Most Used ccTLDs: What the Stats Say
In 2018, Google made 3,200 changes to its search engine algorithm, affecting SEO approximately almost nine times a day. Of course, not all of these changes were major, nor have they affected the way our domain names and extensions influence our ranking. Still, SEO is evolving all the time, and so does the way Google thinks about domain names.
Because of the constant changes, unfortunately, a lot of information out there is outdated. In this article, we’ll bring you the latest info about the most popular country code top-level domains (ccTLDs), what they are, and how they affect your SEO.
|– ccTLDs are reserved for a specific country, state, or territory|
|– They nominally represent where the business is from but are often perceived globally|
|– Tokelau’s ccTLD (.tk) is the most popular ccTLD in 2023|
What Is Country Code Top-level Domain (ccTLD)?
Every domain name consists of two parts: the unique name that you choose and the top-level domain (i.e., the extension) it comes with. While you can choose which top-level domain (TLD), you can’t alter its spelling. We use TLDs to provide users with information about a website before they even visit it.
A country code top-level domain (ccTLD) is a domain that is reserved for a specific country, state, or territory. They usually consist of two letters (.fr for France, .ca for Canada, .eu for the European Union, and so on).
In recent years, the lines have become blurry, and it’s not as straightforward as it used to be. Now, when you see a domain name with a .de ccTLD, it doesn’t necessarily mean the business/person using it comes from Germany.
You can find thousands of articles talking about how choosing the wrong domain type can limit your reach to a specific geographic area. This is no longer the case, as Google no longer restricts who can see your pages.
Still, while your TLD doesn’t technically affect SEO, it has an effect on users. To be more precise, users perceive extensions with varying levels of trust. For instance, if you use the .top domain, a lot of people will associate you with selling counterfeit goods.
There are ccTLDs that restrict global usage, forcing businesses to have an address in the country to be able to use its domain. However, that is not always the case.
Many ccTLDs have become popular worldwide due to the fact that users perceive the combination of letters as something else rather than the country it actually represents. When we come across a .io website, we assume it’s a tech-based company, not a store from the British Indian Ocean Territory.
This is not an isolated occurrence. Google used to consider some ccTLDs as open or generic (gccTLDs), allowing their reach to be global. While the search engine no longer has restrictions based on geographical areas, internet users are still used to the idea of gccTLDs.
The most common examples of gccTLDs are as follows:
- .io: British Indian Ocean Territory
- .tv: Tuvalu
- .cc: Cocos Islands
- .fm: Federated States of Micronesia
- .ai: Anguilla
- .am: Armenia
- .co: Colombia
- .ws: Western Samoa
- .me: Montenegro
- .hr: Croatia
The Most Popular ccTLD as of 2023
In previous years, China’s (.cn) and the United Kingdom’s (.uk) ccTLDs dominated the scene when it came to the number of registered websites per year. While they are still high on the list, in 2023, a tiny group of islands from the South Pacific overtook them and claimed the first spot. According to Statista, these are the most popular ccTLDs:
There wasn’t any major surge in the Tokelauan ecommerce industry in the last few months. Dot-tk became the most popular TLD due to the fact that you could use it to get a domain name for free.
As you can expect, this comes with some repercussions. Using a domain name with .tk affects your reputation – many users don’t find websites with this domain type trustworthy. Your domain value will take a hit, so our advice is you use it only to try things out before you choose a name with .com, .net, .co, or any similar TLD that gains users’ trust.
MORE: Trending domain names
What Is the Most Common gTLD?
The list above represents the usage of leading ccTLDs – what about generic TLDs? The most popular ones are by far more common and widespread than ccTLDs, so much so that it’s hard to find a legible, memorable domain name to buy with a .com extension.
The top five most popular gTLDs in 2023 are:
Note that the .co extension is actually a ccTLD for Colombia. However, we treat it as a gccTLD as many take it to be short for company. This way, businesses from all over the world take it without wanting to be associated with the country of Colombia.
ccTLD: The History
The first-ever ccTLD was .us, introduced back in 1985. The .uk and .il soon followed, with dozens of others coming to the scene the following year. In the early days, ccTLDs were exclusively for companies and people from specific countries. You couldn’t register a .ca domain name outside of Canada, and the website would be invisible to users from Europe.
As time went by and the use of the internet became more widespread, ccTLD governing became more relaxed. Today, the small island of Tuvalu earns a large portion of its gross national income from the fact that its ccTLD happens to be .tv, which attracted large multimedia companies like Twitch.
Since most countries established ccTLDs in the 1980s and the 1990s, some of the letter combinations are outdated. For instance, the Independent State of Samoa uses the .ws extension due to the fact that the country’s name was Western Samoa until 1997.
We also have historical ccTLDs, i.e., domains that are no longer in use. These domains were withdrawn from public use as countries ceased to exist. Historical ccTLDs include:
- .zr: Zaire
- .cs: Czechoslovakia
- .yu: Yugoslavia
- .tp: East Timor
- .su: Soviet Union
Status Quo of the Domain Industry
The use of the internet has been on a consistent rise since its beginning. While we were already switching to ecommerce as our preferred way of shopping, the global pandemic ramped up the process, and we now have hundreds of ecommerce sites popping up on a weekly basis.
With the need for new websites increasing, common TLDs like .com are getting oversaturated, and we need to get creative with our use of domain names. There’s a new breed of top-level domains that are new to the scene but are already proving popular. According to Statista, over 5 million new domain names used the .xyz extension in 2022.
In 2021, 13 new TLDs became available for general registration. They are as follows:
Hundreds of new domain types are being registered, and the domain industry doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.
Country code top-level domains don’t have a major SEO impact anymore, but users still perceive it as important if you want to plant yourself in a specific geographic area. For example, if you want to sell your products or services to users from Austria, it’s best you go for a .at extension.
The use of ccTLDs has become global, allowing small countries like Tuvalu and Tokelau to become popular in the internet sphere. Tokelau leads the pack of the most popular ccTLDs in 2023, mostly due to the fact that it allows free registration.
MORE: Who owns a domain name?