Choosing a domain name and extension plays an important role in ensuring a website’s online presence and popularity. A domain name identifies an internet resource and indicates ownership or control of that resource. It serves to establish the site’s individual identity and to help internet users to recognize the site’s unique brand.
You may not realize this now, but the choice of a domain extension can make or break the success of your website branding. Here are some tips on how you can choose the right domain extension for your website:
Determine your website’s purpose
This is the primary consideration in selecting a generic top-level domain (gTLD). The extension is representative of what the site sells, contains, or promotes. It gives the users an idea of whether it is a commercial site (.com/.biz), an informative resource (.info), a government agency site (.gov), or a humanitarian organization (.org).
Try to keep this in mind when you choose your extension name. Of course, you are always free to select other available TLDs though they may not reflect your website’s purpose.
Prioritize the .com extension
A .com extension is still the most preferred as far as domain names go. Internet users are more likely to type in a .com address in searches as it is still the most popular extension name. In fact, it is estimated that about 52% of all existing websites are .com sites, according to this article.
Find creative domain name alternatives
When your .com domain name is already registered to someone else, you can start thinking of creative alternatives without immediately discarding your choice of gTLD extension. For starters, consider variations of your brand or adding keywords to your domain name.
You may also use a hyphen or an abbreviation. While this option is usually not a best practice, you can still resort to these strategies provided you take measures to ensure that your domain name does not appear spammy. When used in moderation, hyphens and abbreviations can work out.
Make .net your next option
In the unlucky event that all your domain name variations are still unavailable or are not appropriate, you can opt for the .net extension. It is the second most widely-used TLD and it is generally accepted for all types of industries or websites, as reported in this article.
Consider your marketplace
Typically, commercial sites choose .com or .biz as extension names. This allows organizations to market their brands globally. However, you could definitely benefit from choosing a ccTLD (country code top level domain) because if allows you to target the local audience where you expect the majority of your customers to come from.
Using targeted extensions not only identifies the origin of your site but also allows you to rank higher on local search engine results pages (SERPs).
There are over 200 ccTLDs available and it should be no problem for you to choose the one that’s most appropriate for your target marketplace.
Study the SEO aspect
You may also want to know which TLDs tend to rank higher in generic or global searches. You have the option to choose those that are generally assigned a higher ranking or to implement SEO strategies to ensure your site performs well on SERPs.
Bear in mind though that any TLD has the opportunity to rank high on SERPs when the right SEO techniques are employed.
Use .io and .ly for startups
When .com started getting crowded, startup companies began using the .ly ccTLD, which originally stood for the country Libya.
Later on, another trend broke out when companies started using .io as their domain extension names. This was originally assigned as the ccTLD for the British Indian Territory but startups began adopting it to have shorter and more memorable extension names. Furthermore, .io has also come to stand for input/output, which makes it relevant for technology and software-oriented websites.
Other popular and shorter extension names include .ad, .as, .bz, .cc, .cd, .dj, .fm, .la, .me, .ms., .nu, .sc, .sr, .su, .tv, .tk, .ws, and .eu.
Choose .info, .org, .gov when appropriate
These extension names have come to be associated with specific types of sites or organizations. You may be guided by the following representations when choosing these extensions:
- .info – This extension is appropriate for sites that provide resource materials or information on certain topics.
- .gov – This is used by government agencies or units.
- .org – This is ideal for organizations that are non-profit oriented such as humanitarian aid organizations, labor associations, trade unions, and international non-government groups.
Purchase an existing domain name
This should be considered only when you’ve exhausted all your possible options and cannot come up with any more alternative domain names. You can do some investigating on the whois database to determine who owns the domain name you want.
Chances are, you would come across some “cyber squatters,” who may charge you exorbitant fees just to release the domain name. You have no choice in this matter except to pay them off if your heart is truly set on that particular domain name.
In other cases, you may hire the services of a domain name broker or one who acts as an intermediary in the purchase or sale of a domain name. A broker is more experienced in handling these types of transactions and will be able to assist you in the negotiation process. However, be prepared to dole out brokerage fees that range from 15 to 30 percent of the sale price.
Wait for the domain name to expire
The whois database will also give you information as to the expected expiry dates of domain names. If you still have time to wait before launching your site, it may work out to your advantage because expired domains may have leftover links that can be redirected to your site. You can enjoy certain services to monitor the domain name and be informed of its upcoming expiration or renewal.
Ultimately, the best rule to go by is to choose an extension name that best represents the nature and locality of your site. This will help users to immediately recognize your brand and what you have to offer. It will also generate the targeted traffic to your site.
Although selecting the perfect domain name may appear complicated and time-consuming, it is worth the effort when you consider the returns of landing the right audience on your site.