The London Evening Standard online reported yesterday: “This month’s sale [of .london web addresses] is part of the biggest shake-up of domain names since the birth of the World Wide Web a quarter of a century ago.”
If you missed the morning papers yesterday – chances are you did if you live in London as we’re dealing with yet another 48-hour Tube strike and half the city found themselves watching Jeremy Kyle in their underpants – you may have missed the news of the aforementioned sale of the new dot London (.london) top level domain (TLD) name.
TLDs are indeed a massive shake-up that has slowly been stirring since the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) received around 2,000 new TLD applications in mid-2012 for domains like .LOL for funny videos or .app as a new home for mobile applications. In basic terms, it means dot com (.com) is no longer the all-powerful dictator of dominion.
The Standard reported that business leaders across the city are trying to get everybody on board and join the .london family.
So will buying a London domain benefit your online business? And more specifically, will a .london address benefit your digital marketing efforts and online presence? If it’s purely because you just want a .london address, then no; I would suggest that your content marketing budget could be better spent. But there are a few more specific pointers here to consider.
Is a TLD good for SEO?
First and foremost, be mindful that this is primarily a vanity thing. Well, according to Google it is anyway. Matt Cutts, Google’s Head of Webspam, said last year that a new TLD will have little technical effect on your website’s SEO and ranking.
Cutts wrote on his Google+ feed: “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 in terms of direct SEO effect, having a London domain is probably a moot point. In fact, you could probably achieve a similar effect by creating more targeted landing pages on your website rather than paying for a whole new domain name.
Incidentally, Karren Brady, successful British businesswoman of The Apprentice fame and vice-chairman of West Ham United, is doing both, announcing that the football club’s new whufc.london address will be a dedicated microsite specifically for when the team moves into its new home in east London’s Olympic Park.
Focus on quality
Moreover, I would opine that Herr Cutts is trying to discourage people from thinking they can just pay for a relevant TLD and have all their SEO woes solved. Basically, that’s his job. It would also be a tad illogical that Google algorithms would completely ignore the TLD. As long as it’s relevant, a high-quality, well-written, innovative and indexed dot London domain should receive a good search ranking.
That is perhaps more a measure of the quality of one’s website. But, if having a dot London domain name bolsters your branding and builds trust in your brand, then clearly that is helping your digital marketing, SEO or no SEO. In a recent YouGov survey, 41% of companies said they felt that a .london address would help people find them online. My gut tells me SEO didn’t factor into that feeling.
London: an awfully big content marketing strategy
Which brings us back to the fact that in this great, grand and gridlocked city a cavalcade of big business leaders are urging other London companies to buy a London domain and join the family. They have a point – getting everyone to sign up to the same domain name effectively makes the whole city one big content marketing strategy.
So really the question is: as a stakeholder in your company’s digital marketing efforts, do you feel that having a .london address serves a practical purpose or are you doing it purely for vanity’s sake?
Let’s be honest the London 2012 Olympics could have benefited from a London TLD microsite for purely local discussions, but having a .london address when you foresee little trade for your business in London, seems pointless.
So before you add .london to the end of your wind and kite – and join the stars of The Apprentice and Dragons’ Den (Deborah Meaden says 19 of her companies are getting on the London domain train) – please address these very important content marketing questions…
Will having a London TLD align well with your business goals and overall marketing needs? Will it speak directly to your potential customers or indeed, like a microsite, open the doors to a new audience? And will it bolster your website content by enhancing your branding? If the answer is ‘no’ to any of these questions then I’d suggest your content marketing budget might be better spent elsewhere.