Google has denied that companies will be able to get a search engine ranking boost by obtaining new vanity top-level domain names from ICANN.
The company's webspam guru, Matt Cutts, said this week that organisations "shouldn't register a TLD in the mistaken belief that you'll get some sort of boost in search engine rankings."
He was responding on his Google+ page to an op ed written by Adrian Kinderis, CEO of ARI Registry Services, one of several domain registry companies hoping to make a killing helping companies apply for and run their own branded or keyword gTLD.
"Will a new TLD web address automatically be favoured by Google over a .com equivalent?" Kinderis wrote in an Australian marketing magazine. "Quite simply, yes it will."
He based this opinion on the fact that Google already looks at keywords in domain names in its ranking algorithms and the promise that owning a gTLD will give companies the chance to build clean, authoritative name spaces, which Google likes.
Google's algorithms are known to already consider the TLD in some cases. Searchers in the UK are more likely to see results with .co.uk addresses, for example. But whether this will extend to non-geographic gTLDs is, or was, open to question.
Domain name policy-maker ICANN is accepting applications for new gTLDs, until 12 April – and expects to receive over 1,000 in total. As well as branded suffixes, companies are expected to apply for keyword domains related to their industries, such as .phone or .fashion.
"Will car.insurance rank higher than carinsurance.com (for example)?" Kinderis wrote. "All the evidence suggests the answer is yes, provided that the .insurance namespace builds value and perhaps verification into its space to ensure it is a signpost for good, trusted and authoritative content."
Domain name registries and consultants have been pushing the new gTLD concept to sceptical companies partly in the belief that a keyword after the dot might be good for search engine optimisation.
Cutts has now raised a big question about the accuracy of that expectation.
"Google will attempt to rank new TLDs appropriately, but I don't expect a new TLD to get any kind of initial preference over .com," he wrote, "and I wouldn't bet on that happening in the long term either."
"If you want to register an entirely new TLD for other reasons, that's your choice, but you shouldn't register a TLD in the mistaken belief that you'll get some sort of boost in search engine rankings," he added.
Cutts' statement was read into the record in full by Google manager Jordyn Buchanan during a public forum at ICANN's open meeting in San Jose, Costa Rica this week.
Kinderis, in response, suggested that Cutts may not have considered his argument in its entirety and said he stood by his opinion. ®