Domain extensions guide — What you need to know before you pick a domain name
Whether it’s for a business or blog, or you just want your own slice of the internet, your domain is your digital address online. If your domain is your address, your domain extension is like your ZIP code in that it gives your website visitors a little more information about you.
In the beginning of the internet age, domain extensions were extremely limited. As Make Use Of tells it, “In 1984, the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) established the first six domain extensions: .com, .edu, .gov, .mil, .org and .net. Shortly after, the first two-character country code domain extensions (like .uk and .us) were established. In 1988, .int was also introduced.”
Fast forward to today, and your domain and your domain extensions can be just as unique, and utterly fantastic, as you are. How unique? Let’s put it this way, there are nearly 1,600 top-level domains for internet addresses online, and there are more scheduled to come online in the future with the latest being .kids slated to go live in November 2022 per the TLD-List.
Related: What is a domain name?
Your guide to domain extensions
We’re going to take a deep dive into domain extensions in this article. Here’s what we’re going to cover:
- What is a domain extension?
- How can domain extensions help with business branding?
- Can domain extensions improve SEO?
- What are top-level domains?
- What is a gTLD?
- Understand the options for naming and branding your business with domain extensions.
- Using domain extensions for creative marketing and customer engagement.
- Using geographic domain extensions to connect with local customers.
- Using industry-specific domain extensions to show what you offer at glance.
- What to do if your desired domain extension doesn’t exist yet.
- Conclusion and next steps.
In this post we’ll cover what domain extensions are, what you need to know before you commit to one, how your choice can help you with branding, and so much more. Let’s get started, shall we?
What is a domain extension?
In case we’re speaking Greek to you, let’s explain what domain extensions are.
For example, in GoDaddy.com, the .com is the domain extension of the GoDaddy domain name. The five most common domain extensions are .com, .net, .org, .co and .us.
According to Verisign, “The .com and .net TLDs had a combined total of 174.7 million domain name registrations in the domain name base at the end of the first quarter of 2022….As of March 31, 2022, the .com domain name base totaled 161.3 million domain name registrations, and the .net domain name base totaled 13.4 million domain name registrations.”
How can domain extensions help with business branding?
Consider for a moment the time and research you put into your last car purchase. Just like you wouldn’t blindly buy a vehicle, you also shouldn’t fly blind when buying the pieces that make up your online presence.
After all, much like people will make assumptions about a person by the car they drive, your public will judge you by both your domain and your domain extension — so you must choose wisely.
If they see a .org attached for example, they might think it is a community driven or nonprofit website. If the domain ends with .edu, well, that tells the visitor it’s most likely an educational website, or associated in some way with a school or academy.
The domain extension you choose should reflect what your brand stands for.
We’re going to talk a lot more about specific domain extensions for specific industries further along in this article.
Can domain extensions improve SEO?
The short answer? Not quite yet. According to Google’s John Mueller, as of January 2022, all domains are equal when it comes to SEO.
However, as the .coms continue to flood the market, the newer and more unique domain extensions could rise to the top at some point in terms of search engine preference. This could happen because people like their brevity and will tell search engines they prefer domains with shorter domain extensions by way of clicking.
After all, domain extensions are a faster indication of what a domain offers, which can help a time-deprived user when they do a quick scan of results in a search.
Where domain extensions really come in handy for businesses, however, is in website visitation and conversion.
When a business has an easy-to-remember domain and domain extension, it’s more likely that people will visit it.
And, if they are searching for something specific online like diamonds, for example, a jewelry company with a domain name such as yourjewelrystore.diamonds might get more visitors than a business with a domain name like yourjewelrystore.com simply because of the specificity of their domain extension.
Even SemRush reported that Google said that while your domain extension might not directly affect your search ranking, it “might influence the audience’s perception of a brand — therefore affecting the brand’s click-through rate.”
What is a TLD?
Spoiler alert: It’s the same thing as the domain extension.
The top-level domain, or TLD, is the last section of a domain name — the part to the right of the dot. In the domain name, example.com, the .com is the TLD (aka domain extension). The TLD is intended to communicate the purpose or location of a website.
There are several types of TLDs, but the three most common are gTLD, ccTLD and sTLD.
Country-code top-level domain (ccTLD)
Country-code top-level domains (ccTLDs) are intended to be specific to countries, sovereign states and territories. They typically consist of just two letters such as .au for Australia, .fr for France, .nz for New Zealand, or .us for United States.
Many of these domain extensions have strict rules that prohibit just anyone from being able to register them.
One such restriction for some ccTLDs is that you are a resident of the country, territory or sovereign state you’re registering for. Codes like .us and .mx require you live or be located in these countries to register a domain with these extensions.
Exceptions include .co for Colombia and .ly (looking at you bit.ly) for Libya — anyone can register these ccTLDs. Similarly, .fm — the domain extension for Micronesia — is being unofficially used by FM radio stations, podcasts and related broadcasting businesses.
Sponsored top-level domain (sTLD)
Sponsored top-level domains (sTLDs) have a sponsor that represents a specific community that is served by the domain. Think .gov for United States government sites, .post for postal services, and .mil for U.S. military websites. Like ccTLDs, these domain extensions have very strict rules for ownership.
The third type of TLD, generic top-level domains (gTLDs), perhaps hold the most branding potential for business owners.
What is a gTLD?
Generic top-level domains, aka gTLDs, are domain extensions that aren’t tied to country codes or regions, do not require a representative, and are not always restricted in terms of who can own them. (Some geographic domain extensions do require registrants to live and/or do business in the area represented by the geographic gTLD — more on that later.)
Some examples of generic top-level domains include:
- .loan: How perfect would this be for a bank or loan company?
- .shop: This could be perfect for eCommerce or even Etsy redirects
- .club: Imagine your loyalty program or membership site with this fun extension!
- .work: This could be the perfect domain extension for an online job board, for example.
- .stream or .live: Does your business do live streams or live broadcasts of any kind? This could be just the right gTLD for you.
- .blog: Where my bloggers at?
- .guru: You’re already called a marketing guru or an internet guru or whatever type of guru, why not make it official?
- .miami: Let’s say you’re a travel agent who specializes in trips to Miami; what better way to announce your escapeto.miami or travelto.miami to the world?
- .online: As we shared in a recent post, “The word ‘online’ is understood in over 24 different languages.” Talk about a great way to tell the world your business is available, well, online!
These descriptive new domain extensions — such as .lawyer, .careers and .tips, just to name a few more — give you a new opportunity to register domains that perfectly represent what you and your business are all about.
With all the new generic top-level domains now available, the online branding possibilities are endless!
And, if there is a domain extension you are interested in, that currently isn’t online, you can check out GoDaddy’s list of gTLD domain names and click “Follow” on the ones that are scheduled to come online in the future.