Stay in a Search Engine Optimization chat room or forum long enough and the conversation is sure to turn to TLDs. Does it matter which TLD you have?
If you are a newbie and don’t know what a TLD is, it stands for top level domain. Those are the .com, .net, .org, etc. There are hundreds of them and many are specific to certain countries. For instance, co.uk is for websites that operate in the UK, .ca stands for Canada, .au is Australia.
Obviously, if you have a country-specific domain name, that won’t hurt. I’d much rather have a .ca if I lived in Canada than a .biz. But if I owned a television station in Canada then I might prefer .tv. Or if I owned a business that catered entirely to mobile phone users within Alberta then I might prefer .mobi. Those TLDs are for web businesses that exist within the TV and mobile phone industries, respectively.
Branding is one thing. When it comes to Search Engine Optimization, however, there is not a lot of evidence to suggest that it is preferable to own a .com than it is to own a dot something else. Aside from the fact that there are more dot coms in circulation than dot bizzes or dot nets, there is no real distinct advantage to having a .com. It is more memorable perhaps than a .net or .biz, but branding and Search Engine Optimization are two separate things. They can – and should – work hand in hand, but from a technical Search Engine Optimization standpoint, the TLD doesn’t matter much.
There has been some speculation that having a .gov, .org, or .edu can be advantageous. Since only government entities can have a .gov TLD and only educational institutions can have a .edu TLD, that advantage is minuscule. The reality is that inbound links from those TLDs may be seen as more valuable to search engines because of the credibility associated with government and educational sites. But as far as owning the TLD is concerned, there is no real advantage for Search Engine Optimization. Keyphrase.edu and keyphrase.com will both be treated the same by the search engines and each ranking factor will still be given equal weight no matter what else the two websites have going for them. Whichever site is oldest will still have the age factor going in its favor, whichever one has more relevant, high value inbound links will still have that factor going in its favor, etc. TLD doesn’t matter.
When it comes to choosing a domain name, I’d put less emphasis on TLD than the actual phrase before the dot. That part of your URL is far more important for Search Engine Optimization, and for branding purposes. The only time the TLD could be a factor in branding, and I mean a major factor, is when you want your URL to spell a word that would end with the last two, or three letters, of your URL being your TLD. An example of this is with the widely popular social bookmarking site del.icio.us. Magnol.ia is another example. But in general, I’d put more thought into that part of your URL before the dot. Before the TLD. That’s what really matters.