The domain name for your business may be more important than you think – ultimately it’s the face of your online brand and the first thing customers learn about your online business. The very best domain names are familiar, relevant to the brand and easy to remember.
Figuring out a domain name is only one piece of the puzzle, however. Picking the right domain extension is also crucial. Whether .com , .net or something else, this small piece of text has a big influence on your online presence and will aid in crafting how your visitors perceive your brand online.
So how do you pick the right domain extension for your business?
Types of Domain Extensions
Domain extensions can be categorised into three main types: Generic, Sponsored and Country.
Generic Domain Extensions
These types of extensions are the most commonly used by online businesses. A generic domain extension is available to anyone willing to make the purchase (and some are even free!). The most popular include .com, .co.uk, .org and .net although there are many other extensions available in this category.
Sponsored Domain Extensions
Domain extensions in this category typically require the business to meet a certain set of requirements to become eligible to use one. For example, only licensed and certified educational institutions are allowed to use .edu and the .gov extension is restricted to official government entities only.
Country Domain Extensions
There are many domain extensions that are relevant to businesses operating in particular countries. These include .uk (United Kingdom), .de (Germany), .us (United States) and many more.
Most Popular Domain Extensions
You are probably already very aware of the .com extension, as it is used for over half of all websites on the internet today. When originally introduced the .com extension (standing for commercial) was intended for use by eCommerce sites. Today, however, it is the default choice for many businesses whether they are directly selling online or not.
The only negative trait of the .com extension is its availability. As it has been in use for many years and is the most popular choice among all extensions, finding the right domain name can be difficult – or costs far too much.
It may come as a surprise, but .net is the second most popular extension after .com. This extension was created primarily for websites that specialist in network-based services, such as Internet Providers, Telecoms, email services and more. More recently, however, the .net extension has been adopted by many businesses outside of those services, falling more in line with the .com extension.
Typically, if a business can’t find their preferred .com domain, they are likely to opt for the .net version instead.
Originally the .org extension was created solely for use by non-profit organisations. In recent times, this restriction has been lifted, though the original intension still remains. The .org extension is mostly used by charities, foundations, open-source projects and other non-profits. Whilst any company can register a .org domain, the use of the extension implies that it is a non-commercial website.
Choosing the Right Domain Extension
A great place to start is to analyse your competitors or similar websites to your own. Do they use .com, .org or .net? Think about any websites that you use regularly, what their intent is and what extensions they use. It’s important to pick an extension that portrays the right image for your online business.
More often than not, .com will be suitable for your online business. Due to the limited availability of .com domains however, you may need to seek an alternative extension.
.net is usually the next best choice, and the only reason to really consider .net is if the .com version of your domain is unavailable. You may even want to consider altering the domain slightly to find a suitable .com before going down the .net route, however.
In an ideal scenario, the .com and .net versions are available, in which case you should purchase both if possible and route the .net version to your .com. This will help protect your brand from anyone looking to purchase the domain and take a slice of your traffic!
If your organisation is a non-profit, then you should absolutely opt for the .org extension instead. Unlike .com, this gives a clear indication that your website isn’t commercial and will often give a boost to your trust-factor. On the flip-side, if you use a .org for a commercial website, then your visitors are likely to become frustrated, so avoid using a .org unless your website falls into the right category.