With over a thousand top-level domain options to choose from, selecting the right one has become increasingly difficult. Alongside a one-sentence website description, your domain name often provides the only indication to search engine users about your site’s focus, expertise, and professionalism. And while the domain name is expected to convey a great deal of information, the top-level domain suffix also plays a key role.
ICANN broadens domain horizons
Since it was founded in 1998, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers has been responsible for increasing TLD choice by launching new domain suffixes. This was done partly to improve consumer choice, partly to alleviate demand for .com TLDs, and partly to minimize cybersquatting. And though all these objectives have been achieved, many TLDs foundered or simply failed. Some became associated with spam and malware, others weren’t taken seriously by consumers, and many have effectively been forgotten about.
At WestHost, we understand the importance of choosing an appropriate top level domain. To demonstrate why this decision could materially impact on a new business, we’ve compiled a list of dos and don’ts – starting with something we hope is obvious…
Domain dos and don’ts
DO: Choose an established TLD. At WestHost, we only market TLDs with a track record of success. Every domain had equal opportunities at its launch, but some flourished whereas others fell by the wayside. If we sell it, you know it’s respectable.
DON’T: Pick a TLD with negative connotations. Straying outside our curated selection of TLDs exposes buyers to domains associated with spam and malware. Even a genuine website suffixed by a .gq, .club or .men domain will be regarded suspiciously by visitors.
DO: Look for a TLD relating to your industry. ICANN has introduced numerous sector-specific TLDs, from .app and .audio to .watch and .wedding. These ensure a domain name doesn’t need to describe its industry, freeing it up to focus on other aspects of the business.
DON’T: Pick a TLD without analyzing how it looks written down. Certain combinations of domain name and TLD can produce unintended messages, like www.private.parts or www.budgie.cheap. Ask your friends and family for unbiased opinions.
DO: Consider a geographic top level domain. Residents of Florida probably won’t be looking for a wedding photographer or auto repair center in New York. Adopting a .miami TLD clearly identifies your home region. Other American TLDs include .boston, .vegas and .nyc.
DON’T: Use foreign country code TLDs to spell a word or phrase. Search engines prioritize domestic TLDs, and downgrade foreign ones. If you use the German .de TLD to spell out a name, SEO performance will suffer here in America (though it’ll perform well in Germany).
DO: Consider readability. Comicon probably shouldn’t have picked .com as their TLD, because comicon.com is difficult to read. Try to avoid letter repetition; in particular, ensure the last letter of your domain name isn’t also the first letter of your TLD.
DON’T: Choose a niche TLD to save money. WestHost is proud to offer a vast range of affordable domain names, including the enduringly popular .com. By selling domains as cost-effectively as possible, we eliminate the need for our clients to cut corners by choosing ‘budget’ TLDs.
DO: Keep things short. Every additional character increases the risk of visitors mistyping your address, while punctuation symbols like hyphens should be avoided wherever possible. Shorter domains have a greater brand recall, are easier to read, and take less time to type out.
DON’T: Use jargon. Attempting to use buzzwords or slang often backfires, especially in the relatively sober world of domain names. Avoid the lolz, and stay away from acronyms unless they’re widely recognized. Substituting numbers for letters is also a bad idea.
DO: Consider alternative TLDs if .com is already taken. The abbreviation for ‘company’ is the world’s most popular top level domain, but there are plenty of worthy alternatives. In particular, we’d recommend taking a look at .biz, .net, .online and .org.
DON’T: Try to ride on another firm’s coat-tails. It might seem clever to give your site a similar name to an established brand in the hope that people mistakenly visit your site. In reality, it smacks of unprofessionalism, and consumers will probably enter their URL rather than yours.