By Jacques Hart
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There is some confusion among Miami business owners and marketers surrounding the so-called advantages of new top-level domains such as .MIAMI currently being promoted for sale.
The much-touted benefits include stronger online presence, improved search engine rankings, higher website traffic, and enhanced branding and prestige.
However, in our digital-marketing experience, we have found top-level domains lack any well-proven benefit and can often be contrary to current best practices in website promotion and search engine optimization.
Is a top-level domain for you? While every case is different and requires customized analysis, following is some practical guidance based on our digital-marketing acumen.
If you are debating whether to go with a .com or a top-level domain, the .com is your best bet. For the foreseeable future, Google will continue to give preference to .com addresses. This has been confirmed with Google consistently ranking .com’s over .net, .biz, .club, .guru, etc. Moreover, there is a perception that companies acquire top-level domains when they cannot acquire and/or afford the “real thing” (the dotcom). Thus, if considering a top-level domain, you should weigh any potential negative impacts on your brand.
If you already own a .com address, a top-level domains is not necessary as it can impose additional marketing maintenance and costs without bringing much value to you. It can even diminish your success online. Without significant changes in Google algorithms, this will probably continue to be the case for years to come.
Here is our insight on some of the questions we are hearing from Miami’s business community in response to the hype surrounding .MIAMI and other top-level domains.
Question: Will purchasing a .MIAMI domain and routing this and other domains to my core website help my website rank higher and drive local business?
Analysis: There is a huge flaw in this reasoning. Fact is, Google penalizes sites or does not give value to those that simply register a bunch of URLs and point them to their core website in hopes of increasing their core site’s search engine visibility. Registering and pointing URLs to your site may have a negative impact or no impact on your “findability” in search engine results pages. If you decide to purchase a .MIAMI address, you should consider building an entirely new site to support it instead of redirecting it to your existing site.
Question: Will maintaining a .MIAMI site along with my core dotcom site provide my company a stronger online presence and more ways to be found online?
Analysis: Having multiple websites goes against the current trends to maximize search visibility, which calls for consolidating websites and content offerings into one place. Google and other search engines rank sites as authorities based on their frequency, freshness and quality of original content.
For example, it was previously common practice for companies to separate their core corporate sites and corporate blogs as distinct websites, thinking that pointing links from their blogs would boost their core sites’ organic rankings. Google caught on to this practice and recognized it was not producing positive experiences, as users disliked having to bounce back and forth between sites. Since then, Google has consistently given higher rankings to sites that aggregate the most high-quality content in one place.
Question: Is there value in having a .MIAMI domain to show I operate in Miami?
Analysis: While a .MIAMI designation might be appropriate for smaller, local companies that only want to sell to or serve clients locally (restaurants, bars, nightclubs, jet ski rentals, plumbers, etc.), this can be limiting for most companies that serve or may want to serve clients nationally or internationally.
Question: Can a top-level domain like petfood.MIAMI help me own my category?
Analysis: Not likely. Category domains like Hotels.com, Cars.com, and Condo.com, which have been known have to enjoy high organic rankings and strong memory retention, have three major things in common: They are mature, have tremendous depth and breadth of content, and use a .com URL.
Question: Is purchasing my company name or product with a .MIAMI domain a necessary defensive play to prevent my competition from purchasing a URL with my name?
Analysis: Nope. For one thing, consider the laws. The Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act prohibits registration of domain names of established, registered companies as a means to profit by reselling these domains or creating unfair competitive advantages.
In the complex digital marketing field, it is easy for folks to get misled and make costly mistakes. Before making a move, it is critical to conduct research and consult digital-marketing specialists to confirm whether .MIAMI or any top-level domain is in your best interest.