The decision to buy a domain name often comes down to deciding between .net vs .com. While there is a slew of other extensions out there, these two are still considered “standard” for URLs. But is there a difference between them? Is one better than the other?
The one you choose can influence everything from how easy it is to find your website to how consumers view your brand. In this article, we try to sort out .net vs .com‘s similarities and differences, pros and cons, so you can make the best decision possible for your site.
What is a Domain Extension or TLD?
A domain extension is the end part of a URL, placed after the primary domain (also called the second-level domain or SLD/2LD). For example, in elegantthemes.com, the primary domain is elegantthemes and the domain extension is .com. A primary domain without an extension is incomplete — you can’t buy one like that or set up a website without the extension. No one can use https://.com.
(Want a full overview of domain names? Here you go.)
You may hear “TLD” used interchangeably with “domain name extension.” TLD stands for “top-level domain,” and the two terms refer to the same thing: that last part of a URL. What comes after the “dot.” Note that this doesn’t have anything to do with a subdomain — we have a whole article dedicated to that topic.
Types of Domain Extensions: .net vs .com and Beyond
In addition to .com, there are a lot of extensions to choose from, like .net, .org and .us. There are more unique ones, too, like .best, .ist and .site. And if you want a domain extension that clarifies the type of business you have, you could choose something like .investments or .vacations.
The TLD doesn’t impact how well a website performs on a technical level or how easily search engines can find and rank it.
However, it can affect your website’s SEO. For example, a TLD like .biz doesn’t carry the same authority as something like .com or even .co. People may not trust it enough to click on it, which can impede traffic. You can check out this article if you want to learn more about the connection between your domain name and SEO.
Domain Showdown: .net vs .com
While it’s the most known, .com isn’t your only option. If you’re considering a different domain extension — .net in particular in the case of this article — we’re here to tell you the pros and cons of each TLD. Before we get into that, though, .com and .net share a few of the strengths they share:
- Neither is country-specific, so you won’t limit your reach based on the user’s geographic area.
- Both TLDs are for general-use websites (though .net can be slightly more niche, which we’ll get into). Something like .biz is intended for business or e-commerce and can be more limiting.
- While .com may be more highly regarded, both TLDs have been around for a long time and are well-known enough to be considered “standard” domain extensions.
Now let’s talk about each TLD, including their pros and cons.
An Overview of .net
Originally intended for internet providers (“net” is short for “network”), the .net TLD is a lot more general than it used to be. All sorts of websites use the extension today, not just ISPs. However, some in-the-know folks will still assume that a .net website is in the tech or web industry. So be careful using it in that regard. It might cause a misunderstanding or misbranding for a select set of visitors.
If you (a) have a tech/web-focused site or (b) your site can’t possibly be confused with one (it doesn’t have terminology that could be mistaken as tech-centric), you’re probably fine buying a .net. Also, some sites that have a network — meaning a community — of people involved will use .net, like Behance.
Pros of the .net Domain Extension
- It can communicate to industry pros that your business is in the tech or web field.
- This TLD is going to be on the affordable side, especially when compared to a sought-after .com.
- Since domains with this extension are more available and affordable (a little more than 3% of all sites use .net), it’s great for a hobby blog, testing site, or another type of site that doesn’t have high traffic as the goal.
- It’s the second-best option to .com above other TLD alternatives, and it’s a good temporary solution as you wait for the .com to become available.
Cons of the .net Domain Extension
- The .net TLD doesn’t carry nearly as much authority as .com.
- Some users may think that the site is low-quality or spammy based on the TLD. They may be less likely to click a .net vs .com URL.
- It can be confusing if your site sounds like a tech site but actually isn’t.
- It’s difficult for a .net site to compete with a .com site, which is a concern if you have a similar primary domain or business name as another company.
- Users default to .com and may type a competitor’s URL into their browser instead of yours.
An Overview of .com
While .com was once designated for use by commercial organizations (“com” for “commercial”), it’s now the gold standard of domain extensions. More than 53% of all websites use it! When most people go to register a domain name, they’re hoping that .com is available and affordable.
Pros of the .com Domain Extension
- It’s truly for any type of website, from blogs and personal websites to company websites, affiliate marketing sites, online shops, etc.
