To get the best web name, start with the right domain extension

6 min read
Paul Teitelman

Whether you’re starting a business, a neighborhood club or a YouTube channel, your web name is one of your first and most important decisions.

Also called a domain name, it serves as your website address. It’s more than just the name that people see first thing in Google. It’s how people will find you online.

People will make snap judgements based on your www.

Graphic with 5 well-known domain names

Whether it’s painted on a shop window or highlighted in your Instagram bio, your web name will tell people a lot about you. Choosing the right one has everything to do with how successful you are online.

First things first: the end of your web name

The first thing to think about is actually the part of a web address that shows on the other side of the dot.

A domain extension provides a little bit more information about you, such as what kind of organization you are or where you’re located.

People might assume you’re a charity if you use .org, or that you’re an internet tech firm if you use .net for your web name.

By far the most commonly used domain extension is .com — so much so that it’s basically synonymous with internet-based business.

Just about all of the biggest companies in the world use it, and it’s the go-to for many small and medium-sized businesses too. Not only is .com considered the most trustworthy domain extension, it’s also the easiest to remember.

There’s also something definitive about .com. Some argue that if you go with an alternative, you leave your brand open to confusion.

For example, if you registered a .ca domain name because the .com you wanted was already taken, customers can easily get confused when they’re searching for you.

If you want your web name to express authority and trustworthiness, .com remains the gold standard.

But is it essential to have a .com web name?

The downside to .com is that it’s been around for so long that you may have a harder time getting the web name you want. or may already be taken by a business halfway across the world, or a domain investor could be sitting on it, hoping to sell it for a figure you’re not willing to pay. If you want to find out who owns a domain, use a free tool like WHOIS.

Looking beyond .com

Digital keyboard with .com highlighted
.com is widely known around the world — but not the only option for small business.
Photo: Kvalifik on Unsplash

If you can’t get the web name you want as a .com, you might want to turn to one of the new domain extensions. Here are just a few of the 1,000+ now available:

For Canadian businesses, .ca is a good option if your focus is local. A .ca web name might even give you a boost in local search results, which would mean more visitors to your business website.

Related: 4 reasons Canadian businesses need a .ca domain

Consider an industry-specific extension

Another option if you can’t get the .com of your business name is to use a domain extension that describes what you do. For example:

A real estate agent whose business name is Smith Real Estate might try registering Smith.RealEstate. A construction company named Rafael Construction could see if Rafael.Construction is still available. The new domain extensions open a whole new world of naming options.

Try it now! See if the domain you want is available

Location-based extensions are a good option for local businesses

You may be able to use place-specific domain extensions, like .nyc or .quebec, though some have restrictions on where your business is in fact located.

This could be a way to show your local pride or to advertise travel services to that city.

There are also country-code top-level domains (ccTLD) that simply say where you’re located, like .ca or .us. Some country codes are open for anyone to use and can be used creatively, like Colombia’s .co or Micronesia’s .fm, a popular option for radio stations.

These domain extensions are good options if your first-choice web name is already taken as a .com. It can also give your business a playful or creative personality, as with .me extensions.

Pro tip: If your customers are primarily in Canada, a .ca is a solid choice. Research shows that Canadians prefer to patronize businesses with web names that end in .ca.

Red umbrella among gray umbrellas
One of the new domain extensions might help your business stand out.
Photo: Noah Näf on Unsplash

Do domain extensions affect your search engine ranking?

The short answer is: not negatively. Using a new domain will not hurt your search results, so you don’t have to worry too much if you choose something tailored to your industry.

In some cases, your domain name can actually play a positive role in your SEO strategy.

Web names that contain keywords (i.e. the words people type in when searching for goods or services like yours):

That brings more eyes to your business.

Waggles Pet Supply example of a keyword in a web name
This business has the keyword “pet supply” right in their web address, which can only help their search ranking.

If you aren’t sure what keywords you should be targeting, you can always chat with an SEO consultant. There are also great tools out there to conduct keyword research and find out what people are searching for when they’re trying to find the solutions, services, and products you offer.

Related: Local SEO for Canadian businesses

Your web name is too important to rush

When your business has a web name that’s easy to remember, customers are more likely to visit your site. People are stretched for time. The fewer barriers there are between them and your online presence, the likelier they are to find you and keep coming back.

They’ll also be more likely to accurately share your web name with friends when they recommend you.

A good extension improves website visitation and conversion. People are more likely to click through from search engine result pages when the URL tells them everything that they need to know about you. The right extension adds that little bit of extra information that can go a long way.

UPDATE: This article on web names was first published on 2 December 2020 and updated 20 October 2022.