I’ve been a voyeur of this wonderful site for awhile and I finally decided to participate with this matter because there is so much conflicting information out there on this topic…
Specifically, I am looking at the “.md” extension… obviously very good for branding within the medical world… but technically the country code for Moldova.
Does it matter from an SEO standoint? Has Google said anything about the matter? I have not been able to find anything… as far as this website goes (max.md), from my US IP-address, I can have this site return as the first result if I Google “secure communication for healthcare.” Is this significant? Obviously, this might be a poor example because that’s not a very competitive phrase. But the particular phrase I am looking at for the medical site I mention is competitive and I wonder if I will always be behind the eightball using the “.md” extension (with the exception, of course, with anyone from Moldova).
Abusing a country’s TLD in that way is likely to be confusing for your users and for people in that country.
There are some exceptions, like .tv and .fm, where the TLDs belong to tiny countries and have made them a lot of money by licensing them for use globally, where they are instantly recognisable as pertaining to TV and radio respectively. But in general, I would keep clear of using a TLD that is foreign to your site.
Google takes its cues from all over the place. Where the website is hosted. What language it is written in. And yes, I believe, the TLD used. No, it doesn’t pay much if any attention to the difference between .org and .com, for example, but I’m pretty sure it does pay attention to the difference between .co.uk and .com.hk.
So if you use a .md domain, you are likely to confuse Google into wondering whether your site is for the USA or Moldova, you’ll confuse Moldovans who come across the site and wonder why it’s written in English and doesn’t seem to have anything to do with their country at all, and you’ll confuse your genuine visitors who may be rightly sceptical about unusual foreign domains.
I appreciate your thoughtful response and I agree with everything you wrote. That said, I’m a typical American, therefore I couldn’t care less about the Moldovans, nor could most Americans find Moldova on a map… so I posit that pretty much anytime an American sees a “.md” website they are more likely to think of the medical community than Moldova.
The basis of my inquiry really lies within the word “believe” as used above. People seem to believe one way or another when it comes to this, but no one can point to anything solid…