Is Dot-Com the Best for Your Business?
:: By Anna Johansson ::
You’ve finally decided to start your own website.
Whether this is your first venture into Internet business or you're a seasoned Web pro looking to build a personal brand or branch out onto your own, this is a big step in any capacity, and you want to make sure everything is handled perfectly to get the most out of your venture. The very first step of starting a website is choosing your domain name and purchase hosting. This is a fairly straight-forward task, but can be complicated by trying to figure out the best domain name.
One question that must be answered in this debate is which top level domain (TLD) extension to use. As you may already know, TLD is the term that refers to anything to the right of the period in an IP address. This includes .com, .net, .org, .edu, .gov and similar forms like the new ones that have emerged over the last few years (.io, .cloud, .nyc, .club, .pro). The .com TLD is by far the most popular, but is it the best for your business?
The Bias Toward .com Domains
There’s no denying that there’s a real bias toward .com domain names - since it's what we've always known. The Internet has been around for more than 20 years, and .com is still the most popular TLD extension available. This clear bias can be a real advantage for businesses.
“[C]ognitive fluency, processing fluency, dictates that we should go with something that's easy, that people have an association with already, and .com is still the primary thing that non-tech savvy folks have an association with,” says an article from the search engine experts at Moz.com when discussing the importance of using the right TLD extension. “If you want to build up a very brandable domain that can do well, you want that .com. Probably, eventually, if you are very successful, you're going to have to try and go capture it anyway, and so I would bias you to get it if you can.”
This knowledge backs up the fact that the .com extension is what most people automatically assume goes behind the domain name (like Nike.com rather than Nike.org) and that anything else might not be trustworthy (since most Web useres are on high alert).
Purchasing Multiple TLD Extensions
Of course, using .com for a brand as big as Nike isn’t as important as using it for a smaller company. When you type Nike into your Web browser with any extension after the keyword, it will more than likely reroute to the correct domain because Nike is a major brand that’s purchased all affiliated domain names to avoid companies piggy-backing on its popularity. On the other side of that argument is Google. Its parent company, Alphabet, decided to make its home at abc.xyz. While the page hosts very little content (other than basic statements for investors), it goes to show that the domain world is changing when one of the biggest companies in the world takes to a new gTLD (and doesn't own the .com version as abc.com redirects to the TV channel's homepage).
For everyone else, as your company grows and your domain flourishes, you’ll want to protect it by purchasing all the TLDs possible. It will potentially cost hundreds per year (if not thousands), but it will protect your site and keep people from using your success to steal customers or have to fight a domain-sitting battle with those who have picked up domains and have malicious intent.
If the .com Extension is Unavailable
Most companies will benefit from a .com extension, but it’s not always available for purchase. If someone else has already purchased it, there may be other extensions available.
Before we get into those, however, it’s important to recognize that purchasing a domain name that’s already been purchased with another extension is usually not wise. You’ll be dealing with the possibility of heavy brand competition. Customers will often get your brand mixed up with another simply because they’ll often type the .com extension out of habit.
Usually, in this situation, it’s best to try to get creative with a different domain name to distinguish your brand. However, it’s not always a bad idea to try to use a different extension so that you get to keep the domain name you love. If you are a local company in New York City or any other location that has a city-specific domain name, for example, consider its ending (like .nyc). It should be noted that there are varying reports about whether a location-specific gTLD helps with SEO or not. If you are a tech company, .io is becoming a popular choice. If you are a professional offering services like for SEO or marketing, consider .pro. Of course, schools tend to use .edu and non-profits favor .org. Then there is .net, which is often a person's go-to choice when .com is unavailable but with so many creative gTLD offerings, that might not be the case for long.
Tech companies, for instance, are starting to get pretty creative about using the domain extension within their actual company name. Bit.ly was one of the first to start this trend, and as the company grew, it eventually started branding itself as just Bitly (dropping the period within its name that had previously indicated its website address). Now, if you type in bit.ly into your browser, you are redirected to bitly.com. Now that there are more domain extensions available, other tech companies are following suit (years later). Here's what bit.ly looked like way back in 2010:
All in all, choosing a .com TLD is typically the best way to get your business started. It offers automatic branding and increases familiarity between you and your visitors. However, other extensions are not necessarily a bad thing especially if it means you are not buying a domain that is too long (the shorter, the more memorable). As more gTLDs are released, the general public is sure to catch on that extensions like .club, .pro, .xyz and others aren't a sign of a smaller company that can't be trusted, but rather an innovative one that is memorable and with the times.