There are literally hundreds of domain name extensions to choose from, but what do they actually mean and which one is best for your business. Every domain name extension has a purpose, but most of them aren’t right for you business.
What do domain name extensions mean? Domain name extensions are short abbreviated letters that sit behind your domain name which help to identify the content type on your website. For example a .ORG is an organizational website, an .EDU is an education website, and a .GOV is a government website. Domain names are used in place of long IP addresses to make web browsing easier.
You may be wondering what domain name extensions are and which one is right for your business. Should you choose an expensive .COM or is a cheaper .NET better? Let’s answer all those questions and more.
What are top level domain name extensions?
Top level domain names are the extension behind your website URL like .COM, .NET, .ORG, amongst many others. Thank your lucky stars that we have domain name extensions these days. They are a real time saver.
Way back in the day (the 80’s), people would need to type in each computer IP address that they wanted to connect with. Your computer IP address is like a map coordinate. We all have them. Your IP address is a string of consecutive numbers that tells the internet what part of the world your data is coming from.
Now, if we didn’t have domain names, every-time you wanted to visit a website, you’d have to type in that companies coordinates like 192.168.0.1. It might not be bad if you only go to one website everyday. But imagine browsing and having to type in number codes for every website? No way Jose.
We can’t even remember phone numbers anymore without our smartphone contact list let alone IP address coordinates that look like morse code.
So, as the story goes, a group of brilliant scientists realized that common folk like us would never remember a string of numbers. We are simpletons and if they wanted this whole internet thing to work out, they’d needed to dummy proof it.
They came up with a system called Domain Name System (DNS) which took your IP address number and turned into words. You were finally able to replace your old name 192.168.0.1 with your new name HandsomeGuyFromMaine.com.
So what’s with the .COM/.NET/.ORG domain name extension?
In the early days, tech geeks created what’s called top-level domains (TLDs). This helped to understand what each domain name address was. They wanted to create a system that a web searchers could easily identify the business type associated with each URL.
This TLD idea was a pretty good one. Let’s look into this a bit deeper.
What does each top level domain name extension mean?
Back in the day, they thought it would be useful to classify domain name extensions into bucket categories based on business types. They essentially looked like this:
- .COM = everyday sites
- .EDU = education
- .MIL = military
- .GOV = government
- .ORG = organizations
- .NET = network service providers
Depending on what type of business you ran, you would have picked a top level domain and then second level domain. A government business who sold rubber hoses would have picked something like:
- Top level domain = .GOV
- Second level = GovernmentRubberHoses
- All together now: www.GovernmentRubberHoses.gov
This simple domain name leveling was useful in the early days when there were concrete differences between websites. It allowed people to pick a website name and a domain extension appropriate for their industry.
But that’s all changed—for the most part. Today, your options are plentiful. In fact, there are literally hundreds of top level domain name extensions to choose from. Every country has a top level domain (.US for United States or .UK for United Kingdom) and there are tons of categorical extensions (.game, .broker, .edu).
Here are just a few common options today:
Why do we need domain name extensions?
These days, it really isn’t necessary. But, it can still help people surfing the web to understand what or where the domain is taking them.
For example, if you see a .UK, there is a good chance you’re going to a company website based in the UK. Or, if you click on a url with a .EDU name extension, you are definitely going to an educational website (college, high school, etc).
30 years ago these made a lot of sense, but today they aren’t as important. Many companies are using top level domain extensions as way to stand out.
For instance bit.ly was the first tech company to popularize .LY extension. It was short and memorable. And then there was ouo.io who popularized the .IO extension for tech companies.
Now we aren’t saying you should go out and find the wildest domain name extension to set your company apart. Back away from the ledge. Don’t go buy a .bargains domain name for crying out loud—you’ll look spammy.
But there are some instances you should think about and one big-Kahuna top-level domain everyone should at least consider.
Is .COM the best domain name extension?
Yes. .COM is the big kahuna and it’s the right extension for almost any business or website. Sorry, but it’s true.
Here is the deal, most of your English speaking audience associate .COM with authenticity. It’s just a fact.
