In a Google Webmaster video that was released today Matt Cutts seems to suggest that using what is known as “Domain Hacks” is not necessarily a great idea. Here is the question that he responded to in the the Google Webmaster video.
We have a vanity domain (http://ran.ge) that unfortunately isn't one of the generic TLDs, which means we can't set our geographic target in Webmaster Tools. Is there any way to still target our proper location?
Aaron D Campbell, Phoenix, AZ
I am glad Aaron asked this as using a vanity domain, aka Domain Hacks, is something I was curios to know since I have thought about registering a few. For those don't know, Domains Hacks or a vanity domain is when a person, business, or site decides to utilize a country code top level domain (ccTLD) to complete a word or phrase. This is instead of using a more generic top level domain (gTLD) such as a COM, NET, or ORG. A good example of a Domain Hack would be Matt Mullenweg, the creator of WordPress, using Ma.TT for his personal blog. The .TT domain extension is technically for Trinidad & Tobago but Matt Mullenweg isn't using it for a business for Trinidad & Tobago just his personal blog.
Over the past couple years vanity domains and domain hacks have really grown in popularity and use. Most domainers, internet marketers, and web professionals know that finding a good .COM domain at a reasonable price is slim nowadays. Even finding a suitable .NET and. ORG domain these days that has not been taken can also be a challenge. I felt lucky when I was able to get the domain for Singing Dogs.
A lot of savy internet entrepreneurs have turned to using domain hacks and vanity domains like Aaron and his business partners with Ran.GE which I think is a smart domain. (In case you didn't watch the video that is the ccTLD for Georgia. No, not the the US state the country.)
While there are quite clever domain hacks and vanity domains in use, Matt Cutts warns that Google categorizes ccTLDs as being for the specific country that they were originally intended for. So if you are using .ES, the ccTLD for Spain, Google will assume you are targeting Spanish traffic since that is mainly what the domain is for. So unfortunately Aaron and his buddies can't tell Google specifically that, “Hey, this domain is not for the country of Georgia.”
There have been a few successful ccTLDs that have gone mainstream in the past few years. This includes .ME the original ccTLD for Montenegro, .CO which was originally for Columbia, and .TV which was the ccTLD for islands of Tuvalu. A lot of internet start-ups really like .ME and .CO which I don't really understand honestly. The domain extension .TV is somewhat popular due to the fact it can be used for video and show purposes. (Keep in mind though that since these were adopted for use globally they are treated differently by Google now.)
What I took away from the video was that it is better to stick with a gTLD (com, net, org) since there won't be any confusion with Google or more importantly site visitors. So you might want to think carefully before registering domain hacks or vanity domains.