Does Domain Beat In Local Search?


Andrew Steven
July 17, 2019


Acquiring .city domain names has become extremely popular over the past few years among businesses with target markets located in particular cities. Alternative TLDs have turned out to be a great alternative to the classic domain extensions such as .com or to country code extensions (.fr, .de, 

Because of the many questions and misconceptions around this topic of new TLDs, Google’s John Mueller published FAQs on the Google Webmaster Central blog addressing the issue. Specifically, he stated that ..our systems treat new gTLDs like other gTLDs (like .com and .org). Keywords in a TLD do not give any advantage or disadvantage in search”. As far as new region or city domains are concerned, John emphasized that they’ll be treated as gTLDs even if they look region specific.

That being said, an immediate question came to our minds: Would the .city provide a ranking advantage over a .com when trying to rank local or city specific pages and consequently give a local ranking edge? We decided to test it!

Daniel Furch - Ranking-Analyse neuer Top-Level-Domains: ‚.berlin‘-TLDs in der lokalen Google-Suche

Source: Daniel Furch - Searchmetrics

We could only locate one other previous experiment done on this by SearchMetrics in 2014 using the study of a .berlin vs .com and .de for local Berlin searches (sorry, this article is in German). Their conclusion was that a .city domain name will help boost local ranking. This experiment was a field test done on existing SERPs, not in a test environment so very different variables and conditions. Stick around to the end of this blog post to find out our test results.

We set up the test like this..

The goal of the experiment was to find whether a .com will beat a .city. As we were putting a domain against a domain we only had two pages in play. Since it’s possible that an unforeseen ranking factor will influence the result having just 2 pages in our test environment, we ran the test three times to see if we got a repeating result.

First, we acquired 3 sets of domains. We obtained both the .com and .city for the same fake keyword. The domains were as follows:

                                                                                           June 6th

                                                                                           June 15th

                                                                                           June 27th

Then we attempted to make pages that were “local” to Phoenix, Arizona. To make the pages “local” we:

1. Created the pages from a Phoenix ip address 

2. Added schema on the pages for a local Phoenix physical address

3. Embedded a Google Map of Phoenix in the pages:

4. Added an image of Phoenix to the page, the alt text contained the word “Phoenix” in it and the image was tagged with the latitude and longitude coordinates of Phoenix.

5. In the Page Title and in the Body Content the word “Phoenix” was placed next to the target fake keyword. As a variation, the phrase “keyword in Phoenix” was also used. 

6. Added authority outbound links on the page to the Phoenix wikipedia page and the page

After the setup was complete all domains were submitted to the Google url submitter. We then checked three variations of possible searches: 

1. Keyword 

2. Phoenix + Keyword 

3. Keyword + in Phoenix

Here is what we discovered

With three sets of domains and 3 different searches for each one there were a total of nine results. The .com won 8 out of nine times.

For the first keyword

1. Keyword

2. Phoenix + Keyword

3. Keyword + in Phoenix

The only .city to win was the main keyword. For this set, the .com won both the “Phoenix + Keyword” and “Keyword in Phoenix”.

Final Takeaway

At the end of the day, we would recommend going for the .com. You see those anomalies from time to time where a .city is winning, but if you have to make a decision, we would go with the .com.

Please note that these are single variable test results. We created an isolated situation for testing in order to determine results. At the same time, we are not saying that you cannot rank a .city and win. As always, great content on great pages will do their job.

About the author 

Andrew Steven

Andrew has been building and managing SEO teams since 2008 where he led the largest SEO firm in Australia. Since meeting Kyle and partnering to form High Voltage SEO Andrew has been Kyle Roof’s man behind the scenes and together with Maria Dubretic have since co-founded the SEO tool PageOptimizer Pro. Andrew wishes he could stop dreaming about digital marketing in his sleep and would love to hear from anyone who has a cure for this.

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