We want to give you some reasons to consider .COM as your top level domain name extension:
Popularity. Look at the graphic below. You’ll notice that .COM domains dwarf every other domain extension. People say .COM as easily as they say WWW. They associate .COM with the internet in general and a websites perceived legitimacy.
I wouldn’t pick some weird, foreign top level domain because you’re feeling edgy”. I’d go with a .COM. Every. Single. Time.
What are the risks of not choosing a .COM?
Errors. Let’s say you are out an about and you tell someone your great new website name. They go home and they begin typing Baloneyhero.COM. Well, you thought you’d be cheeky and buy BaloneyHero.NZ. After all, you did your college internship in New Zealand.
Well, your sweet college nostalgia is going to cost you. You just a potential customer because they think your website is broken. Not a good look Baloney girl.
Credibility. We’ve talked about this already, but it’s worth mentioning again. 133 million people call .COM home. That’s a ton of people. Think Apple.com, Google.com, Amazon.com, Walmart.com, Microsoft.com. Don’t be a trend setter. Just follow the rules.
“You can always tell who the pioneers are because they are lying face down in the dirt with arrows in their back.”Anonymous
Appearance. Some domain extensions are cheap, but don’t be that guy. Just because you saw a summer sale on .INFO for $1.99/year doesn’t mean it’s a “good deal”.
You have to live with that domain name extension for a long time. This isn’t underwear shopping, it’s business address shopping. Choose wisely, please.
Perception. People don’t have any preconceived notions about a .COM business. It’s common, it’s everywhere. Whereas if you are .NET or a .ORG, people aren’t sure if Google is sending them to your Scarf website or the local water company.
Moral of the story: Choose a .COM unless you have a good reason not to.
Do .COM extensions rank higher?
Technically, yes. But not for the reason you are thinking. First, there are more .COM’s than anything else, so the analysis on this topic is already skewed. Big brands have chosen .COM for years and that isn’t going to change. Big brands get more search traffic, so yah, the data is skewed.
But, because there are so many .COM’s in existence, there is a populational bias you need to aware of. Search engines aren’t giving preferential treatment to .COM’s in anyway, but consumers ARE giving preference to .COM’s.
Consumers almost universally associate a domain name with a .COM. It’s like peanut butter jelly. Business name + .COM equals legit domain name. Sure you might see the random .LY or .IO, but most businesses that you know by name are .COM.
And big businesses don’t want you searching for them with trial and error. They chose .COM because they realized it was the extension you were most likely to search them by. Could you imagine people searching for ESPN.org?
Why are .COM domains the most expensive?
.COM domain extensions aren’t that expensive, but they are more expensive than other top level domains. They aren’t as cheap as .88 cent domains from NameCheap, but they are still very affordable. You can expect to pay around $10 per year for a .COM domain.
Now, in the world of top level domain extensions, .COM would be considered a premium domain name. It will be rented to you at a premium cost. It’s better than a .INC which can set you back a couple thousand dollars. Crazy right?
There is a whole hierarchy to this operation.
First, domain name prices are regulated at the top by an organization called Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). These guys make sure top level domain extension prices don’t get all wacky. Consider them domain price regulators.
Then there are wholesalers who allow resellers like NameCheap to rent you the domain extension each year. Yep, there is a lot of “brokering” going on here. When you buy your domain name extension, you’re really paying the reseller (like GoDaddy) and the Wholesaler (like WebNIC).
In the free internet world we live in, it just so happens that .COM is popular, companies are greedy, and the prices are higher. Good old free-market economy. The bottom line is .COM’s are HOT🔥🔥 and now you have to pay the piper…or is it pipers?
Does domain name extension impact SEO?
A domain name extension should not impact search engine optimization (SEO) as long as your site is relevant and not misleading.
For example, if your site has a .BE (Belgium) extension and all of your content is written for Japanese readers, there might some search intent confusion. But even then, it shouldn’t matter in the eyes of Google, Yahoo, Safari, or Bing.
With that being said, this type of domain extension and domain name paring is a rare case and not likely. Google doesn’t have any bias towards domain names or top-level extensions. They reward on one simple factor: quality content.
