New Research: Visitors Don’t Trust Alternative Domain Extensions

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New Research: Visitors Don’t Trust Alternative Domain Extensions

Thomas Stocks
New Research: Visitors Don’t Trust Alternative Domain Extensions

Before someone engages with your website or even decides to open the link and look at the homepage, they might decide the website is not for them! Forget about the keywords or brand name in the title, we are talking about the domain extension or TLDs (Top Level Domains).

Since 2014, there have been hundreds of new URL extensions created to facilitate the flood of new websites being created. For example, extensions for everything from country extensions like ‘.br’ (which stands for Brazil) to ‘.company’ to ‘.blackfriday’ for a microsite to sell on that date.

Extensions are far from being an insignificant part of the web address. It turns out, according to recent research, that the domain extension can have a meaning to the visitor. It can be a stamp of authenticity or make the visitor suspicious of the company.

A domain extension could be a critical factor in Click through Rate (CTR), traffic and ultimately it will affect your SEO. But we question if the new TLD extensions are a critical factor in improving the SERP of your website and if the risk to switch to them instead of fighting for a trusted domain.

Current Survey Research About URL Extensions

New research recorded the results of 1,000 respondents made up of a random selection of men and women from around the UK, in an online survey conducted by the digital marketing agency Varn.

Varn asked the survey question:

Do you trust companies with ‘co.uk’ and ‘.com’ domains more than those with other newer domains like ‘.eu’, ‘.biz’, ‘.fashion’, ‘.london’ and ‘.digital’?

  • 77.6% of 25-34-year-olds trust ‘.com’ and ‘.co.uk’ sites more than those ages of 55-64 (with 61%)
  • Women trusted ‘.com’ and ‘.co.uk’ more (74%) when compared to men (67.3%).

70.5% of respondents surveyed overall said they trust domains with ‘.co.uk’ and ‘.com’ more than alternatives.

That’s a significant margin!

This can suggest that the websites we tend to use and learned to trust have traditionally been those with URLs ending with either ‘.com’ or ‘.co.uk’. But the research has lead to a frustrating discovery for companies wanting to take advantage of the vast range of new and alternative URL extensions for SEO purposes.

Why Businesses Are Interested in New TLDs

Lower cost. Let's be honest, one of the reasons businesses like the new TLD extensions because they are a lot cheaper than ‘.com’ or ‘.co.uk’.

A traditional TLD site can cost multiple thousands of dollars depending on the popularity of the keyword and potential organic traffic. With one of the new TLDs, it would be available for under a hundred with another domain extension.

Ability to add a keyword. Before the new TLDs, companies turned to tactics like adding the word ‘agency’ to their brand or spelling the keyword word differently to be unique while others resorted to using keywords that are relevant but are not the brand name. (Just to get the ‘.com’ at the end of the URL!)

In this respect, the increased choice of new TLDs has been greeted as a welcome option to businesses. More availability of names means your brand name may be available when paired up with one of these for the address, whilst it has already been registered and taken as a ‘.com’ by another organisation.

  • There is no known direct disadvantage in terms of SEO when using an alternative website extension according to Google.
  • For country-specific TLDs, it's helpful to geo-targeting the website for relevant audiences within their country, but not globally.

Website Visitors Make Snap Judgments

People lack trust in the new TLDs due to personal perceptions of what authenticity looks like. And trust for online business has to be a priority. The alternative URLs could instantly put people off because it isn't the URL extension they are familiar with.

If a website address seems less trustworthy to potential visitors, it stops them from committing to click, and you lose them before you have a chance to show them your offers. 

Research conducted by a team at Carleton University in Ottawa, and published in the journal Behaviour and Information Technology, found that we make snap judgments how good web pages are in under 500 milliseconds.

Forget about page composition and user experience! Visitors will make the same kind of snap judgment about the address of the website itself. With so much competition around online – the fear for those using alterative names may be that they would lose out to a ‘.com’ on the same page of results.

Following this argument, for SEO and SERPS, if you have a diminished Click through Rate, then your ranking could be adversely affected.

Give the New TLDs A Chance (If You Dare!)

It's up to you to decide what would be right for your website.

In fairness, the expanded list of the new TLD extensions is a relatively new concept, so any distrust can be attributed to a lack of exposure in the fabric of the world-wide-web.

The same survey question about what TLD extensions you trust, conducted in five or 10 years’ time, may well produce a different result. By then you may also find the costs of alternative TLDs have rocketed and availability has diminished. We can only speculate for now!

Taking the Risk? Keep in mind that any website with such an address will probably, by default, be new rather than an established business which can be good or bad, depending on your business needs. To some, the potential risk in investing in a new venture as a visitor would be worth it.

Playing it safe? If you don't want to risk it, it’s best to fight for a website URL as a ‘.com’ or ‘.co.uk’.

The fact is, your website will be trusted by those wanting reassurance from the first accepted indicator of authenticity - your URL address. Just keep in mind that it won't improve your website's SERP results!

Does your business have one of the new TLDs? What do you think about the new TLDs overall? I would love to hear your thoughts!

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Thomas Stocks is Search Strategy Director at UK-based AdPilot, an agency that specialises in pay per click management.
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Comments

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you should do some research on how to make a survey. If you ask "why is xy better" or "do you trust xy more" you put an answer in the mouth of the person you ask and the answer has no value anymore.
Gyorgy Bolla
Mirko
Agree. This research questionnaire was quite amateurish. The question suggested the answer.
On the other hand, this research is based on only 1,000 respondents. According to a 2013 research, around 90% of the UK population use internet, so roughly 57-58 million people. Based on this, I'm not convinced that people don't trust alternative domain extensions.
Thomas Stocks
Gyorgy Bolla
Hi Mirko/Gyorgy. Thanks for both of your comments, they are much appreciated. In regards to the data accuracy, we chose 1,000 people who were 18 years and over and this number of people was selected specifically based on recommended data from market research companies. Of the people asked, there were clear formulaic trends which we found interesting and wanted to share these thoughts with SEMRush.
Ori Zilbershtein
Gyorgy Bolla
You might be right, but other than those 1,000 people that got asked biased questions we do not have a thorough research that states anything different.

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