Matt Cutts via the Google Webmaster Help channel released another video discussing country code top level domain (ccTLD) usage a few days ago. The title of the video was “Should I use ccTLDs for sites not targeted to those countries?” and this was the question that was asked.
As memorable .COM domains become more expensive, more developers are choosing alternate new domains like .IO and .IM – which Google geotargets to small areas. Do you discourage this activity?
Matt Cutts says in the beginning of the video, “I want you to go in with eyes open.” which basically means you should be careful buying a random ccTLDs to use for your website if your intention is global use. Later he said, “Most domains do pertain to that specific country.” when he was talking about certain ccTLDs.
Specifically he mentioned the extension .LI, which is the country code top level domain for Lichtenstein. Some people in Long Island, New York have started to use the .LI extension for “Long Island.” Cutts confirmed in this video thought that Google doesn't view .LI for use on Long Island or global use and still considers it a ccTLD for the country of Lichtenstein.
Back in February, 2013 there was a Google Webmaster Help video discussing ccTLD hacks. In the video Cutts specifically mentioned the domain extension .IO, for the Indian Ocean, which was still considered targeted for that area of use in February. What is interesting is that in this video he said that Google had looked at who was using .IO extension and it mostly wasn't people from the Indian Ocean. For a $99 renewal fee I doubt many people in the Indian Ocean will spring to use .IO anyway. This should make any startups or websites that are using the .IO happy since this is the first official confirmation of this from Google.
Here is a list of ccTLDs that Google has confirmed are for global use. If you are interested you can find a lot of short domains for these various extensions using Short Domain Search, which I wrote about.
What Google should do is allow people who buy a country code top level domain that isn't on that list to be able to go into Google Webmaster Tools and geoselect if it is for the country or global use. So many new companies and start-ups seem to be using ccTLD domain extensions due to the lack of good available .COM, .NET, and even .ORG domains these days
Since this issue is not going away and I suspect that more and more people will pester Google about this I wouldn't be surprised if they changed their minds in the future. If Google allowed webmasters to geoselect it would actually bring down the cost of ccTLDs for people to use in those specific countries since the more registrations you have the lower the annual domain renewal cost is.
There will be a lot of new global domain extensions that will be available for registration soon but I doubt the ccTLD craze will go away even with these new extensions on the horizon. People really seem to like domain hacks and .IO for some reason.
Still most webmasters, including myself, would prefer to have the widest range of possible sources of traffic. So in my opinion it is preferable to go with a global top level domain (gTLD) if you can. I have Singing Dogs and that is a .NET. A lot of good gTLDs are still out there and it still seems Google and Matt Cutts recommend you go with that anyway instead of choosing a country code top level domain which might confuse Google and users.