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Which top-level domain (TLD) to choose?

By Clare Lawrence

I am often asked this question. Is it possible that search engines such as google give preference to the .com TLD? Or are TLD’s all treated equally?

As a test I picked a random phrase “Technical services” and did a search on Google.com.

The results:

  1. .org
  2. .com
  3. .com
  4. .net
  5. .co.uk

Trying the phrase again using Google.co.uk (I am UK based).

The results:

  1. .net
  2. .co.uk
  3. .com
  4. .co.uk
  5. .org

Hopefully these results show that there is no preference given by search engines.

However there are far more .com domains out there than other TLD – users will be more likely to key in your domain name and add the .com extension themselves out of habit.

If your market place is local then your regional TLD can be helpful, this is because a lot of Search engines and Directories such as Google and Yahoo – offer the user a choice of “Search the web” or “Search locally e.g. UK”

Having a local TLD can therefore be a benefit.


Some directories will use your TLD to categorise the geographic content of your site, and therefore exclude a site from inclusion solely because it does not match their local market.

The Open Directory (Dmoz) lists sites by both regional and market segments as Google uses the Open Directory in part for its indexing – your choice of TLD will have a bearing on whether your site is selected in a local search e.g. Searching Google.co.uk for UK domain name registrars will bring up our site www.discountdomainsuk.com because it is UK based.

The TLD can therefore have some bearing on how a site will be indexed.

Keywords in your domain name

Search engines such as Google do give some preference to keywords within a domain name, and the first keyword in the description and Title tags, so if your site’s domain name is www.searchenginedirectory.biz, your site will most likely fair better in searches for search engines than ones without keywords in the name.

If you do use keywords in your domain name – remember to be careful of trademark issues.

A good source of recent discussions on this topic is Webmasterworld:- www.webmasterworld.com/forum3/16719.htm

You might also want to keep an eye on Google Answers http://answers.google.com , this is a paid service where researchers answers questions on a range of topics including search engines.

If your preferred TLD domain name has been taken by a rival then it is clearly still worth using a different TLD particularly your own regional one.

Duplicate domains

Be careful of having duplicate content on different domain names, as this is seen as “spamming” by Google and can lead you to being penalised or even banned on Google.

Google’s quality guidelines specifically state – Don’t create multiple pages, sub-domains, or domains with substantially duplicate content.

You can however register multiple domain names and use a 301 redirect. Such redirects are recognised as being completely valid.

Protecting your Brand

If you are building a brand it is often good practice to purchase all the TLD’s for your name, once a domain name is registered it can’t be transferred without your permission. If you add web-forwarding to each one of the domain names other than your main site then what ever your customers enters as a TLD they will still find you.

This will also help to protect you against unscrupulous rivals who may register a domain name with the intention of capturing traffic from your site.

Looking for more advice?

We have built up an article bank on our site – many from the leading specialists in each field, please feel free to browse them www.discountdomainsuk.com/glossary.php. The articles cover domain names, web hosting, SEO (Search engine optimisation), e-marketing and much more.


There is no evidence that any preference is given to TLD by search engines, though your choice of TLD name may be influenced by your plans for it.

Clare Lawrence is CEO of Discount Domains Ltd – A leading UK provider of Domain name registration and Web Hosting services. http://www.discountdomainsuk.com Clare can also be contacted on clare@discountdomainsuk.com.