Are You Hurting Your Website By Not Using a .com Domain?

Posted on May 3, 2018 by in Tips & Tricks | 22 comments

Are You Hurting Your Website By Not Using a .com Domain?

When it comes to domains, .com is king. Most people will always opt to use .com domains whenever they can. That brings up the question – can using alternatives to .com impact the way users see your website?

From a technical standpoint, there’s no difference between using a .com domain or any other type. However, using an alternative can impact your site in other ways. In this article, we’ll run through a brief history of domain names and talk about whether you should use a .com URL. Then we’ll introduce you to some other worthwhile alternatives.

Let’s take it from the top!

A Brief History of Top-Level Domains

Several examples of unique TLDs.

There are over 1,000 TLDs available and new ones are coming out all the time.

Top Level Domains (TLDs) are the suffixes at the end of every URL. .com is the most well-known TLD, but it’s hardly the only one. In fact, there are over 1,000 TLD options available. Not all of them are available to the public, but that’s still a lot of options.

The name .com comes from the word “commercial” and the first domain name to use it was symbiolics.com, in 1985. Before TLDs, if you wanted to reach a website, you needed to connect to it through its IP address. Each server you connect to still has its own IP address you can reach, but that proved too unwieldy for everyday use. To tackle that problem, the Domain Name System (DNS) launched in 1985.

It’s thanks to the DNS you can connect to your favorite websites using simple-to-remember names. More importantly, keeping a record of registered domains enables us to avoid duplicates. TLDs are an integral part of this system and back when they launched, options were more limited. Aside from .com, 1985 also saw the launch of multiple other TLDs, including staples such as .org.edu, and .net. Over thirty years later, all those TLDs are still common the web.

The organization that manages new TLDs and handles maintenance for key related databases is the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). It was born in 1998, and although the rate of new TLDs was slow in its early days, it rose sharply in recent years. If you’ve registered a domain lately, you’ve probably noticed you have a lot more TLD options than even a few years back. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the problem is, people still prefer good old .com TLDs, which brings us to the next section.

The Pros and Cons of Using a .com Domain

As we mentioned earlier, there’s no technical upside to using a .com domain over any other alternative. For example, imagine you want to register a new domain called puppiesarethebest. Even if you go with puppiesarethebest.com, puppiesarethebest.fun, or even puppiesarethebest.blog, it won’t affect your website’s functionality in any way.

However, we would be remiss if we didn’t point out there are some real benefits to using .com domains. Let’s talk about what they are:

  • .com sounds more trustworthy. Non-tech savvy users might not want to use alternatives to .com since that’s the TLD they know and trust the most.
  • It can make your website seem more authoritative. In a lot of cases, people will automatically assume .com domains are more serious than other TLDs. That goes double if you use a TLD that sounds ‘gimmicky, such as .fun or .xyz.
  • .com is easy to remember. People are accustomed to using .com to visit most of their favorite websites, so they could struggle to remember other TLDs.

To be succinct, even though there’s no technical advantage to using a .com TLD, there are psychological benefits. If the domain you want is available with a .com TLD, it therefore makes sense to use it. This brings us neatly around to the main downside of .com domains, which is availability. Considering their popularity, it can be hard to find the domain name you want since a lot of them are already taken. Some people even buy and ‘squat’ on them as a way to make money.

Fortunately, using alternatives to .com is no longer the kiss of death for a website. There are plenty of TLDs that, while not as popular as .com, are reputable enough for a serious site. We’ll talk about what they are in a minute, but for now, we want to leave you with some quick recommendations for when you register a new domain name:

  • Use short, memorable names. We recommend this in most cases, unless you want to go with your own brand name.
  • Check your name on social media. See if you can use the same name across all platforms to help create consistent branding.
  • Avoid forcing keywords. This is also known as ‘keyword stuffing’ and is a big no-no.

If you keep these three simple tips in mind, your domain name should be excellent, regardless of which TLD you choose.

5 Alternatives to .com Worth Considering

There might be over a thousand TLDs to choose from, so let’s narrow this down to a few options we think are worth considering. The five options below are not the only good alternatives to .com, but they’re your best bets if you want a domain name that sounds reputable and authoritative.

1. .io

The .io TLD has one of the most interesting stories among them all. Technically, this is a country code TLD, meaning that it’s assigned to a specific geographic region (such as .fr for French domains). This particular TLD was assigned to the British Indian Ocean Territory, hence the .io abbreviation.

Considering its limited scope, the .io TLD should’ve languished in obscurity, like many others. However, the TLD was adopted by the tech community, and it quickly became a darling of startups and several online services. If you want to run a tech website, using a .io domain can impart it a bit of ‘coolness’ factor, which makes it an excellent alternative to .com.

The only downside to this TLD is they tend to be rather expensive. In fact, .io domains often start at around $90 per year.

2. .co

.co is another example of a country-code TLD that was adopted by the rest of the world due to its uniqueness. In this case, the .co TLD corresponds to Colombia. However, the TLD also gained traction due to the fact it’s only one letter removed from .com alternatives.

