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Will ccTLD "domain hack" hurt rankings in other countries? .ne for USA

     
8:05 pm on May 18, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Hi all,

Apologies if this has already been discussed, I tried searching but didn't come up with much.

I'm thinking about switching a website to a .ne (Niger) domain because of a cool domain hack where the whole domain spells out a single word. The website is primarily targeted at a USA audience, and currently has a generic TLD.

I just read through [support.google.com...] and now I'm a bit concerned that the domain hack isn't worth it. Would the change, assuming the old domain redirects to the new, hurt the site's google rankings? I'm starting to suspect yes, although it wasn't really clear from that page.

It does have a US address listed on the site, and inbound links from other US sites, but the site is behind a CDN, so the server IP won't help.

Does anyone here have any thoughts or experience with this?
10:49 pm on May 18, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Would the change, assuming the old domain redirects to the new, hurt the site's google rankings?
Certainly for local searches, and to some degree for all searches.

You say the site is targeted to a US audience, but by switching to the new TLD you are essentially saying the site is targeted at .ne (Niger).

You can assign a region in Google Search Council, but the .ne (Niger) will still have an affect. How it will affect other SEs is uncertain, but you need to ask yourself is all this worth having a cool looking domain hack when 95% of your traffic probably won't even notice it?
2:43 am on May 19, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Matt Cutts made a video about three years ago discussing the use of ccTLDs (country code Top Level Domains) to create novelty domains....

Should I use ccTLDs for sites not targeted to those countries?
Matt Cutts - trt 3:09
7/29/2013

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yJqZIH_0Ars [youtube.com]

As Matt put it, "most domains at a country level do pertain to that specific country...", so Google generally assumes that content under country code domains is intended mainly for users in those specific countries.

Matt strongly suggests that for the most part Google will defer to the original intent of ccTLDs, which is geo targeting, when usage and population statistics support that. So, though the ".it" ccTLD might fit well in lots of novelty domain ideas, the Italians have prior expectations. Ditto regarding ".ne" for Nigeria.

On the other hand, ".io" falls in the middle of the Indian Ocean, not many users, and was widely picked up for use in tech startup sites. Other ccTLDs like ".tv" and ".me" have similar patterns of sparse population demands and popular alternative worldwide uses.

In the video, Matt notes that Google maintains a list of such generic ccTLDs, which, as he cautions in many ways, is subject to change.

International targeting
Target your search results to a specific country
[support.google.com...]

At the bottom of this support page, under "More about domain determination"...
Generic Country Code Top Level Domains (ccTLDs): Google treats some ccTLDs (such as .tv, .me, etc.) as gTLDs, as we've found that users and webmasters frequently see these more generic than country-targeted. Here is a list of those ccTLDs (this list may change over time).

.ad, .as, .bz, .cc, .cd, .co, .dj, .fm, .io, .la, .me, .ms, .nu, .sc, .sr, .su, .tv, .tk, .ws

12:34 pm on May 19, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Yea, that's kind of what I was afraid of. What about two possible alternatives:

1) Make the .ne domain just redirect to the old generic one

Or

2) Set up both domains to point to the same content but put rel="cannonical" links on it that point to the old generic one.

I think either of those would retain some of the "coolness" without as much SEO damage (?)
1:28 pm on May 19, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Using anything but a gTLD for the USA market is an uphill battle. I am not saying it can't be done but you are not choosing the simplest & easiest path. You mention "coolness" and that can help but honestly most "cool" domains never gain enough traction. It is rare that a domain is cool enough to generate enough ranking signals to overcome the handicap of using a non gTLD for the USA market. Theoretically if you owned a really "cool" domain like o.ne and you launched a multi-million dollar social campaign in the US, then you would likely have success. For almost everyone else it will be smarter & easier to just register a .com, .org or .net if you want best results in the USA.
1:54 pm on May 19, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Using anything but a gTLD for the USA market is an uphill battle

An American poster on a non IT site once called me a liar for saying that .us was a legitimate TLD for a US site!
2:13 am on May 22, 2017 (gmt 0)

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bbkid... Matt anticipates this tendency to pursue coolness, and gives several other examples in the video, strongly suggesting that "though you're free to use any domain you want," for the reasons described you're going to have problems if you try it.

You'd be fighting a major component of the geo-location algo, and also playing games with either 301 redirects or canonical tags.

 

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