Navigating Domain Selection: Advice from Google’s John Mueller

2 min read

Google’s John Mueller talks about the subtle differences in domain types. Google’s reclassification of .ai domains as gTLDs affects SEO strategies and audience targeting.
Deciding between a country-specific (ccTLD) and a generic (gTLD) domain is vital for reaching the intended audience. How users view a domain can significantly affect how often they click on it.
Google’s recent move to classify .ai domains as gTLDs presents new chances for businesses to explore.

Google Search Advocate John Mueller has provided insights into distinguishing between generic top-level domains (gTLDs) and country code top-level domains (ccTLDs), offering valuable guidance to businesses and SEO experts.
His remarks follow Google’s update, which now categorizes .ai domains as gTLDs, departing from their former association with Anguilla, a British Overseas Territory in the Eastern Caribbean.


Understanding the Difference Between gTLDs & ccTLDs


A website owner in a Reddit thread within the r/SEO forum seeks insights about the SEO impact of selecting country-specific domains.
Addressing the query, Mueller highlights the SEO benefits of country code top-level domains (ccTLDs) like .nl, .fr, and .de, mainly when a business aims to cater to customers within that region.
However, for those with global market aspirations or targeting a different audience than implied by the ccTLD, opting for a generic top-level domain (gTLD) or the relevant ccTLD could be a more suitable choice.

Mueller explains: “The key aspect to consider is the Difference between ccTLDs (such as nl, fr, de, indicating specific countries) and gTLDs (like com, store, net, etc., denoting generic usage). ccTLDs often center around one country, which is beneficial if your primary focus is that country or if you intend to sell globally. However, if your target market is a different country (e.g., ‘nationwi.de’ aiming for the US), ensure you acquire either that ccTLD or a relevant gTLD.”

He adds further clarity by explaining that all new TLDs fall under the classification of gTLDs. Even if some might sound specific to certain locations, such as “.berlin,” they are technically categorized as gTLDs, not ccTLDs.

Mueller elaborates, “Just to note, all these new TLDs are considered gTLDs, regardless of how they sound — some might seem tied to specific places, like’ .berlin,’ but they’re gTLDs. Beyond the SEO perspective of ccTLDs vs. gTLDs, it’s essential to consider the user’s viewpoint: Will they click on a link that appears directed at users in another country?”
In a related discussion, Mueller advises against choosing TLDs that spammers widely exploit: “From an SEO standpoint, I’d suggest avoiding TLDs that are extremely cheap and notorious for being overrun by spam.” This highlights the significance of considering a TLD’s reputation when devising SEO strategies.

Google recently made a noteworthy update regarding .ai domain names in its help documentation, stating that it now categorizes them as generic top-level domains (gTLDs), similar to .com or .org.
This shift implies that Google Search no longer views .ai domains specific to Anguilla.
Gary Illyes, part of the Google Search Relations team, explains the rationale behind this alteration: “We won’t assume the target country based on the ccTLD, which makes it a bit more challenging to target Anguilla. However, hardly any .ai domains are attempting to do so anyway.”
This change holds significance for businesses and SEO professionals who previously refrained from using .ai domains, fearing Google’s association with Anguilla.


To sum up


Picking the appropriate domain, whether country-specific (ccTLD) or generic (gTLD), significantly impacts reaching your intended audience.
If your business primarily focuses on customers in a particular country, a ccTLD could suit you well. However, a gTLD might be more suitable if your aim is a broader global reach.
Moreover, it’s wise to avoid spammy TLDs that could negatively affect your site’s credibility.
Mueller’s insights remind you of the strategic considerations when choosing your domain name.

If navigating this seems complex or puzzling, explore our monthly SEO packages and allow our skilled experts to assist you.

Shilpi Mathur
[email protected]