Switching to a .london or even a .uk domain may make you look unique and portray exclusivity, but is it really what’s best for your business? Your domain is the identity that sums up your entire business, so of course it’s difficult, and with so many new TLDs (top-level domains) to choose from now, the possibilities are becoming increasingly endless. Getting both your SEO and branding right is essential, so check out John Cabot’s guide to choosing a new domain.
Here, we’re talking about the .london domain extension specifically, but the key points and lessons learnt apply to other custom or unique TLDs that you might be considering switching to.
The rise of .London
Back in 2014, the .london domain extension went on sale for the first time and was met with a big Trafalgar Square launch. The internet was abuzz – this new domain symbolised exclusivity and a sense of patriotic pride that brands could use to strengthen themselves by associating with London’s globally iconic brand and position their business geographically. Many proud to be London-based British businesses immediately secured their own, including Fortnum and Mason and The Evening Standard.
The Standard launched thestandard.london alongside their original .co.uk website along with 15 other organisations including West Ham’s football club. The Standard article detailing this change described the expectations back then, that “most will run them in tandem with their existing addresses — but some are expected to ditch their traditional .co.uk or .com domains altogether.” Brands were being actively encouraged by then mayor, Boris Johnson himself to make the change, even Selfridges and the company that manages Carnaby Street expressed interest.
What actually happened
Fast forward to today and many of the big names mentioned above have dropped .london and switched back to .com and .co.uk. That’s not to say that this new domain extension was a failure, just that it works better for different kinds of businesses and industries than others. For example, renowned events venue, London’s ExCeL uses the extension, which may be successful for them as they’re a hub for tourists all year-round with massive fairs and conventions.
What businesses can pull it off
From startups to established brands, there are plenty of businesses still rocking the label like a fashion statement, which is pretty much what it is. That elite exclusivity will always be sought after by some while not wanted, or suiting, everyone or every business. Franchises and international chains, for example, will probably avoid city-specificity. Imagine if ‘mcdonalds.sanbernardino’ was the real website for McDonalds (the Californian city it originated in) or even ‘mcdonalds.california’ – don’t you already feel excluded?
Fashionable, unique city-proud brands? Those are the businesses that primarily make up the population of .london domains. Here, we’ve outlined a few key business industries that can potentially make it work and why.
1. Artisanal Goods
Businesses that are proud to design and create their own products in the capital city want to show that off at every opportunity, and with customers becoming increasingly environmentally conscious, buying locally and supporting local businesses is a priority for many. This type of targeting works particularly well for alcohol brands like KANPAI which is the UK’s first craft sake brewery and Half Hitch Gin which celebrates its Camden Lock heritage.
As one of the “Big Four” fashion capitals of the world, London’s fashion designers and retailers are always worth promoting and celebrating, and of course, if anyone is going to make the bold, distinctive switch to .london, it’ll be these brands. Sustainable clothing startup Henri is one of these, producing timeless, organic cotton clothes in the heart of the city. Another is Birdsong who sell wardrobe staples by talented women paid a fair wage – another ethics-first brand.
3. Urban Development
It makes complete sense that urban and property development companies whose whole purpose is to develop London would boast the domain as a clear signal. It allows for a unique business name to leave its mark in the city in more ways than one. This is something Anthology, who focus on the unique stories of Londoners when creating homes, use to their advantage.
This one is pretty simple. Tourism in London is, you guessed it, all about London. As previously mentioned, the ExCeL centre is one example, but the Sky Garden is another. Having these popular landmarks and tourists spots on the list is a huge endorsement for the domain.
For more .london websites, you can browse a list here.
The simple fact is that .london or any other TLDs (top level domains) are not favoured over .com equivalents, despite claims across the internet that it will magically boost rankings – it won’t. Realistically, you may see a slight improvement in SEO by choosing a .london domain, but instead, your focus should be on the branding opportunities and advantages it offers.
It’s also worth thinking about the last time you saw a website that didn’t end in .com or .co.uk. I’m sure by now you’re realising just how few examples of successful .london TLDs there currently are, especially at the forefront of the internet. While the lack of visibility may be because they are startups and still growing, it’s more likely due to the fact that right now there are just 51,343 domains registered with the .london TLD, just 0.16% of all registered domains (nTLDStats).