We often get asked about whether it is right to upgrade from .co.uk to .uk, and what our views on the subject are. What we have found over the last few months is not really all that surprising when you think about it. We have decided to share a little bit of what we dicovered with our visitors.
Will .uk win over .co.uk?
Yes, we are 100% confident that the .UK will be the major extension in the United Kingdom. Many people will be reading this and thinking that we are basing our assessment on pure wishful thinking - that would be far from the truth. We started a website called was.co.uk (it is still live) - its purpose was to upgrade sites from .co.uk to .uk. We actually did our own research which involved cold calling random businesses and selling our upgrade to .uk service. This allowed us to get feedback direct from the horses mouth.
What we were constantly being told was that these businesses would like to upgrade to .uk - there was no problem selling them the idea of moving from BarnsleyTaxis.co.uk to BarnsleyTaxis.uk - 99% of them got the idea and understood it completely. One of the constant aspects we were hearing back from them was – “why haven't we been told?” “I haven't heard of .uk before?” Some thought it was actually a scam run by us to get money from them.
Just about all the calls ended with them saying that they would contact their web designer, or their technical advisor and get them to do it. From a business point of view, was.co.uk was not successful simply because we immediately found that customers would get their hosts or designers to do it for them and wouldn’t use us.
The main point for us in this article is to convey that businesses in the UK do see the benefits of moving to .uk. The issue is just how to make them aware that this is available. Eventually as more and more websites turn to .uk, it will become easier as they see their competitors and new start-ups using the new extension.
Would we swap to .uk now?
We've got to be honest, no not yet! Google doesn't seem to be taking the changes as well as we thought they might. We have a few examples of our own, some are commercial and some are non-commercial and Google handles random sites differently. The problem for us is that we don't really know why Google handles them differently because we have done the same procedure across them all.
RoyalMarines.co.uk to .uk - this was one of the first sites that we upgraded to the new .uk. It is a non-commercial site; it doesn't need Google as it has no competitors and a loyal user community. There was simply no downside to it using this site as a guinea pig.
We did all the 301 redirects, we did the Webmaster tools site change and still we hit problems. The site has over 18,000 members and nearly 50,000 threads. It is a relatively big site and has an authoritative domain name.
The site never really ranked for its exact match term. For whatever reason even before we moved to .uk - it never really ranked, maybe bounced around position 16-20 for the term "Royal Marines". That never really was affected after the upgrade, it neither improved nor fell. Long tail searches ranked extremely well, terms like "Royal Marines medical" etc always came very highly in Google - even outperforming the Ministry of Defence's official site.
Where we did suffer a problem, and in fact still do, is that when someone types into Google "RoyalMarines.uk" it comes back with the response - do you mean "RoyalMarines.co.uk". That's a bit odd as there hasn't been a site there since June 2014. If people go with Google's suggestion and click to indicate that they did mean "RoyalMarines.co.uk". Google returns the search list and at the very top of that is "RoyalMarines.uk".
It's therefore a bit like:
Me: Dear Google can you show me "RoyalMarines.uk"?
Google: Do you mean "RoyalMarines.co.uk"?
Me: Yep - go on then
Google: Nice one, thought you meant that - here is "RoyalMarines.uk"
Me: God I'm confused!
We have found that on some of the sites we would get this “Do you mean xyz” response from Google when you type in the exact.uk - whilst others exact searches don't. That is even though we have done the exact same upgrade procedure on each and every site. We don't know how to explain it at this point. Trying to get Google to comment on the issue has proved impossible and we are met with the "we don't comment on search policy "response from Google.
In conclusion to the question would we upgrade a live site now? No we wouldn't at this point, if being totally honest. We are not upgrading our commercial sites from.co.uk to.uk at this moment in time if they rely on search engines.
Starting a new site on .uk or .co.uk?
In our opinion this is a no-brainer, certainly you should start your new site on .uk. Of course you will need to have the .co.uk version of the name redirecting to the .uk if you are going to do things properly and not suffer leakage of visitors to your rivals or some random cyber squatter who has the .co.uk.
All of our new sites are being built on the .uk platform. Our thinking behind this is if we continue to build all our sites on the .co.uk platform, we will have to upgrade them in the next few years anyway and suffer possible search engine problems on those upgrade.
Timescales for the .uk to become dominant?
How long is a piece of string? We simply don't know, in our opinion all it would need is one of the large players such as the BBC, Amazon, Google etc to move to .uk and others sites will quickly follow suit. At the moment is very much like a Formula One race in the wet but with a drying track. Nobody really knows if it is quite dry enough for dry tyres. What everyone is waiting for is someone to go and get some dry tyres and either spin off the track or start putting in some amazingly fast lap times. It just seems at the moment that no one is willing to take that gamble. Which is fair enough when they are quite literally dealing with sums that go into the tens of millions of pounds if they get it wrong.
No tech guy is going to get sacked for being slightly late to upgrade. They will however get sacked if they upgrade first and get it wrong and wipe millions from their company’s value. That's why is most likely to be a non-profit organisation that upgrades first, first out of a semi recognisable brands we suppose.