If your content is helpful and your audience is engaged, Google will reward you. You have the autonomy to pick the domain name of your choosing. If you think it’s a good name and a good domain extension—go for it.
But there is one way that domain name extensions can impact your SEO: search page clicks. If Google finds that your content is relevant and displays it on the first page of Google, yet no one is clicking on it, your page will lose SEO relevancy and your ranking for the keyword(s) will drop.
Out of the 200+ SEO ranking factors, click-through-rate is important. If people aren’t clicking through to your webpage from the search page, it’s likely your domain name extension isn’t relevant to the content. I’ve seen some people choose .ORG which may imply something other than what their site is about—resulting in less clicks.
And this brings us to our point again—choose a .COM. It will save you the headache of these unfortunate events coming back to haunt you.
And while we are on the topic of safe decisions, choose a domain name that people are likely to click on. If you are selling robots, picking a name like iAmTheRobotMaster.biz isn’t smart.
Remember, people are choosing to click your site based on scanning a search page for 3 seconds. Don’t give them reason to skip over you.
Can I change my domain name extension later on?
The shorter answer is yes. If you want to change your domain name extension, you’ll need to change your entire domain name as well. The domain extension is tied to the domain name. If you want to change AstronautsHaveBrains.NET to AstronautsHaveBrains.COM, you’ll have to make sure AstronautsHaveBrains.COM version is available. AstronautsHaveBrains is not separate from .COM—they are one complete name—AstronautsHaveBrains.COM.
Our best advice is to always purchase the domain that you can grow with for years. If you’re already thinking you might want to change your domain name later on, then pony up the money to buy the domain name you really want today. Save yourself the misery of redirecting all your pages in the future.
The biggest reason why it’s important to get the domain name right when you start your website is that all your content will be associated with that name. When people link to your website, they’ll be linking to that address. When people socially mention your website, that is the name that will be peppered all over the internet. Your name is your brand and it’s important. You can 301 redirect everything, but who wants to do that?
Not to mention, there have been plenty of stories where people have lost substantial web traffic by changing their name. It technically shouldn’t happen with a good SEO transition plan, but it can happen.
Do yourself a favor and pick the right name out the gate. It’s not a death sentence to change later on, but don’t buy a domain today expecting to change it later on. Purchase your domain with confidence today that it will age well.
Are there any top level domains (TLD’S) I should stay away from?
Yes. The easiest thing to do is to get a .COM domain and never have to worry about it. However, if you are looking at cheaper domain extensions, then definitely avoid the following top level domains:
Spamhaus.com keeps track of the total number of spam sites for specific top level domains and the domains above are the worst offenders. No matter what, do not choose one of these domain extensions. It could signal the death of your website before you ever type your first word.
What is the best place to buy domain names? There are two options we really like.
- If you are looking to buy domains and not use them yet, NameCheap.com is a good URL site. It’s popular in the blogging world. Keep in mind that you may have to point your domain name at your hosting service of choice.
- If you are looking for a domain and you also need hosting, Greengeeks.com is a great resource. You get a free domain name with your hosting plan—and that includes .COM extensions.
Are there any best practices for picking domain names? When you pick a domain name, you might be discouraged early on as you realize many of your choices will have been taken. However, the following tips can help you pick a stellar name that performs well on search pages:
- Keep the domain short and memorable. Long domain names are hard to type in, read, and easily forgotten. Keeping it simple and legible is very important.
- Make sure your domain name is associated with your content. Sure, there are always websites that perform well with non-descriptive names (bit.ly, ZOOM, Amazon), but these are outliers. Connect your domain name with your brand content if possible. You’ll look less spammy.
- Use all letters. Don’t get fancy and put numbers and hyphens in your domain name. It looks cheap. Only use words/letters.
- Use namemesh.com to find domain name inspiration.
- If there are certain words you absolutely want to include, but the .COM is taken, try using a determiner like A, An, or The before your phrase. If LocalBearParade.com is taken, you could try TheLocalBearParade.com.