Does Top Level Domains (URL Endings) matter in Digital Marketing?
So you have a great idea and want to start a new website. What do you do first? You check the availability of your .com. You find out that you have the option of choosing between .com.au and .sydney. (There is even the option of choosing .cars and .food.)
What will you purchase? Is one better than the other? Do Top Level Domains (TLDs) affect my site's visibility? Which URL ending will make me get more visits and, ultimately, help my site become successful?
What is the fuss about URL endings?
A brief background
Since domain names can represent or misrepresent a person or organization, they are regulated by a private international organization called ICANN. Since 1998, there have ensured that are only a limited number of TLDS. The most popular ones are .com, .org, .edu and .gov.
But due to the growth of the internet, there has been a need to create more TLDs. According to a December 2013 report, the internet ran out of four-letter .com domains. The three-letter .coms ran out by 1997.
By 2014, ICANN has created more than a hundred generic TLDs. This is in line with ICANN key role of introducing and promoting competition in the registration of domain names, while ensuring the security and stability of the domain name system.
Thus, today anyone interested can have the option of choosing .com.au or .sydney.
Will .sydney give me more traffic than .com.au?
The short answer is: No.
In response to the announcement of new TLDS, Google's Head of Webspam Matt Cuts posted this:
Google will attempt to rank new TLDs appropriately, but I don't expect a new TLD to get any kind of initial preference over .com, and I wouldn't bet on that happening in the long-term either. If you want to register an entirely new TLD for other reasons, that's your choice, but you shouldn't register a TLD in the mistaken belief that you'll get some sort of boost in search engine rankings
In the technical sense, your site whether it is a com.au or .sydney or not can and will have the same opportunity to rank as any other .com domain.
Should it matter what I choose?
The challenge of using new TLDs like .sydney is that people do not readily trust sites with unusual URL endings. There are more .com sites that are more popular than .biz domains.
Likewise, since .com.au has been a trusted TLD, it can connote a sense of trust-worthiness. Using a .sydney which indicates that it is a new site can be a disadvantage compared to other websites using the .com.au to serve customers for years.
The guiding principle in digital marketing is branding.
Your domain names (and your URL's ending) is also part of your brand. They are more than just the human-readable internet addresses of websites. They give identity to individuals, organizations and businesses. They can help determine your success in the digital space.
In the technical aspect of digital marketing, your TLD should not matter. However, in terms of branding, it matters.
Before choosing between .com.au or .sydney, you need to ask the three following questions:
Is the address easy to read and remember?
Is it relevant to the content of your site?
Does it represent your brand?