This has turned into quite the series. The last two installments “What’s In A (Domain) Name? More Than You Might Think” and “The Exceptions To The Rules When Naming A Domain” answered the question of how to pick a domain name. The answer would not be complete without addressing the domain extension. You can learn more than most would like to know about domain extensions or TLD’s (Top Level Domain) as they are technically known. I’ll just be going over how to choose a domain extension. The extension you choose is just as critical to your online success as a great domain name.
The best TLD is (now and for the foreseeable future) .com. The reason is this is the most used and recognized domain extension. Everybody from individuals, to small businesses, to fortune 500 companies use .com as their first choice.
The popularity of .com is also its attraction. Because most everybody uses .com, that is the intuitive thought when somebody mentions a website. The fact is, .com is what they will automatically type in first.
.net was traditionally used by hosting companies and online service providers. Due to the rapid expansion of the .com frontier, the open .com names are becoming scarce. That's why .net has become the go-to and is in some eyes, the next .com. The .net TLD is the next best thing when you have a great domain that you just can't live without.
This is relatively safe if the .com is simply being parked and waiting to be sold. “Domain squatters” rarely if ever bother to trademark a domain name. But a friendly word of advice: If it is an established site with high volumes of traffic, the name itself has value and may in fact be trademarked. Just because it is not trademarked does not mean it is fair game. Unless you are prepared to fight and yes most likely lose a long drawn out court battle for the name, I suggest finding a suitable .com that was your second choice.
.org is for organizations and non-profits. It's not a good choice for a for-profit website as people will just not immediately make the connection. In reality, the .org extension should not have been made available without meeting some kind of criteria to begin with but that is the two sides of the internet. You want it to be free, open, and as user friendly as possible. Some people will inevitably exploit that freedom. It's just something you have to accept.
This is one that I would personally stay away from. .info was originally intended for informational or reference websites. That is why the domain is so cheap to register. In another example of exploitation, spammers have found the cheap cost of set-up appealing when they are setting up dozens or hundreds of sites at a time. Because of this, Google can and does penalize (aka sandboxing) new websites registered with a .info TLD.
.biz was a good idea on paper that never seemed to catch on. It was for businesses only and would free up namespace in the .com domain. Unfortunately, people on both ends (users and website owners) naturally tend towards .com.
While it's still early, I would say that .mobi will suffer the same fate as .biz. Even though people are surfing the web on their phones more than their laptop or desktop, they will still be looking for the .com regardless of what device they are using.
This is great for a personal website. It is not that popular so the frontier is wide open. I would not recommend it for business.
This is a great domain if you have a product on TV or something to do with TV. I say this for two reasons. One, you should have some tie with TV for it to make sense in the person's mind you expect to remember it’s not a .com. And the second is you will need to have a large budget if you are registering a few of these domains. They don't come cheap!
Is for targeting specifically in the United States. If your market is limited to a single country, then this is a great way to go. You could do something similar with any country's extension. The extension for the United Kingdom is .co.uk. Here is a list of country-based domain extensions.
Wrapping It Up
Naming a website is like naming a baby. You don’t change your child’s name because you heard something better. Make sure you take the time to deliberately think it through before committing to your domain name. The more time you take to look at the name from all angles, the more comfortable you’ll be with the lasting nature of domains.
Yes you can change your domain. There is no rule or law preventing it. There are natural consequences though. It is not a big deal if your domain is not very well established. If you have very little traffic or market penetration, you have almost nothing to lose by changing a losing name. I say almost nothing because you will have to create an information campaign for the people you do have to get them over to your new named site. Simply redirecting without any explanation is the worst possible thing you can do. When somebody types in xyz.com, they expect to go to xyz.com. When their browser stutters and they see yourbettername.com, there is genuine cause for concern. Malicious sites use redirects and they will now assume there is something wrong with your site. If you have an entirely online business with no physical location where they can go to get answers, they will just simply find somebody else to fill the need your product or service used to fill.
If your domain is established and you have a large audience built on that brand, you had better be prepared for a massive (read expensive) renaming campaign. That campaign will not only have to reach your customers, but those places where you established links in the first place. Just think of how much time and money it took you to get to the numbers you're at and expect to spend that much just to maintain your current levels. That new domain name better be more than a shiny rock or the latest-greatest fad that fades before you can reach your previous audience levels.
Now that you've gotten a clearer picture of all the things you should be thinking about before you purchase a domain name, here's a quick list of everything we've reviewed:
I personally would only work with a big-name registrar like GoDaddy. I say this because I like to go with a service that's going to be there by tomorrow. GoDaddy is a great registrar, hosting not so much. I personally use and endorse HostGator. I prefer to deal with companies that specialize and therefore are the best at what they do. HostGator's domain hosting service is the most reliable around.
What “ICANN” can do:
ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) is the corporation that manages and oversees the assigning of domain names. ICANN has released various guidelines for domain names. The most important guideline states that you must truthfully use your real name, real street address and real phone number when you register a domain name. After you've put all that work into naming your domain, it makes no sense to jeopardize it for something so trivial.
Domain registrars may periodically attempt to contact you. If you've used false or incorrect contact information, you may be reported and ultimately lose your domain name(s).
I hope this series has been informative, helpful, and has eliminated rather than added to your confusion. If you'd like help getting your online business off the ground or your existing offline business online, contact me: RobCalhoun[at]robcalhoun.com