Your domain is the foundation of your website. It is one of the first and most important decisions you’ll make. It’s also something you’re going to carry with you for a long time. How do you give it the proper time and attention? What should you consider?
Even more confusing are the various top-level domains and extensions that you may or may not want for your site. Most people are familiar with the .com extension. Today, we’re going to look at how these extensions came to be, followed by a look at the most popular options (and when to use them). Finally, we’ll take a look at five golden rules for choosing your full domain name.
A Brief History of Domains and Extensions
Computers first started connecting to each other over Wide Area Networks (WANS). One such example was the ARPANET in the 1960s. During this time, people were looking for a way to identify the systems and easily access them.
In 1972, the U.S. Defense Information Systems Agency created something called the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), which would eventually become the Internet Protocol or IP addressing system.
The Internet continued to grow into the 70s with the rise of email. No longer could long and confusing number sequences work. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin developed the first “name server” in 1984. A year later, the Domain Name System was implemented, and the original top-level domains were introduced.
These included .com, .net, and .org. Jump forward to today, and there are over 19 million registered domain names. This number continues to grow by the day. This also means that the most popular option, .com, is becoming crowded.
How to Choose the Right Domain Extension
Now that the time has arrived, you need to choose which TLD is right for your domain. While there cannot be any identical domains, there can be two versions of the same domain with different extensions. For example, Google.com is taken, but Google.biz could also be purchased.
This is why some companies will opt to purchase all the available extensions of their domain, in order to prevent someone else from using their name with a different extension. While purchasing other extensions doesn’t necessarily gain you more traffic, according to Moz, you can purchase some of the related extensions and redirect them to your site for brand protection purposes.
When you’re choosing a domain extension, consider these factors:
1. The Purpose of Your Site
This is perhaps the most important thing to consider. When you’re working on starting a blog, you’ll need to consider what your ultimate method of income will be when things are all up and running. If you’re running an online business, then a .com or .biz could be worthwhile. If the blog is for an organization, then you have .org extensions which could be a viable option.
Furthermore, if you have the blog solely for the purpose of keeping an online journal, then an extension like .me could be the perfect solution. Regardless, the TLD you choose should be informed by the ultimate purpose of your site so there’s a cohesiveness to the domain.
2. Don’t Forget Local TLDs
With the rise of local SEO, you could also consider targeting a specific geographical area that you’re in. There are over 200 different country code TLDs, so you should be able to find something that matches your location. Common ones include .us for the United States, co.uk for the United Kingdom, and .ca for Canada.
3. Don’t Forget About SEO
Search engine optimization will be a major topic for you if your site is hoping to rank well. Despite some information that will tell you a .com domain has the best chance of ranking, this is only the case because it’s the most popular extension.
Common Options for TLDs and When to Use Them
There are over 400 different extensions available, so we won’t be able to cover them all here, but let’s take a look at the most popular options, and when they’re best used as an extension for your domain:
- .com (commercial) – This is the most popular extension and originally stood for commercial sites, but now it is used for all kinds of websites.
- .net (network) – Originally intended for networked websites, this domain extension is used for a wide variety of purposes today. This is a good backup if your ideal choice is taken in the .com extension. It’s also good for tech companies as “net” implies technology and networking.
- .org (organization) – meant for organizations. Best used if your website is for a nonprofit company. Not the ideal solution if you’re a business as it sends mixed messages.
- .edu (education) – This one isn’t typically available for public registration, and is instead used by colleges and educational institutions.
- .info (information) – This is best used if your website is purely there for information or as a database of knowledge. If you’re not selling anything, then this domain could work well.
- .biz (business) – An alternative to .com domains for businesses, but it does have some bad connotations because of spammy sites using it.
- .me (personal) – This extension is often used for personal websites or blogs that have no commercial intent.
These are the most common options, but they are a fraction of the total options. Other choices like .name, .pro, .tv, and many more are used for very specific businesses or industries. These are only a viable option if you have a very focused business model, or your website is focused on an individual (in the case of the “me” and “name” extensions).
Now, the extension is just a piece of your full domain. The extension and domain name should work together to create a cohesive brand for your website. In the spirit of this, let’s take a look at some golden rules for choosing your domain name.
5 Rules for Choosing Your Domain Name
1. Give it a Brandable Title
Your domain name should roll off your tongue and call to mind your business specifically. If you choose a generic domain name and extension, then people won’t be able to easily recall it. It should be simple and succinct. If you put in numbers or hyphens, you risk over-complicating the message.
As part of this, you should also stay away from strings of keywords in your domain. Keywords are okay, so long as they work together with a unique element to give your domain a brandable look and feel.
2. Keep it Short
A long and complicated domain name will never work well for you. It should be something people can quickly and easily type into their address bar. If people have to Google your brand to find the website, then you know your domain is too complicated.
In general, it should be as short as possible without sacrificing the pronounceability of the name. You should be able to say it out loud as if in conversation with someone else, but it shouldn’t be so long that it becomes its own sentence.
A few words is usually a good length. Remember, something that rolls off the tongue.
3. Easy to Interpret
The ideal scenario with your domain is that someone can look at it, and easily guess what your company does. There’s a balance to be found here between clever and informative. It should be a generally recognized term that also implies your website’s purpose.
An example would be a website that sells retro video games and accessories. You wouldn’t want to do something too specific and alienate people who aren’t gamers, so instead you would focus on something that’s more generally understandable.
“NostalgiaGaming.com” sounds good, and it’s brandable. The nostalgia term calls to mind fond memories of games when we were younger. Focus on achieving something that immediately calls to mind the purpose of your business.
4. Target Broad Keywords
Implementing keywords in your domain can help with SEO, but you shouldn’t be obsessed with the pursuit of these terms. Exact or even partial matches are something Google is slowly moving away from.
That being said, if you can incorporate a relevant keyword and use it as part of your interpretation and branding, then by all means, go for it. Don’t be afraid to be creative with it as well. Remember that Amazon and Google have names that have nothing to do with their services.
Instead, their names have become brands that are immediately associated with them.
5. It’s Okay to Modify Your Name
If your name is taken, it’s not the end of the world. You have options like choosing another TLD extension, or you can modify the name slightly. You can change the name by adding a prefix or suffix, or even get creative with how you present it.
While it can be frustrating to have your primary choice taken, it’s also an opportunity to flex your creativity by pursuing other options.
Your domain extension, and by extension your domain (pun intended), are some of the most important choices you’ll make for your site’s future. Considering these rules and the options for TLDs, which domain name in 2017 would you choose for your business? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!