If you’re looking for a .com domain that’s taken, .co might be a good option. It looks similar and since it’s a short TLD it’s easy to remember. The only downside is .co is so similar to .com, users might confuse them, and visit the wrong website.

As far as prices go, .co domains tend to be a bit cheaper than their .com counterparts. You can often find options below the $10 mark.

3. .net

.net domains have been around for as long as their .com counterparts. While not as popular, this particular TLD has a lot going for it. For one, internet users are accustomed to it and generally see .net domains as being trustworthy.

Technically, .net domains are for organizations that focus on networking technology. However, these days people use .net domains for all kinds of purposes. In our opinion, if you want a domain name that sounds authoritative, .net is a great option when .com isn’t available.

Moreover, .net domains tend to go for the same prices as .com options, starting at around the $10-15 per year range.

4. .blog & .shop

Generally, we’re not big fans of TLDs that sound like gimmicks. However, we’ll be happy to make an exception for .shop and .blog domains.

We’re bundling these TLDs together because they fulfill a similar type of need. That is to say, they’re good options for websites with a specific purpose. Aside from that, they’re easy to remember and they accurately describe the purpose of the site. The best part is since neither of these TLDs is very commonly used, you can get amazing domain names that you probably couldn’t with .com.net, or .io.

.blog and .shop also tend to be slightly cheaper, with most domain name available below the $10 per year mark.

5. Country Code TLDs

We’ve already talked about two country code TLDs. However, you have plenty more options to choose from beyond .io and .co. Most countries have their own assigned TLDs and some of them are available to users outside their designated region. In some cases, they will be available but you will be forced to jump through some extra hoops before you can register one.

This can be annoying, but it can be worth it to snag excellent and unique domains. You could even use this to target a specific region. When someone sees a TLD from their own country, they might be more inclined to trust it, which gives you an advantage.

As far as prices go, however, country-specific TLDs can vary wildly. That means you’ll need to do some digging of your own to find out how much specific country-code domains go for in your region.

Conclusion

There are hundreds of alternatives to .com to choose from. If the domain you want is available with .com, it’s usually worthy using it, because it’s a safe, reliable, and trusted option. However, if it isn’t available, or if you want something different, you have plenty of TLD options that are easy to remember and have their own unique advantages.

For example, we’ve shown you five of our favorite alternatives to .com domains in this article. These are:

  1. .io: This is an excellent option for tech websites and startups.
  2. .co: A popular stand-in for .com when those domains aren’t available.
  3. .net: As far as seniority and trust goes, .com and .net are neck and neck.
  4. .blog & .shop: These two up-and-coming TLDs are modern, and they make for excellent and descriptive domain names.
  5. Country code TLDs: Going local is always an excellent option if you want to snag unique domain names.

What do you think about using other TLDs besides .com? Share your experiences with us in the comments section below!

Article image thumbnail by Turan Ramazanli / shutterstock.com

22 Comments

  1. I say with the .com domain we have run out of all the good names to use for the 10000th version of a similar website.

    .io domians from what I have seen have been mainly used a whole bunch of online games like slither, agar, and generals

  2. I use DotCom if the business trades outside of UK and DotCoDotUK, or DotUK wherever the client trades only locally, or has no interest in trading overseas. More recently I have been asked to secure DotPub domains because they are industry specific and some clients prefer them. However, for best value UK country TLD’s offer the best value for money in my opinion.

  3. I personally am a huge proponent of the ntlds. I agree your statements have some merit when it comes to general internet users, so should definitely be taken into account, and I also agree that .com, if it’s available can be one of the better choices (note I said one of the). However, as pointed out, .com has been around for so long and is so popular that if you have any kind of short, generic, or otherwise “this might be worthy” kind of name on .com, odds are it won’t be available. Nowadays, if I’m trying to start a brand, I usually go search what ngtlds are available and then base my name on that. For example, my friend and I have a brand, “2MB Solutions”. Believe it or not, we were brainstorming names, and came up with “2MB” (2 for there being two people involved, and M and B for our first initials). We struggled to come up with a good thing to put after “2MB”, as, being so short, even on not so popular domains, it was already registered… and just forget about .com. I’m not going to pay like $2k+ for 2mb.com. But then… ngtlds to the rescue. We found several that were available, and decided on “2mb.solutions”, thus 2MB Solutions was born. We could have purchased 2mbsolutions.com, but 2mb.solutions leaves off 4 more letters, and, once people are more acquainted with us, it’s not hard to remember. We’ve also spun off a few more brands in the “2MB” space, including 2mb.games (2MB Games) for our audiogame company, etc. All this to say that I highly recommend looking at ngtlds that may fit your company, or, like in our case, make the companies name.
    -Michael.

    • For someone who started even in early 2010 – I was unable to find the .com for my personal business. There goes not even a single day I don’t regret it.

  4. Good quickie overview newbie article. However, a few lines don’t really cover it. The reason for the new domain extensions is there is a shortage of good trading names left as most TLD’s have gone years ago.

