Rather quietly, it seems, scot domain registration opened up to the general public almost 2 months ago (23rd September).
I had been aware that it was coming, but it was more a fuzzy background awareness. I had no need to buy any domains (quite happy with socialscotland.com 😉 ) and generally find gTLDs (such as *.biz, *.info and what not) neither attractive nor all that trustworthy.
Then something happened. A strategy and plan of action that I'd been working on for a good few months unexpectedly hit a dead end, through external circumstances over which I had no control. The sort of stuff that happens all the time!
Anyway. I LOVE difficulties, obstacles and failure, as it gives me something to conquer, and it keeps the old brain agile. The solution to the above problem was to find a new digital space that I could fully control. And out of nowhere, I remembered about the new scot domain registration process.
What is a scot domain?
.scot, also called dot scot, is a new TLD (top level domain) that was agreed in January this year and officially launched on 15 July 2014. When it opened for public registration on 23 September, over 4,000 businesses registered a domain within an hour!
How to register .scot
Check dotscot.net for a list of approved registrars. The site has more info on the evolution of .scot.
Why register a scot domain?
Mainly, because you can still get the name that you want! It's first come, first serve, and therefore plenty of opportunity to secure that exact match domain (EMD) that you've always wanted but had no chance of ever getting, because someone registered your ideal business name 10 years ago. It's cheap too (I paid around £60 for mine, I think).
Secondly, the Scottish Government fully support .scot - for example, they're just now developing a central digital place for public services, at mygov.scot (currently in alpha).
Thirdly, for SEO reasons. I might be wrong here, but my hunch is that Google will probably rank a regional TLD (such as .scot) over other generic TLDs (e.g. .biz, .info) for the same exact match domain (EMD). And yes, I am aware of the discussion around whether or not EMD is still a good SEO tactic.
I for one am happy to take a punt. Who knows, in future versions of its never-disclosed algorithm, Google may well decide to rank .scot higher in Scotland over e.g. co.uk or .com.
After all, Google's mission is to
organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.
Hence, if the site content on the .scot domain is not just high quality but also geographically more relevant and therefore more useful to the searcher, it would make perfect sense for the algorithm to reward it with a high(er) rank.
Should I buy a .scot domain?
While some of the above is speculative - there may not be any SEO benefit, and scot domains may never find widespread adoption - there could nevertheless be an advantage for early adopters.
The risk is small (the domains are cheap!), and the benefit, especially for businesses with a physical location or service specific to Scotland, could be considerable.
My recommendation is this: Don't rush and get a .scot domain if you've got a site that is well established and has good search engine visibility. And definitely don't do it if your customers are global and you want to be found globally.
However, if you're just starting out, don't have a website yet, AND your business is mainly regional to Scotland - i.e. your customers largely live in Scotland - then absolutely do think about registering a scot domain.
And that's because yourbizname.scot could give your business a greater chance at getting found online (due to the SEO value of EMDs combined with the regional extension). Moreover, you'd be able to get the name in the URL that you've always wanted - and a brandable domain name, in my opinion, is surely worth investing in.
Getting a dot scot might just be the smartest thing you could do!