How To Choose The Right Domain Extension

Domain names are a cornerstone of any company’s identity, and choosing the right domain extension is a crucial decision. While the domain name is usually chosen to dovetail with a brand name or key product line, its suffix speaks volumes about a firm’s ethos and expertise.
Choosing the right domain extension is a significant step. But with over a thousand top level domains currently available, how can consumers make an informed choice? In this article, we outline some of the key decisions, before suggesting a possible source of inspiration…

Should I choose a country code TLD?

There are two main types of domain extension – those relating to a country, and those defining an industry or service. Country code TLDs exist for almost every nation on Earth, helping to distinguish domestic websites from international ones. Search engines take this into consideration as well, so a website with the .fr ccTLD (or country code top level domain) will perform better in French search results than anywhere else in the world. Although some companies attempt to spell a name or brand using a ccTLD for the final letters, it’s inadvisable from an SEO perspective. Conversely, a company trading in foreign markets would be well advised to register ccTLDs in each nation, to boost its position in domestic search results.

Should I choose a product-specific TLD?

In the 1990s, the choice of generic TLDs was limited. Yet since 2001, ICANN (the international non-profit organization responsible for regulating website domains) has launched hundreds of product and industry-themed TLDs. These range from .accountant to .wedding, providing a clear indication of a website’s subject matter or focus. That means the main domain name alone doesn’t have to convey this information. However, the analysis suggests consumers are less willing to visit websites with niche or little-known TLDs. And since web traffic volumes are a key factor in SEO performance, a vicious circle of low visitor numbers may ensue.

Should I choose a quirky TLD?

History is littered with companies using TLDs in unusual or imaginative ways. So many tech firms adopted the .io ccTLD that ICANN eventually reclassified it as a generic TLD. And social media bookmarking platform was clever enough to harness the American .us ccTLD when spelling out its name, even though .com has always represented .us in American results. However, in the same way spelling out a brand or product name using a ccTLD is risky, so is launching a website with a comedy title like .sucks or .plus. Competitors will mock them, consumers won’t trust them, and the entire business could fail. Would you trust a site hosted at .here or .lifeinsurance?

Should I just choose .com?

If ccTLDs are nation-specific, while niche domains are potentially alienating there’s a clear argument for simply choosing address. The first TLD ever created remains by far the most popular, with 46.5% of website addresses ending in .com. By comparison, the next most popular domain (.org) commands barely five% of the worldwide market. There’s no doubt .com is a safe, universally acceptable option – the cyberspace equivalent of a grey suit or a black dress. Yet it’s typically the most expensive TLD on the market, and with the least number of available domains. Its ubiquity also means a .com address won’t stand out in the way a more unusual TLD might – which is potentially a blessing or a curse.

Should I register multiple TLDs?

In the 1990s when domain choice was restricted, some firms registered multiple domain name extensions and redirected all but one to a primary website. Nowadays, it would be impractical to register every possible TLD on the market, while search engines disapprove of empty sites almost as much as ones containing duplicated content from other sites. Unless you have distinct sub-brands or want an SEO-friendly domain extension in every country you trade in, multiple TLDs won’t be necessary.
If you’re still unsure how to proceed, WestHost’s homepage will check availability for hundreds of different TLDs. Simply enter a domain name, and scroll through the options to see whether a particular domain extension stands out, or rolls off the tongue easily. You might just find inspiration…