Search Engine Marketing: .Com Vs. New gTLDs

Since the beginning of the Internet, we've been mainly using three main Top Level Domains (TLDs) for our websites: .COM, .NET, and .ORG. We typically are used to seeing and using the top three TLDs, and those websites currently make up a majority of what we see in the search engine results pages, such as in Google’s search results. Since January 2014, however, there are literally hundreds of new Generic Top Level Domains (New gTLDs) becoming available, and many are already available for registration.


New gTLD market share courtesy

The most popular domain name amongst the new gTLDs is .xyz, but when it comes to "keyword rich" TLDs, .photography is on top. It is widely thought that one way to potentially gain some search engine marketing advantage would be to buy a keyword rich domain name that includes the TLD as one of the main keywords. This strategy has been said to not matter when it comes to search engine ranking advantages in Google, though. In March, 2012, Matt Cutts, from Google, addressed a myth about the new gTLDs.

Specifically, Matt Cutts said regarding organic search engine rankings in Google:
“Google has a lot of experience in returning relevant web pages, regardless of the top-level domain (TLD). 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.”

So, buying a keyword-rich new gTLD domain name apparently does not carry any extra weight when it comes to actual search engine rankings, at least not in Google's organic search results. But what about actual real-world search engine marketing (PPC)? What if we were to see what real consumers desired?

Which are better for search engine marketing: .COM domain names or new gTLD domain names?

.COM Vs. gTLD Test Overview
Which TLD (or new gTLD) performs better from a website marketing or search engine marketing perspective. For the purpose of testing the overall marketing performance of .COM domains versus new gTLD domain names, it's important and most appropriate to use Google AdWords, a leading source of paid internet traffic.

In the case of the primary tests carried out by Globe Runner, they were able to secure two keyword rich domain names: one with the keyword in the domain name, and the other with the keyword in the domain name and in the new gTLD.

The following domain names were chosen for the primary test:

and the following brand-related keywords for the second test:

The domain names chosen were very close in nature—but they also presented an opportunity to measure the results based on the .com domain name and the new gTLD being used. Two separate landing pages were created for the tests. One landing page was used on the "diamonds" domain names:


For the "menu" test, one landing page was used on both domain names:


The same landing page was used on both domain names and the same ad copy was used for Google AdWords ads. The same keywords were used, with the same budget. Both ad campaigns ran at the same time. Those sites are still up and running today, so you can see the landing page used on both of those domain names if you go to those websites. Essentially they were exactly the same–except for the domain name.

The Results
After the Google AdWords campaigns ran for a specific period of time, it was clear in many aspects, that the .Com outperformed the .Diamonds domain name in certain key areas. However, in other key areas, the .Diamonds domain name performed much better.

Based on the results of the "diamonds" test, it ultimately cost more to use the .Com in a Google AdWords campaign than it did a .Diamonds domain name. The overall cost was $.43 cents more (the .Com was more expensive).

The results for the test on versus Mattitos.Menu were also analysed. These results were, in fact, quite different than what happened on the first test. Let's take a look at the test results first for the .Com versus the .Diamonds domain name, and then the results of the test for versus Mattitos.Menu.


It cost less per click for a .Diamonds domain than to run the same keywords on a .Com domain name, and the total campaign cost was lower. With a higher CTR on the .Com domain name, it appears that end users may favor the .Com domain name over the .Diamonds domain name. The .Diamonds domain name, however, was given quite a few more impressions than the .Com domain name, giving the .Diamonds domain name more visibility. In fact, it appears that Google AdWords actually favors use of the .Diamonds domain name, giving it more impressions and even better positioning. The average position for the .Diamonds domain name was better.

Another of the data points looked at is the effective CPM for the keywords. The effective CPM for each of the .Com and .Diamonds campaigns were calculated, and they are as follows:

Effective CPM (cost per thousand impressions): $4.02 per thousand views
Effective CPM (cost per thousand impressions): $7.24 per thousand views

Based on the “Effective CPM”, it cost nearly twice as much to advertise a .COM domain name than it did a .DIAMONDS domain name. So, it appears that Google AdWords favors the .Diamonds domain name over the .Com domain name.

What About Conversions?
Where it really gets interesting is when we look at the conversions. There two different goals for the "diamonds" test set up. One was the download of a PDF file, and the other was a "Shop Diamond Rings" button located at the bottom of the landing page.


There were more conversions on the .com domain name for both the download of the PDF file and for clicks on the "Shop Diamond Rings" button on the site, and the total conversion rate was higher on the .Com domain name than it is on the .Diamonds domain name. So while the Google AdWords tends to favor the new gTLD domain name, consumers appear to favor the .Com (we saw nearly a 20 percent better conversion rate on the .Com domain name).

Other gTLD Test
Similar to the first test, using .Com versus .Diamonds, there was another test set up using a .Com domain name versus a .Menu domain name, using a local restaurant in the Dallas/Fort Worth area of Texas, called Matittos. Two campaigns were set up, one for each domain name. The same ad copy was used for both campaigns, except that the display URL (and the landing page) was different.

A landing page was set up (the same one) on and on Mattitos.Menu. The landing page was not intended to "sell" anything—it was just wanted to drive traffic to the website and allow potential customers of the restaurant to view the menu. Here's what the landing page looked like at the time of the test (it's still live on and Mattitos.Menu of you’d like to look there, as well).

Based on the results of the test, it appears that Google doesn't necessarily prefer the .Com domain name over the .Menu domain name. Google served up nearly 10,000 more impressions of the .Com domain name than they did of the .Menu domain name. The CTR was actually better and cheaper using the .Menu domain name. Also, the average position of the ads using the .Menu domain name was better (it was higher) than the .Com. So it was clear that Google AdWords actually prefers the .Menu domain name over the .Com.

Final Thoughts
The overall goal when setting up these tests was ultimately to determine whether using a .Com domain name or a new gTLD domain name is better when it comes to search engine marketing and Google AdWords. There isn't necessarily conclusive evidence that one is "better" than the other.

What can be seen, though, is that Google AdWords tends to favor the new gTLDs, as they served up more impressions, for less cost, and a better average position then the .Com domain names we used. At the same time, though, when it came to conversions, the public appeared to favor the .Com domain names.

Original article written by Bill Hartzer.

You can read NetNames' report, Internet 2020, an analysis of how new gTLDs will transform the Internet, here >