A CAR DEALERSHIP MOVED TO A .CARS DOMAIN. YOU WON’T BELIEVE WHAT HAPPENED NEXT
When St. Louis Motorcars, a luxury automotive dealership in Missouri, decided to move their existing website from www.STLMotorcars.com to www.STL.CARS, no one knew what would happen. The website’s traffic would be redirected to the new web address, but when it came to the adoption of their new URL on the web, and how the search engines would treat it, was anyone’s guess. In an effort to understand how the internet search engines, such as Google, deals with the new Top Level Domains (TLDs) such as .CARS, .CAR, and .AUTO, Globe Runner looked at several early adopters of the .CARS domain names. Specifically, we did a deep dive on one website in particular, St. Louis Motorcars. When we looked at the data before the move and after the move, you’ll never believe what had happened when they moved.
Since the beginning of the Internet, Americans have primarily used three main Top Level Domains (TLDs) for our websites: .COM, .NET, and .ORG. There are other TLDs that have been introduced that we’re all familiar with, such as .EDU and .GOV. It’s been fairly easy for us to register .COM, .NET, and .ORG domain names. You have to be associated with an educational institution or a government entity to secure a .EDU or a .GOV domain name. And then there’s the others that have been available for quite some time now, such as .INFO, .BIZ, and .TV. Most consumers in the USA are typically used to the top three, .COM, .NET, and .ORG.
In countries outside of the USA, the Country Code Top Level Domains (ccTLDs), are widely accepted and in fact often the default option. Country codes include .co.uk (United Kingdom), .es (Spain), .com.au (Australia), .ca (Canada), and .it (Italy), and are always two letters long. Depending on the location of your business, a ccTLD makes perfect sense as an alternative to .COM. However, since January 2014, there are literally hundreds of new Generic Top Level Domains (New gTLDs) becoming available, and many are already available for registration. A few of the automotive-related New gTLDs are .CARS, .CAR, and .AUTO. The .CARS TLD, for example, allows anyone to register a .CARS domain name, and many good domains are still available.
For domain names, shorter seems to be better. If the .COM version of the domain name you want isn’t available, then the equivalent .CARS domain name may be available. Recently, St. Louis Motorcars chose to move from STLMotorcars.com to STL.Cars, a shorter, “better” domain name, some would argue. If you are not going to be using your Trademark, company name, or Brand as a part of your domain name, a keyword rich domain name is a good choice.
With the recent launch of the .CARS TLD, we wanted to start digging right in and look at the data. We wanted to see if a .CARS domain name is worth the $3,000 purchase price. With the higher price tag, many could consider these domain names more “premium” than other TLDs. We want to know several things:
— Is a domain name on .CARS worth the cost?
— Are there any direct examples of where a business moved their domain name to a .CARS domain?
Being automotive enthusiasts and marketers ourselves, we wanted to know: should a car dealer move their website to a .CARS, .CAR, or .AUTO domain name? We chose .CARS and set to find out the answer.
Globe Runner chose to look in-depth at St. Louis Motorcars, who completely moved their dealership’s website from www.STLMotorcars.com to Stl.Cars. This was done during November 2015. By studying everything from the search engine rankings to the number of visitors on the website, we can determine whether or not a move from a .COM domain name to a .Cars domain name is recommended.
We looked to see if the move of the website was technically done properly, based on SEO best practices. Once we determined that St. Louis Motorcars had moved properly, and data was available from before the move to after the move, we started looking at the results. We certainly had questions about the move, and whether or not it was “worth” moving. Here’s a list of the questions we set out to answer:
– Was it worth the time and effort to move to a .CARS domain name?
– Did the move hurt or help website traffic?
– Were the visitors confused or troubled by the move?
– Was the move better or worse for visitors?
– How did the search engine respond to the move?
– How did Google, in particular, treat the website’s search engine rankings?
– Did the organic search traffic go up or down after the move?
– Was there a loss of traffic to the website during or after the move?
– If there was a loss of traffic to the website, did it recover?
Overall, we wanted to see hard, fast numbers in the data that indicated whether or not the move was good or bad for the business. If there were any indications that businesses should NOT be moving to another domain name, then we wanted to uncover that data. And, likewise, if there were any indications that a business should move to another domain name (such as an automotive dealer move to a .CARS domain), then we wanted to uncover that, too.
Did The Move Help Organic Search Engine Rankings?
We looked at a lot of keyword rankings of the website both when it was on the .COM domain and when after it was moved to the .CARS domain. We found 16 keyword phrases where the website ranked in the first few pages of search results. Of these 16 keyword phrases, 8 got better when it came to search engine rankings. Many of those keywords that didn’t move up in the search engine rankings stayed the same (i.e., the ranking was the same before and after the move).
Organic Search Engine Traffic
Other than actual search engine rankings, we also looked at several different sources that track organic search traffic to websites. We wanted to see, overall, if the data that these other sources have is different than the keyword rankings we reviewed.
Looking at the inbound clicks from Google on Spyfu, we saw an upward trend in organic search traffic. We also looked at several difference sources to verify the organic traffic from Google, including SearchMetrics. We then looked at the Google Analytics traffic, as well. Google Analytics was installed on the website before the website was moved from StlMotorcars.com to Stl.Cars. We compared the website traffic before and after the move:
Overall, the percentage of new sessions is up 7.51 percent over the previous domain name, StlMotorcars.com. After the St. Louis Motorcars moved their website from StlMotorcars.com to Stl.Cars, the site’s Social Media and Referral traffic went up. The referral traffic went up 33.67 percent, and the traffic from Social Media websites went up 20.09 percent. Another noteworthy point is that the conversions from organic search went up slightly when the site moved from StlMotorcars.com to Stl.Cars.
Conversion rates going up has been an interesting trend amongst websites that have moved from a .COM to a New gTLD domain name, based on Globe Runner’s data of tracking and watching other websites that have moved from a .COM to a New gTLD domain name.
Google Search Console Data
Another source of data we used to measure the effect of moving from StlMotorcars.com to Stl.Cars was the Google Search Console, formerly called Google Webmaster Tools. We looked at the Search Analytics data within the Google Search Console and compared the data before the move and after the move, as seen below:
Overall, we can see an upwards trend in total clicks and impressions on Desktop and Mobile, which is good. We don’t see any evidence that the move from the .COM to the .CARS domain has hurt traffic, impressions, or clicks.
Based on our thorough review of the keyword rankings, third party data, Google Analytics data, and Google Search Console data, we have concluded that the site did not suffer anything as a result of the move. We have observed direct evidence that the site’s overall search engine rankings have gone up. The website’s overall traffic is trending upwards since the website was moved from StlMotorcars.com to Stl.Cars. Globe Runner can independently verify that the move from STLMotorcars.com to STL.CARS was beneficial for St. Louis Motorcars as far as organic search traffic is concerned.
Please note: Globe Runner was compensated for their time to review the data collected and produce a report on the findings. In no way did this have an effect on the outcome of the study or Globe Runner’s opinions about the results.