overseas territory in the eastern Caribbean.
Understand the gTLD and ccTLD distinction
A website owner on a reddit thread in the r/SEO forum asks about the SEO implications of choosing country-specific domains.
In response to the thread, Mueller notes that ccTLDs such as .nl, .fr and .de are advantageous if a company is targeting customers in that region.
However, for those looking for a global market or targeting a different country than the ccTLD suggests, a gTLD or the relevant ccTLD might be a better choice.
“The most important thing I would consider is ccTLDs (“country code”, like nl, fr, de) and gTLDs (“generic” – com, shop, net, etc). ccTLDs tend to focus on one country , which is fine if you plan to sell mainly in this country or if you want to sell worldwide.If you mainly want to target another country (such as “nationwi.de”, but want to target the US), make sure you get this ccTLD or a gTLD.”
It also clarifies that all new TLDs are classified as gTLDs. Even those that seem geographically specific, like “.berlin,” aren’t technically considered ccTLDs.
“All new TLDs are gTLDs, for what it’s worth: some sound geo-specific, but technically aren’t (like “.berlin”; it’s a gTLD). In addition to ccTLDs and gTLDs for SEO, there’s also the User aspect to think about: Will they click on a link they perceive to be for users in another country?
In another similar threadMueller warns against selecting TLDs primarily used by spammers:
“From an SEO POV, I just wouldn’t pick a TLD that’s super cheap and full of spam.” This comment emphasizes the importance of considering the reputation of TLDs when strategizing for SEO.
Google .ai domain update
Google recently updated theirs help documentation, specifying that it now treats .ai domain names as gTLDs, similar to .com, .org and others.
This means that Google Search will not consider Anguilla geo-specific .ai domains.
Gary Illyes of the Google Search Relationships team offers the reason behind the change:
“We won’t deduct the target country from the ccTLD, so targeting Anguilla became a bit more difficult, but then again, there are almost no .ai domains trying to do that anyway.”
This update is important for companies and SEO professionals who previously avoided using .ai domain names for fear that Google would associate them with Anguilla.
The new ranking removes the worry and these domains can now be used without the worry of geo-specific targeting by Google’s algorithms.
To sum up
Choosing the right domain, whether country-specific (ccTLD) or generic (gTLD), makes all the difference in reaching the right audience.
A ccTLD might be a good fit if a company primarily targets customers in a particular country. A gTLD might be a better choice if the goal is to reach a wider, global audience.
Also, it’s a good idea to avoid spammy TLDs that damage your site’s reputation.
Mueller’s comments are a good reminder of strategic decisions when registering your domain.
Featured image generated by the author via Midjourney.