Search engine visibility: the effect of generic top-level domain choice.

Hamdulay, Z. & Weideman, M.

Proceedings in the 8th Annual Conference on WWW Applications. 5-8 September. Bloemfontein, South Africa.

Hamdulay, Z. & Weideman, M.

ABSTRACT
The principle objective of this research project is to determine whether or not search engines rank websites in dot-com domains higher than alternative generic top-level domains (gTLDs). The research question is: Should websites in these other gTLDs have to increase their marketing exposure of their websites? The methods to be employed in this research project are to build separate websites each having domain names in different gTLDs, e.g. mysite.com, mysite.net, mysite.biz etc. The content on all websites will be identical and will be submitted to major local and international search engines. Each website will be search engine crawler-friendly and will include title tags in hyperlinks, alt tags in graphics, definitive webpage titles and keyword phrases in the meta tags etc. These websites will not only be crawler friendly but also user friendly. All sites will be written in HyperText Markup Language (HTML). The domain names chosen will be descriptive and no scripting languages will be used e.g. Javascript. Each website will be thoroughly tested in known browsers e.g. Netscape and Microsoft Internet Explorer. Data will also be gathered via interviews with senior officials at local e-commerce traders and/or search engines. This interview will mainly consist of open-ended questions regarding their marketing infrastructure towards successfully branding their websites to Internet users. Expected results from the methods employed above could prove that websites in dot-com domains are ranked higher than alternative gTLDs by search engine crawlers. Further outcomes could also prove that websites in alternative gTLDs have to spend more money when branding their websites to Internet users. This study is intended to make website owners aware of the importance of choosing the appropriate URL to increase website visibility on the Internet.
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