The recent release of branded top-level domains has brought on a lot of questions from local and big businesses alike. But what are they, and is a “.cars” website worth it for your dealership? Here are some essential questions answered: 1. What is a top-level domain? A top-level domain is the last sequence of letters to appear after the last period in a domain. For example: 2. What does it do? In the past, top-level domains have indicated to Google and to users what kind of authority a site might have. For example, .org and .edu were treated with high regard, followed by .com, and then .net and others ... not so much. Since .org traditionally indicated a non-profit organization and .edu is reserved for educational institutions, .com domains have historically been the most sought after. 3. Is there an advantage to having a .org website SEO-wise? No. While there aren’t any restrictions on who can get a .org site now, Google does not value one domain over another. Also, if you aren’t a non-profit, it just doesn’t look quite right. 4. I’m not in the U.S., so what about country code domains? Do those have any more influence in terms of SEO? It depends. If you’re a GM dealer in London, a URL that ends with “.co.uk” can help Google determine if your website is more relevant to shoppers searching for GM dealers in the UK. However, that country code is not the sole source of relevance, as Google looks at pretty much every aspect of a website that it can crawl – your address, your hours and directions pages, etc. 5. So what’s the point of a generic branded domain like .cars or .google? Looks, mostly. Google does not give a disadvantage or an advantage to sites with generic branded domains. The most important thing you should do is have a domain that is relevant to the content on your site. 6. So should I change my domain to .cars?
Any time you are redesigning and migrating your site to a new domain, it can result in a drop in rankings and natural search traffic. Moving your site to a new platform generally means your URLs will change. (Think about excellencemotors.com/service compared to excellencemotors.cars/service) Even if your main URL stays the same, the naming conventions for your service and parts pages, new and used vehicle search pages, and contact forms are generally different. Any links you had built over the years would still be pointed at your old website’s pages, your various directory listings to your old .com website would need to be updated, and you’ll need to map each page with a .com URL over to the new address. If the right process isn’t followed as a domain changes, your websites run the risk of dropping out of the search results completely, and it can take months to rebuild that authority and the rankings. For some dealers, it might not be within your OEM guidelines to change the domain at all. In addition, a .cars domain costs more than $2500 per year to register, whereas a .com can be just under $10 per year. You do the math.