In a Google SEO Office hours session, Google’s Gary Illyes answered the question about whether there was a downside to using the .AI domain since it’s associated with the Caribbean island of Anguilla. His answer was kind of surprising.
The Difference Between a gTLD and a ccTLD
There are two kinds of domain names. There are gTLD and ccTLD.
A gTLD is a Generic Top Level Domain. These kinds of domains are not associated with any country and can be used worldwide.
Typical gTLDs are .com, .net, .org, .biz, .xyz and so on.
A ccTLD is a TLD (top level domain) that is associated with a specific country.
Examples of ccTLDs are .uk and .in, which are associated with the countries of the United Kingdom and India.
Google uses ccTLDs to localize the websites that use them with the countries those TLDs are associated with.
If a country uses a .in TLD, Google knows that it is relevant for people in India.
The .in TLD helps Google to determine which country that domain name is relevant to.
This aligns with how people of the world generally expect the Internet to work.
.AI is a ccTLD
Some ccTLDs have a meaning that goes beyond the country they are associated with.
For example, the tiny island of Tuvalu has a ccTLD of .TV.
The .TV ccTLD is useful for websites that want to be branded as (or relevant for) having to do with television.
Similarly, .AI is a ccTLD that is associated with the island of Anguilla, located in the Caribbean.
Is it Okay for a Global Company to Use .AI?
The person asking the question wanted to know if it’s okay to use a ccTLD like .AI.
The concern is whether using the .AI ccTLD might unintentionally localize the website to the island of Anguilla and make it harder for it to rank in other countries like the United States or anywhere else.
This is the question that was asked:
“Should a global company use the .ai domain as their gTLD or is it considered by Google as a ccTLD for the country of Anguilla?”
Google’s Gary Illyes offers what might seem like a surprising answer.
“As of early June, 2023, we treat .ai as a gTLD in Google Search, so yeah, you can use it for your global presence!”
I say it’s a surprising answer because .AI is a popular TLD that is used by many companies.
It may have been commonly assumed that .AI domains were already treated by Google as gTLDs instead of as a ccTLD but that wasn’t always the case.
Google didn’t make the change to treat .AI as a gTLD until June 2023.
Gary’s answer calls attention to the importance of verifying if a domain extension chosen for a website is treated as a ccTLD or a gTLD because that could make a difference in the website ability to rank worldwide.
Using a top level domain that Google treats as localized to a specific country could negatively affect the website’s ability to rank outside of the one country the ccTLD is associated with.
List of ccTLDs that Google Treads Like gTLDs
Google publishes as list of ccTLDs that are treated by Google as generic top level domains.
The list shows that ccTLDs like .eu and .asia are treated like gTLDs. Other international domains that are treated like gTLDs are .ad, .co, .fm, .tv and of course .ai.
Those aren’t the only ccTLDs on the list, there are many ccTLDs listed that are also treated by Google as if they were gTLDs.
Watch the Google SEO Office Hours at the 14:39 minute mark:
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