Does Your Domain Extension (.COM, .ORG, .NET) Really Matter?

No — but yes. If only the world of digital marketing was clearer. Your domain extension does matter to your search engine optimization, but perhaps not in the way that you think. Mechanically the differences are small; most of the key issues involve usability. After all, an organic web search runs based on user behavior; even Google can’t tell how relevant a website is without links, popularity and other behavior-driven data.

httpDispelling the Myths

Google, Yahoo and Bing do not take into account a domain extension when they promote a website, even if the search query happens to be government or education related. So whether you’re .net or .org, you’re probably safe in terms of Google’s matching algorithm. But that doesn’t mean that your domain extension has no effect on your organic search rankings, which is another common myth. There are still ways that your extension can affect your position on the SERP.

Consider this. Google most definitely uses links — and the quality of those links — to measure whether your site has prominence. Sites that have .gov, .edu or .org domains are generally considered to be more reputable in academic situations than .coms, so they are more likely to be referenced by high quality sites. Likewise, .coms are more often considered to be reputable than .nets. So it’s easy to see that having a specific domain extension can have a potential impact on your organic search ranking even if the search engine itself isn’t actively scanning for it.

computerThe Human Component

And it isn’t just a question of search engine results — you also need to consider the human component. Namely, people are used to .com addresses and they are very unlikely to remember more obscure extensions. If your website is, you’ll find a lot of people getting lost when they try to type in One way that some sites have gotten away from this is by directly incorporating the domain into their site’s name somehow. Fish.Net, for instance, is memorable.

People are also conditioned to treat domains that are not .com, .gov, .edu or .org with some suspicion. In particular, .net domains have always been referred to as “Nuts! Everything’s Taken.” It’s considered a last result domain name that only occurs through poor planning or fly-by-night operations. No one wants a .net domain name, the rationale goes, so one should be suspicious of someone who has one. Of course, as the proliferation of .com addresses has continued, this poor reputation has been somewhat reduced.

bakerHere Come the gTLDs

OK, so what about all those entrancing new gTLDs that just popped up? .butcher, .baker, .candlestickmaker? These new domain names are so specific and so out there that they require some additional consideration. gTLDs, just like other TLDs, don’t affect search directly. Google doesn’t say “Oh, it says .baker, I’d better send all queries about cakes there.”

But what a gTLD does do is it inserts a major keyword into every single URL. If you have .baker, and you’re, well, a .baker, you’re going to have that keyword in your URL every time someone searchers for a “baker” in your area. And this had led many people to believe that a gTLD might actually be better for SEO than an ordinary domain.

And that might be true — a little. Still, if you’ve been properly optimizing your site, you should already have your major keywords in your site’s URL — as it does “help a little bit.” But it doesn’t help a lot —  remember, Google really mostly looks at the content of your site, not the URLs. And it may not help enough to alter some of the usability issues.

Mainly — users think it’s weird. Many users aren’t comfortable typing in losangeles.baker and having it actually go to a website. This also gives them one more thing to remember — they can’t just type in — and it makes them less likely to link to your site (because they can’t remember the URL). Obviously this isn’t true for all users, but it’s true for the majority of users. This might be different for a tech-oriented or youth-oriented website.

As developers and marketers, it can be easy for us to forget just how challenging small changes can be for a user base. When choosing a domain for your site, you should think largely about how that domain is going to be received by your audience. Google and other search engines really don’t care what your domain name is or what your domain extension is, but something that you think is charming, quirky or clever may actually be impossible to remember. Short, sweet and .COM is usually the best answer.

SEO Q&A: Do Meta Descriptions and Keywords Actually Matter for SEO?

Question: We spend a lot of time optimizing our descriptions and keywords. We think we see an improvement when they are better optimized to suit the keywords on our site. But do they actually matter for the purposes of SEO?

The “keywords” meta tag has existed since 1995, when it was used by the first generation of search engines, such as AltaVista. At the time, the keywords meta tag was used as a self-reporting method of search query relevancy. It was most definitely useful back then, but it’s easy to see why this type of tactic doesn’t work (or exist) now.

As of 2009, we can be certain that Google no longer takes into account the “keywords” meta tag. Yahoo still indexes the “keywords” meta tag, but gives it the “lowest ranking signal in our system.” You might be inclined to think “Well, that’s still something,” but it’s really not — the ranking signal is lower than just putting the keywords in the text of the site. So it’s basically worthless.

What changed with Yahoo’s ranking algorithms is that while we still index the meta keyword tag, the ranking importance given to meta keyword tags receives the lowest ranking signal in our system…. it will actually have less effect than introducing those same words in the body of the document, or any other section.

Further, some point out that including your keywords directly in your site will give your competitors insights into the general thrust of your advertising campaign. If you’re running a campaign based primarily on the keyword “custom 3D printed widgets,” a competitor could buy you out of that space without having to guess.

As for the meta description tag, it does nothing for SEO — but it may be displayed on the search engine results page, so it still has value. Descriptions should be carefully written for user comprehension, rather than search engine optimization. In other words, it should be human-optimized rather than search engine optimized.

Of course, the meta description tag isn’t always displayed on the SERP; Google tries to generate a result that is most useful to the user, pulling from a variety of sources, including both the meta description and the page content.

Answer: No. Meta descriptions may be displayed to the user but does not affect SEO — keywords should be avoided. The meta keywords tag does nothing on Google and almost worse than nothing on Yahoo.



3 Simple Keys to App Store Optimization

A mobile app can be an effective channel for marketing your brand, as well as a way to add a stream of passive revenue. But, with over 2 million apps listed in the major app stores, it can be difficult to stand out. A few ways to ensure that your app gets seen:

1. Use a keyword-rich title.

KISSmetrics discovered that apps that had keywords in their titles had 10.3% more downloads than those that did not. For the best results, use the relevant keyword that potential customers use most often when looking for apps like yours. Research well before choosing. Changing the name of your app can hurt your ASO. Also, as your app gains fans, you’ll want people to be able to find it through word of mouth.

2. Higher ratings equal higher results.

The more ratings your app has, the higher it will show up in the app store results. The success you have getting those ratings will depend a lot on how you ask. In your app, it is pretty standard to ask users to rate your app after a certain number of days. But, you can get a more enthusiastic rating by asking “Love the app?” with Yes and No options below. Yes can lead to a request for ratings; no can lead to a comment form so you can help resolve your customer’s issues. Also, pay attention to the comments left by users in reviews. By addressing issues and improving your app, you can earn a higher spot in the app store results.

3. To get lots of downloads, have lots of downloads.

When you create an app, let people know. Talk to current customers. Tweet about it. Put a link on your site. Ask friends and family for downloads and reviews. While research seems to indicate that more competitive keywords require more downloads to get higher results, every bit can help.