When the world wide web first started to take off, there were only a handful of well-known top-level domains. The main extensions were .com, .org, .edu and the country-specific ones such as .de. In the UK, businesses were encouraged to use .co.uk, while not-for-profits were encouraged to use .org.uk, but do these extensions really matter?
Top Level Domains Aren’t Well Regulated
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has some rules for how top-level domains are managed and handed out, but the rules are not as strict today as they once were. While there are some top-level domains, such as ARPA, which are used only for technical infrastructure reasons, and there are some countries that place strict restrictions on who can register top-level domains with their extension, in general anyone can register almost any TLD.
There are some UK extensions, such as .uk.com, and even ltd.uk that are offered as “alternatives” to the more American .com and .net, but these have not proven as popular as their original versions. Most UK-based companies try to purchase the .com version of their domain in addition to the .co.uk, or the .org.uk if they are a not-for-profit. ICANN recently introduced a .uk domain name, and existing owners of .co.uk domains have until 2019 to purchase the .uk version of the domain. If they fail to do so, then the .uk version will be made available for general sale.
The Value for SEO
The number of top-level domains available right now is huge, and most consumers are only aware of a handful of the extensions out there. It makes sense to stick to the most well-known ones, simply because they are easier for the average person to remember. The question is: are there any benefits to having a .co.uk over having a .com? Well, if you are targeting a local audience – for example, if you run a web design agency in London – then, yes, it makes more sense to show that you are a UK-based company by having the .co.uk domain.
Easiserv is a Northampton based web design company here in the UK, and this has benefits both in terms of SEO (Google is more likely to place this domain high in local search) and in terms of click-through rate when the listing appears in the SERPs. Consider the example of Newcastle, England versus Newcastle, Australia – if a consumer is unsure whether the website they are looking at refers to the city they live in, they are less likely to want to click on that link, especially if another link just above or below it makes it abundantly clear that they do refer to the local version.
It is easy for webmasters to register more than one domain and to link those domains so that they all point to the same website. It makes sense to do this so that you don’t lose out on type-in traffic, but you still get the SEO benefits of having a locally targeted domain name.