    There are some very good extensions with purpose-built names that have been released and are treated as TLD’s by Google and other search engines. I can think of several of my customers who rank highly for specific industry-related domain names including .digital, .flowers, .shop, and a couple of motoring related ones. I agree there are a few novel sounding ones which also sound a bit spammy.

    It may be worth you revising and writing exactly what each domain extensions mean – .net is not the same as .com – yes they are both TLD’s but they don’t mean the same thing.

    I would advise a business coming online to look for a .com and a country-specific domain and if their business is in the new domain niche use then take that as well and redirect them all to your preferred domain name. I would also advise not to use ‘www’ which is now pretty redundant as most people just type name and domain extension anyway.

  5. I would also suggest that for customers who use a ngTLD that’s not currently common, consider the www subdomain in print. While example.shop might not be recognizable as a domain name, http://www.example.shop could help with domain name recognition.

    • I agree about print – but no longer its use online.

  6. Surely the best domain name is the one that resonates with your market. To use .com when marketing in and to Australians (in my case) would be akin to madness. My own preference is .com.au for shops selling to the local market or Australian specific sites and .blog for non country specific sites because the names are usually available

  7. I really enjoy the new TLDs. In certain situations, it can be fresh…like .marketing for a marketing agency or .design for a designer. Some feel cheap. I would never recommend .xyz or .for sale. I do run into people who say, “So, that’s blueguru.marketing.com?” It’s worth it if it enhances the brand.

  8. Although it may seem cheesy. I recently have registered many . .rocks domains.

    For personal blog sites and affilaite sites, it adds a bit of flair, and I have almost all (8/11) of the sites ranked on P1 of (Google) for each market segment.

  9. As a general rule i tend to always use .com whenever possible, unless its a country specific business (with no future plans to expand overseas) then would use .co.uk or .com.au etc but also get the .com if available and redirect or just hold.

  10. To be clear: Google regards and ranks all TLDs the same.

  11. I used to think that .com is a must. I still do but I’m more open to using other TLD’s. It’s tough to find the domain you really want with .com unless you want to fork out a lot of money. These damn domain re-sellers are annoying but if I can’t get a .com I usually settle for .co.

  12. .com really works most of the time. It’s catchy since the world wide web have started.

  13. I’ll tend to secure the .com and country specific TLDs where possible for my projects or for clients. But at the end of the day, the effectiveness comes down to the branding and marketing of a website, not whether or not it’s got a particular TLD or exact match domain.

    As an example, my own business site is a .net domain and has been for almost a decade. And it continues to rank well, attract links and do the job it needs to do without any problems.

    The only risk I’ve seen with a non .com TLD is that obviously if someone has the .com already and was considering selling it, the price will increase if they see a non .com TLD being used for a business.

    • I can’t remember the details of a legendary story about the .net that was forced to buy a .com at whatever the seller demanded, because the .com owner put up a picture of dog poo… a cautionary tale for us all!

  14. “From a technical standpoint, there’s no difference between using a .com domain or any other type.”

    This is wrong on so many levels. The most obvious one is that Google treats most country domains differently than gTLDs. For example, it will more likely serve a .fr website to people doing a search from a French IP address. .io and the like are an exception.

    • IMHO Google today delivers SERPs more based on the SEO content of each webpage and with less weight or almost none to the TLD. If I look for “motorbikes shops” from my Spanish IP, I get TLDs from Australia, Ireland, “co.uk”, etc. in the whole 1st page. With “Motorradgeschäfte”, all SERPs are businesses with “.de” TLD and many are showing German address.
      Simply translating the same search into Spanish “tiendas de motos” it gives me only locals. I think it’s a coincidence that the businesses in my city have chosen the TLD “.es” or “.com”.

  15. You can use anything but .com, if you’re not worried about losing type in traffic. I’m forever correcting computer literate folk on the extensions when they try to add .com to everything.

  16. I like .com names and try to buy them for sites when possible. I find that .com names are very strongly regarded in the US but in different countries I think sometimes the country code may be a better or at least less expensive option.

    Up here in the great white north a lot of companies use .ca and it is well recognized.

    I usually try to buy both the .com and .ca version when starting out with a new company online. For my company I bought the .ca version and the .us version, but after a year or so dropped the .us version. I felt it is not used or recognized in the United States as much.

    As and aside, I did look at getting the .com version for my company and found I could buy it for just over $10,000 USD. Not gonna happen.

    Thanks for all the info.

    ernie

  17. I come from an era where it was dot com or dot crap, “So your site is rnn.cc.com?” haha.

    To the point of the discussion it’s a bit different now. I never thought about the clarity www. brings to the conversation, and 2mb.solutions wow that’s good! The last time I helped a client pick one, her business was local so we added the town name… XYZcorvallis.com met the requirements! I’ll always recommend we think a bit before considering anything else.

  18. Sometimes you have no choice but to select an alternative domain because everything has already claimed. I have a client with a B&B here in San Diego who owns the Hillcrest House B&B. Turns out there are dozens of other Hillcrest Houses around the world. We jumped on hillcresthouse.net when it became available.

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