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Top-Level-Domain (TLD)

A top-level domain, TLD in short, is what a domain name ends with, like ".com". It is important to differentiate between different top-level domains (TLDs), as a few of them have a specific focus.

What kinds of top-level-domains (TLDs) are out there?

Google can differentiate between the following internet addresses:

Generic top-level-domain (gTLD)

A generic top-level-domain is also called gTLD and ends with .com, .biz, .net, org, or .info, just to name a few. The list of all available gTLDs can be found on the corresponding Wikipedia page.

A generic top-level-domain is not used as a regional identifier by Google, as opposed to a country-code top-level-domain (ccTLD), and can be used to correspond to any region or language. This is achieved through the use of the hreflang-attribute.

Country-code top-level-domain (ccTLD)

A country-specific top-level-domain, also called a ccTLD, is a strong signal for Google, telling them that the domain’s content is overwhelmingly suited for the specific country or search market.

Some of the ccTLD endings are .de, .co.uk, .ch, etc. Google would assume that a domain with the ccTLD www.domain.de has a very strong relevance, or is very well suited, for the German search market.

There are more than 200 ccTLDs. Every country gets exactly two characters for their domain-name abbreviations. The list of all available ccTLDs can be found on the corresponding Wikipedia page.

Geographic top-level-domain (geoTLD)

The geographical top-level-domain (geoTLD) differs from a ccTLD in that it is actually a generic top-level-domain (gTLD), but with a clear focus on a geographical-, geopolitical-, ethnic-, language- or cultural-collective.

So far there were only two geoTLDs, .cat and .asia, but this changed with the introduction of new geoTLDs, such as, for example, .berlin, .koeln (for the German city of Cologne), and so on. You can find all proposed new geoTLDs on the corresponding Wikipedia page.

Internationalised country-code top-level-domain (IDN)

IDN stands for internationalised top-level-domain and is technically a ccTLD with a special encoding. The encoding refers to the characters of languages using a different character-set than Latin. You would talk about an IDN, for example, if the domain endings were written in the Arabic alphabet or if they consisted of Chinese characters.

A sponsored top-level-domain is called sTLD and is a specific domain ending that represents a certain commercial- or ethnic-orientation. Some examples for sTLD are .tel, .aero, .travel or even .xxx. You can find a list of all available sTLDs on the Wikipedia page.

Which top-level-domain (TLD) should I choose?

That is up to you to decide and depends on the type of website you have, as well as your visitors and your business model. If international SEO matters to you, you should at least be aware of the differences and possibilities between a gTLD and ccTLD.


The hreflang-guide for international SEO

In our hreflang guide for international SEO you will learn everything you need to know about the proper handling of Google and multilingual websites. Avoid duplicate content and learn how to properly use the hreflang link attribute.


Video Explanation by Matt Cutts on this topic

What is your advice for geotargeting sites with ccTLDs?

At the moment Geotargeting from Webmaster Console is available only for Generic TLDs. What is your advice for webmasters with country specific domains who want to geotarget different segments of their sites?

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