How Google Can Say One Thing and Do Another Regarding Domain SEOPosted: January 28, 2012
I happened upon a heated debate on a popular internet marketing forum about .info and SEO today. The popular opinion about .info is that a .info domain is harder to rank highly with than a .com, .net or .org. Some people however believe that’s a myth consistently being renewed based off of assumptions and not actual experience.
I’ve made the point before about the major TLDs having an edge over other extensions (except of course country-code extensions in their own country). Have I made that point based on my own experience with .info? No. However, there’s simply a lot of logic to suggest that despite Google SAYING all gTLDs are on an even playing field, they really aren’t.
I think the bigger point to understand however is why what Matt Cutts says in his videos can’t be taken 100%. It’s not that he’s not being truthful about what he says, but consider that Google uses a massive amount of different factors in its algorithm. Sometimes, they interact with each other in ways that cause certain guidelines to not work as intended.
For instance, most SEOs would agree that domain age is a factor in rankings (and even those that don’t would say that site age is a factor). Consider that even with .info having been around for a while now, there have been some .com, .net and .org domains registered since the 80’s. In fact there are millions of domains in those extensions that were registered before .info existed.
Taking a random .com vs. a random .info, the .com is much more likely to be older than the .info. The same is true for a random established site on .com vs. a random established site on .info. It would seem on this basis alone that .info is at a disadvantage.
Spam and black hat SEO
Also consider that .info comes at a cheaper cost than the 3 major extensions, as low as only $1 or less for the first year. For that reason, it has been abused in a “power in numbers” sort of way, with many people registering hundreds or thousands of them with the intention of risking the domain’s long-term reputation to try and get faster short-term traffic and revenue.
The result is that many .info sites are thin sites, generally with republished or low-quality spun content meant to simply be there to try and help them rank highly.
Why does this matter? Both Google and Bing have indicated that they take clickthrough rate and bounce rate into account with their rankings. If someone visiting a highly ranked .info site reaches a poor site, they’ll immediately back up or close it. If they find that same experience across many sites on the same extension, they’ll naturally develop a prejudice against that extension, leading to lower clickthrough on those domains.
Are .info domains ranking highly?
Folks who champion .info for SEO believe it is not disadvantaged and point to certain high rankings of .info domains to prove their point. While certainly pointing to some rankings helps their cause, they shouldn’t need to.
Why? There are just over 8 million .info domains registered vs. just over 100 million .com, about 14.5 million .net and about 9.8 million .org. You could compare them to .com, in which case you should expect to see about 1 .info result for every 13 .com.
Unfair comparison? Then how about comparing to .org. Even if you take out Wikipedia results as an anomaly (since Google is infatuated with them), you’ll find a much higher ratio of .org to .info than 9.8:8.
Furthermore, logic might dictate that since there are likely a higher ratio of SEO-centric purchases in .info than in the major 3 extensions, you should see HIGHER ratios in favor of .info. After all, if there’s a higher percentage of .info domains that get all the on-page SEO right and are building backlinks to rank better, they should be ranking better, right? But they’re not – not consistently anyway.
Conclusion? Sure, .info domains CAN rank highly, and I don’t think anyone has ever disputed that. But Google saying all gTLDs are given equal footing doesn’t spare .info from being disadvantaged by their other criteria in their algorithm.
Agree? Disagree? Comment away!