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Navigating .AI Domains for SEO: Google’s Expert Advice

2 min read

During a Google SEO Office hours session, Gary Illyes from Google addressed a query regarding the potential drawbacks of using the .AI domain, considering its association with the Caribbean island of Anguilla. His response was somewhat unexpected.

 

Distinguishing between gTLD and ccTLD

 

There are two categories of domain names: gTLD (Generic Top-Level Domain) and ccTLD (Country Code Top-Level Domain).
gTLD:
A gTLD, or Generic Top-Level Domain, is a domain name not linked to any specific country and is globally applicable. Common gTLD examples include .com, .net, .org, .biz, .xyz, and others.
ccTLD:
A ccTLD, is a top-level domain associated with a particular country. For instance, .uk corresponds to the United Kingdom, while .in relation to India.
Google employs ccTLDs to customize websites for users in the countries linked to those TLDs. If a website uses a .in TLD, Google recognizes its relevance to users in India. Using ccTLDs helps Google ascertain the country-specific relevance of a domain name.
This practice aligns with users’ general expectations of how the Internet functions globally.

 

.AI as a ccTLD

 

.AI is categorized as a ccTLD, Country Code Top-Level Domain. These domains are typically linked to specific countries, representing their geographical association.
However, some ccTLDs have meanings that extend beyond their country affiliations. For instance, the tiny island nation of Tuvalu has the ccTLD .TV. This particular ccTLD, .TV, is handy for websites looking to establish a branding connection with or relevance to the field of television.
Similarly, .AI is another ccTLD associated with the Caribbean island of Anguilla. Despite its country association, .AI can also have broader applications beyond geographical ties.

 

Is it Acceptable for a Global Corporation to Utilize .AI?

 

The individual inquiring sought to understand whether it was permissible for a global company to employ a ccTLD like .AI. The concern revolved around the potential of the .AI ccTLD unintentionally regionalizing the website to Anguilla, thereby hindering its ability to rank in other countries, including the United States and elsewhere.
The inquiry posed was as follows:
“Should a global company use the .ai domain as their gTLD, or does Google consider it a ccTLD for the country of Anguilla?”
Google’s Gary Illyes provided what might appear as a surprising response:
“As of early June 2023, we treat .ai as a gTLD in Google Search, so yeah, you can use it for your global presence!”
This answer may come as a surprise because .AI is a widely used top-level domain employed by numerous companies. It may have been commonly assumed that.AI domains were already regarded by Google as gTLDs rather than ccTLDs, but this was only sometimes the case. Google only shifted to classify .AI as a gTLD in June 2023.
Gary’s response underscores the importance of verifying whether a selected domain extension for a website is treated as a ccTLD or a gTLD, as it can significantly impact the website’s ability to rank on a global scale.

Employing a top-level domain that Google considers localized to a particular country has the potential to detrimentally impact the website’s ranking in regions beyond the country linked to the ccTLD.

If you’re still encountering challenges and uncertainties, consider exploring our monthly SEO packages and enlist the assistance of our proficient experts.

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Shilpi Mathur
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