The explosion of generic top-level domains (gTLDs) has begun, with forward-thinking brands having already snapped up their domain names of choice. 

If this rush turns out to be more than just a fad, how can your brand use it to create a search engine marketing (SEM) advantage?

The Rise of gTLDs

Gone are the days when your choice was limited to .com, .net or a GeoTLD like Hundreds of descriptive TLDs are available to choose from, with more set to be released in coming months. From .agency to .church, you can now use your URL to tell the world what you do. 

As exact-match domains tend to fare well in paid search, and consequently cost less per click, things are starting to look quite positive from an SEM point of view. 

A recent SEMrush study revealed that 78 percent of the most expensive pay per click (PPC) keywords relate to the legal profession. Now .attorney and .lawyer are available — but other than a flashy new domain name, what’s the benefit? 

Obvious relevance.

Exact-Match Domains and PPC

Exact-match domains aren’t the golden ticket they once were for SEO, but they’re still good news for PPC. Mobile search has overtaken desktop, and as it's harder to tell which results are paid and which are organic on mobile, users often opt for the first relevant result they see. 

A good gTLD can help you become that result. To borrow an example from Rightside: if you’ve searched for “San Antonio car wreck attorney,” you can’t get much more relevant than the domain “www.SanAntonioCarWreck.Attorney.” 

And it gets better. 

Google’s new SERP layout has boosted the paid pack above organic results — now showing up to four ads — and has abolished the sidebar ads. This is great news for PPC marketers (not so much for organic search), so a PPC-friendly domain name certainly isn’t a bad idea. But what are the risks? 

Proceed with .care

Generally, gTLDs represent an exciting new chapter in online marketing. But as with anything new, there are always risks.

  • gTLDs aren’t yet common. Not all your customers will know that “” is an actual URL. While this isn’t a problem for SEM, it is a problem for networking, TV advertising and any other marketing efforts that take place in the offline world. Ask an older relative — you’ll see what I mean
  • Google once rated exact-match domain names really highly in organic search. That changed, as people used it as a shortcut to the top of the SERPs. Matt Cutts said that both TLDs and gTLDs have the same chance of ranking, so if you’re going down the gTLD route, don’t expect to see your organic ranking rise
  • Going for an exact-match domain like “” is seriously worth considering if you don’t have an established reputation — but high-end established brands might not want to risk their integrity for a quick win
  • Implementation is risky. Sure, you can redirect your old domain to your new one, but you’ll lose domain authority in the process, and any oversights in the transfer process could set you back quite seriously in organic search. If you don’t have a trusted expert on board, don’t switch domains until you’ve found one

Retiring .com

gTLDs are starting to look a lot like the future, but whether or not you’re ready to make the switch is something only you can decide. If your audience is made up of young techie types, then embracing a new domain extension is less of a risk. However, if you’re dealing with an older demographic, you may wish to hold back for now.

Either way, it’s worth registering your preferred gTLD immediately so it’s there if and when you need it. And while going for an exact match domain for the sake of it may be tempting, it’s not worth sacrificing your brand identity for it — nothing is.