Should I use ccTLDs for sites not targeted to those countries?
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Should I use ccTLDs for sites not targeted to those countries?

We have a good question from
Andy in New York who asks, “as memorable .COM domains become
more expensive, more developers are choosing
alternate new domains like .IO and .IM, which Google geotargets
to small areas. Do you discourage this
activity?” Well, I want you to go in with your eyes open,
because you can pick any domain you want, but if you pick
a domain like .ES or .IT because you think you can make
a novelty domain, like, “Google it,” or
something like that, be aware that most domains at a country
level do pertain to that specific country. And so we think that content is
going to be intended mainly for that country. So I got a great question from
someone who wanted .LI to stand for Long Island. And we looked into it, and
.LI is Lichtenstein. And the fact is, it’s in active
use, a lot of people are using it, it was very clear
that the intent for .LI is overwhelmingly
Lichtenstein. So if you change the intent
and you make it about a region, like .Long Island, or
something like that, then you’re sort of doing a
disservice to that country code top level domain. Now, that said, there are a
few country code top level domains that are sort of
generic, because for example, .IO stands for the something
related to the Indian Ocean. But there were very few domains
that were actually relevant to that. And a lot of startups
were using it. And it was something that was
really much more applicable to the entire world. And so we do periodically
review that list. And if we see something that
is primarily used worldwide and that’s not really all
that’s specific to that country, then we might go ahead
and say, OK, this is a generic country code level
top level domain. So go ahead and even if you
have a .IO domain, don’t target it just to the
Indian Ocean. Anybody worldwide could
potentially see that in their search results, or are
more likely to. But I wouldn’t necessarily
count on given a certain domain, yeah, it will certainly
be generic, or something like that. We do provide a list of
those generic country code top level domains. And we’ll provide a link to that
in the description for this video. But I wouldn’t get too far ahead
of it, because if you jump on to a certain, for
example, there’s .KY, and if you say, oh, I’m going to make
that all about Kentucky, well, that might work for you. But it might not work for you. And so it’s the sort of thing
where if you assume that you are going to be able to take
things away from the Cayman Islands and turn it into
Kentucky, well, if the Cayman Islands is already using .KY,
then I wouldn’t assume that you’ll be able to necessarily
apply it in this general or generic sort of way. So that’s just a little bit
about country code domains. I wouldn’t get too far ahead of
yourself, because if you go and pick a really weird novelty
domain that nobody else really uses and mostly is
used by this other country, we’re still probably going to
assume it’s most relevant to that particular country.


  • Brandon Hann

    I agree with this, but then again you have some countries that actually target their country code specifically to English-speaking consumers because they know they can be used for alternative meanings. This kind of upsets the original intent for country codes. Examples are .TV (television instead of Tuvalu), .ME (the word 'me' instead of Montenegro), .FM (radio band instead of FS of Micronesia), etc. Google had at least accept these ones as generic.

  • Bart Gibby

    I swear Matt has already done a video like this. um.. maybe I read it on a GWT help article. I know they have a list of the domains they deem to be generic as Matt was saying. Shoot that was over 2 years ago!

  • Ridho Putradi S'Gara

    Do you have any list of ccTLD that can be used generically? I use a lot of .tv and .me for my websites.

  • Dietmar Stefitz

    I think preference should be given specially for the language on one side and for regions on the other side. How does Google handle .eu .asia and .us ?

  • Michael Haley

    Never fails, +Lastrose Studios, someone always comments on the t-shirt. Maybe there should be a Matt Cuts T-shirt Auction for every webmaster video, lol.

  • AcidRaZor

    webmaster tools has (or had?) the ability for you to set which country you are targetting for a domain regardless of the country code. has that been deprecated?

  • Julio Fernandez

    I think it is short sighted of Google not to allow a Webmaster to tell the engine the target Geo of the domain. Why are the following ccTLDs considerd gTLDs: .ad .as .bz .cc .cd .co .dj .fm .io .la .me .ms .nu .sc .sr .su .tv .tk .ws

    But NOT others like .fr .de .in etc? The right solution is to let the Webmaster use Webmaster Tools to tell the engine the targeted Geo. I should be able to inform Google that my .DE domain has a target audience in India, or a .IN in France, etc.

  • Jeff Ostroff

    Matt, why do all your videos show the left most 12" of that window off to your left? It's very distracting watching all those people walk by during your video. Are you really unable to shift the camera slightly to show only the Google map poster behind you and no bright overexposed window?

  • The Mathmagic Show

    When writing meta descriptions, should you include mathematical symbols, or always stick to verbal stuff?

  • Spook SEO

    Seems much much easier to just avoid ccTLDs for sites not targeted to that country. Would be nice for Google to let webmasters override this in Webmaster Tools though.

  • Steve Gould

    That answer surprised me. I would have thought the IP would have had more weight than the domain name. This is because the hosting is likely to be in the country being targeted and that can be geo-located. If the site content is in English and the IP address in America surely Google would be smart enough to use the American index not the foreign one.

  • MrTVTL905

    Not necessarily. I live in Canada and my clients and I have several .ca domain names. The hosts here are pretty sad compared to some of the equivalents in America, though. I get better service related to my dedicated server, and I pay half as much.

    That, and a lot of major sites register country-specific TLDs and maintain them on their servers in their locations, which may not necessarily be in those countries. So it does make some sense.

  • Dave Davis

    So basically, the answer is no. If Google allowed us to select which country to target like it does with a Non-ccTLDs, this wouldn't matter.

  • Jon Hogg

    Here's the list of TLDs that Google treats as generic, and therefore targetable in Webmaster Tools.

  • Graeme Caldwell

    When they've addressed this issue before the basic stance has been that if they have to make a choice between using the ccTLD or the IP to geotarget, they go with the ccTLD and ignore the IP. That makes sense: they have to choose one or the other and there are many reasons you might use out of country hosting, and fewer reasons you might use a non-relevant ccTLD.

  • Graeme Caldwell

    I bet it ends up going that way, but the when the domain name system was originally developed, ccTLDs were created with a specific purpose in mind and Google's position reflects that. I imagine as time goes by the list of ccTLDs that are treated as generic will grow.

  • Ahmed El shazly

    Dear Friend,
    need to target united Arab Emirates to be Organic Seo ,kindly advise us steps to target that Country without using Google adwordes

  • UHDReview

    @Google Webmasters The .in extension would be a great gccTLD for webmasters,in/los-angeles reasons. Some of the most expensive keywords are "… in Los Angeles" (or any city / state / country). Any thoughts? =)

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