(Updated 16th June 2015)
The relatively new website coffee.club revealed something very interesting about how Google values the new extensions, when it comes to ranking in Google Search. You see, the site already ranks on page 1 in Google US for the term coffee club (If you're located outside the US, then use this link to check for yourself. Make sure you're in incognito mode). What's curious is that no on-page optimization has been conducted for the search term. Coffee club is not mentioned anywhere on the home page nor the sub-pages; The search term does not appear, where you do your SEO (Search Engine Optimization): the title tag, the meta description, in the H1 or H2 headlines, in the main content. And not even in any photo's alt text. They do mention the domain name coffee.club several times (in the alt text of the logo, main text, meta description and title). It's possible to rank for a search term, which cannot be found on a website, if it's included in the anchor text from the links to your site. But none of the anchor texts from the +40 links have the text coffee club. I can only conclude one thing: Google reads coffee.club as coffee club!
The story of coffee.club
.Club has been one of the few shining stars in the new gTLD programme until now. Coffee.club is one of the registry Dot Club's hand picked premium domains, which they offer via their Startup programme Startup.club. The domain name was acquired in October 2014 by Bill McClure and the team behind coffee.org. The price was set at USD 100.000 to be paid in rates over 10 years. At the time it became the highest priced domain name in the new gTLD (generic top level domains) space and received therefore lots of media. As a side note, since then Dot Club sold Vegas.club for USD 100.000 in cash, and just recently at NamesCon they broke the record selling wine.club for USD 140.000. The Coffee.club site went from a landing page to a fully operating online coffee subscription service inside one month. On the 6th of Dec. TheDomains.com were the first to observe that the site ranked on page 1 in Google US for coffee club - only one week after launch. Which signals do Google get?
The sale of coffee.club was covered extensively on leading industry news sites, which meant that coffee.club got a bunch of links from very authoritative sites even before launch. Links are a major factor in order to rank well in Google. A clear majority of the links used the anchor text coffee.club, as you can see in the tag cloud below. As mentioned earlier the anchor text is an important factor telling Google what the page would be relevant to rank on. Almost 100% of the anchor text was coffee.club or a version thereof. None used coffee club as anchor text.
However, what's curious is that the website coffee.club is not optimized for the search term coffee club. Doing the analysis the only on-page signal for Google to rank them for coffee club is the domain name itself. And since the site can now be found on page 1, I can only conclude that Google reads the domain name as a search term of two words. What does this mean for future SEO? It means that the domain name has again become important for search engine optimization - at least for a while. For SEO new gTLDs differ from .com or .net by the structure of keyword.keyword = search term. This is not a new construction, since we've had domain endings such as .museum, .travel and .jobs for years. However with the launch of 420 next domain extensions in 2014 and hundreds to come in 2015, marketers have a wide choice now. If you do manage to find the right keyword domain name, you will naturally optimize your website for this search term, and just as important, get links with the right anchor text. Sure, you still need a quality website, which people like and want to link to, but you do get a head start compared to the classic domain endings. Moz did a nice piece on domain names for SEO. The new gTLDs fit their rules to perfection: - "Avoid hyphens. Hyphens detract from credibility and can act as a spam indicator." - "Avoid domain names longer than 15 characters. Short domain names are easier to remember, easier to share, and have a smaller chance of resulting in typos." Bear in mind that any domain name will be four characters shorter than a .com. Conclusion It's the first time I see real proof about the positive effect of new gTLDs in Google ranking. In an earlier post I wrote about a couple of other case studies, where the data was limited. It's quite unique to find a website such as coffee.club with many links to it and no optimization. However it's such a strong indicator for the theory that Google indeed reads the domain name as a search term consisting of two keywords. Surely, they are testing a lot regarding the new gTLDs, so who knows what tomorrow brings. I would say though that many businesses, who currently have a second rate domain name and are struggling in Google Search should definitely have a closer look at the new gTLDs. You can see the current list here. Other interesting EMD cases Wolverine.toys ranks on page 2 in Google for the search term "Wolwerine toys". On page SEO has been done for this site, however given that the search term is highly competitive, and the site has a weak link profile, it appears that the EMD factor is still important.