LOS ANGELES—A few months ago, AVN conversed with Google on the subject of how the leading search engine will treat search results for .xxx. Now that .xxx websites are set to go live en mass, we though it would be a good time to report on what Google said, even though it was essentially a non-comment saying that .xxx will be treated the same as any other domain extension.
We actually went full circle in our discussion with a Google spokesperson who works in the Global Communications and Public Affairs department, and were not surprised by the somewhat guarded response, but the exchange did underscore Google’s commitment to secrecy regarding search results and also its determination to take the introduction of .xxx sites, and presumably any future new top-level domains, in stride.
However, the Google comment does refute those observers speculating that the search engine will give .xxx either preferential treatment or the opposite. It says it will do neither, and that .xxx sites will have to prove their algorithm mettle just like every other domain in order to be rewarded with top rankings. Time will quickly tell if this is so.
The following is a slightly abbreviated version of the exchange:
AVN: We are working on a story about the way in which Google with rank the new .xxx domains that have already come online. This is of great interest to our readers, as you can imagine. There are only a few .xxx domains that currently resolve, and people are already finding that they show up differently in search results. The domain for ifriends is a good example. For some, ifriend.com is ranked first, for others ifriends.net or ifriends.xxx.
Google: Google is experienced in ranking and returning web pages, regardless of the top-level domain (TLD). If the best result is on a new gTLD, we still intend to return that page to our users.
Feel free to attribute that to a Google spokesperson, not to me by name.
AVN: Thanks for the reply. Your name will not be used.
.xxx is a sTLD, btw, but that probably makes no difference in terms of Google search results. If it’s okay, I may send you future queries, since it is safe to say that this top-level domain is very different from any other top-level domain that has been introduced, not least because of its controversial content and also the likelihood that many countries, institutions and networks will want to block results with the .xxx ending. How or whether actions like that will skew results overall is and will continue to be of supreme interest to this industry.
Google: Ah, sorry I misread your question and thought it was about the new ICANN policy. When are you planning on running your story? I'd like to run this question by another member of the team who handles domain questions, but he's on vacation until next week.
Is it possible to wait until then?
AVN: I was going to run a brief item today but will wait to hear back from you instead. If I can get a more comprehensive response it will be of that much greater value to the online side of the industry, which is pretty search engine savvy and very interested in this subject. Obviously, a lot of people have put a lot of time, energy and money into their .com domains and have a ton of questions about how .xxx will impact their current rankings. I’m sure it’s the same for .xxx domain owners worried about rankings in a new TLD.
Google: Sorry for the delay, today has been pretty busy, with everyone returning from vacation and the three day weekend. I checked with a couple members of the team, and our original statement is still the most appropriate response for your question.
I just tweaked it to say TLD instead of gTLD, since this is an sTLD which a team member also pointed out. Again, please attribute to a Google spokesperson, not to me by name:
"Google is experienced in ranking and returning web pages, regardless of the top-level domain (TLD). If the best result is on a new TLD, we still intend to return that page to our users."
AVN: Thanks for asking the others. I appreciate the effort.