Update February 2015: We have updated our research, and you can find the results here: .COM Vs. New gTLD Domain Names: 8 Months Later.
Globe Runner did a search engine marketing study to find out which are better for marketing: .Com or a New gTLD Domain name.
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) coming available, and many are already available for registration.
New gTLD market share courtesy ntldstats.com
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?
We had so many questions about the new gTLD domain names that we set out to find out, using real-world data, whether or not the public cares about the domain name when they see it. We set out to set up tests, a search engine marketing study, where we could determine which are better for search engine marketing: .COM domain names or new gTLD domain names?
.COM Vs. gTLD Test Overview
As a leading interactive marketing agency based in the Dallas, Texas area, Globe Runner wanted to find out, first-hand, which TLD (or new gTLD) performs better from a website marketing or search engine marketing perspective: this is our first search engine marketing study. For the purpose of testing the overall marketing performance of .COM domains versus new gTLD domain names, we thought that it would be important and most appropriate to use Google AdWords, a leading source of paid internet traffic.
In the case of our primary test, we 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.
We chose these domain names for the primary test:
and we chose brand-related keywords for the second test. We chose these domain names for the second test:
We wanted to make sure that the domain names we chose were very close in nature—but they also presented us with an opportunity to measure the results based on the .com domain name and the new gTLD being used. We created two separate landing pages for the tests. One landing page was used on the “diamonds” domain names:
For the “menu” test, we use one landing page on both domain names:
We put the same landing page on both domain names and used the same ad copy in our Google AdWords ads. We bid on the same keywords, 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 that we used on both of those domain names if you go to those websites. Essentially they were exactly the same–except for the domain name.
After we ran our Google AdWords campaigns for a specific period of time, it was clear to us, 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 our “diamonds” test, it ultimately cost us 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).
We also looked at the results for the test on MattitosMenu.com versus Mattitos.Menu. 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 doman name, and then the resutls of the test for MattitosMenu.com 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 we looked at is the effective CPM for the keywords. We calculated the effective CPM for each of the .Com and .Diamonds campaigns, 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. We set up two different goals for the “diamonds” test. 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).
Our Other gTLD Test
Similar to the first test, using .Com versus .Diamonds, we set up another test using a .Com domain name versus a .Menu domain name, using a local restaurant in the Dallas/Fort Worth area of Texas, called Matittos.
We set up two campaigns, one for each domain name. We used the same ad copy for both campaigns, except that the display URL (and the landing page) was different.
We set up a landing page (the same one) on MattitosMenu.com and on Mattitos.Menu. On the landing page, we did not intend to “sell” anything—we 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 MattitosMenu.com and Mattitos.Menu of you’d like to look there, as well).
Based on the results of our 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 our ads using the .Menu domain name was better (it was higher) than the .Com. So it was clear to us that Google AdWords actually prefers the .Menu domain name over the .Com.
Our 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. We are not totally convinced that one is necessarily “better” than the other.
What we did see, 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.
We want to be totally transparent when it comes to our testing and the tests that we performed. We have compiled all of the data, including the actual CTR, CPC, budget, and even the keywords that we used during the tests. Use the following form to download our full 27 page research report.