- The .com extension carries the most authority and trust of any public-use extension (something like .gov or .edu will also carry a lot of authority too, but not just any website can use it).
- That high level of authority increases your chances of getting backlinks.
- It’s easier for users to remember a domain name that ends with .com rather than something else.
- Since .com is the most familiar domain extension you’ll find, it’s what a lot of users are going to expect your URL to end with.
- Odds are that users are already typing in .com when trying to visit your site, but they land on nothing. Or worse, a competitor’s site.
Cons of the .com Domain Extension
- Because of its popularity, a lot of .com domains are already taken. It can be hard to find one with the SLD you want or even a version of it.
- .com domain names can be on the expensive side. And when you pit a .net vs .com, the .com is likely going to be pricier. Especially on the secondary market.
How to Choose a Domain Name: Thinking Past .net vs .com
While the TLD is important, it’s not as important as the primary domain name, or the SLD. Your primary domain can make or break your website SEO, regardless of the TLD. It’s a big part of your branding and marketing, and it should be chosen carefully. A great domain name will name your business (in full or in part) and communicate what it’s about.
Here are a few domain name best practices to follow:
- Make it clear. It shouldn’t be confusing to understand, spell, or remember.
- Choose a domain name that’s easy to pronounce and spell. That way, when you tell people your domain name, they’ll remember it and be able to search for it easily.
- Avoid using numbers. It will always be unclear whether the number is spelled out or written as a figure when spoken or used by someone unfamiliar with your brand.
- Don’t use special figures, like dashes. They’re difficult for people to remember to include or where to put them.
- Keep it short and concise. A shorter domain name is easier to remember and type in than a longer one.
- Clarify what your business is about. The overall purpose of your website should be unmistakable.
- Use keywords that will help your SEO.
- If you have a location-based business, consider including a location in your URL.
- If you use a country-specific TLD such as .co.uk, buying the .com, too, and redirecting it can generate extra traffic.
- Stick to your brand. Following these guidelines only matters if you can still stay on-brand. If not, it’s time to put more thought into your domain name instead of settling for one that doesn’t work.
Relatively unknown businesses should put a clarifying word or two in the domain name so users know what to expect. You already know that Starbucks sells coffee, so they don’t need to clarify that in the URL. But an independent coffee shop named Joe’s will do better with joescoffee.com than just joes.com. Also, adding a modifier can give you more TLD options, possibly even .com.
How to Register a Domain Name
You can get a domain name from a domain name registrar, and sometimes your host may also offer domain registration. Which companies you go with for domain and web hosting depends on your needs. At times, you may get your domain name from a dedicated registrar or a web host that offers domain registration but then actually host your site with another provider. Or, you may opt to bundle the services and get it all from one host. Some hosting plans include free domain name registration, too.
If you’re not ready to make a website but you want to secure a domain name so nobody grabs it first, you can register the domain name and then get web hosting later. When registering a domain name, you’ll choose how long you want it registered for before it expires or it’s time to renew. Usually, the longer the duration, the less expensive registration will be.
We have a few articles that can help you out during these stages:
- 5 Best Domain Name Registrars of 2022
- 6 Best Managed WordPress Hosting Companies
- 9 Best Free and Cheap Website Hosting Platforms
Also note that there’s something called a “handshake domain.” We’re going to quote B2C here to explain what this is:
Handshake (HNS) is a decentralized peer-to-peer network domain naming protocol that is aiming to fundamentally change the internet’s domain naming system landscape.
While Handshake is experimental (for now, at least), some people gravitate toward it because it’s believed to be safer than traditional registries. Some domain registrars, like Namecheap, currently offer handshake domains with extensions like .oh and .saas.
Final Thoughts about .net vs .com
For most people, a .com domain extension is going to be the best choice. That is, if it’s available. The .com is authoritative, recognizable, trustworthy. However, they’re also hard to come by, so if the domain you want is for sale, scoop it up.
However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t register a .net, too. It’s common for businesses to purchase both domains so that nobody else can, then redirect the .net one to their main .com URL. This sort of domain protection means that someone can’t register a .net with your primary domain (or something similar) and try to steal your traffic.
When it comes to .net vs .com, there’s a hierarchy. Always go for a .com when you can, even if you have to tweak your domain name to find one that’s available. Opt for a .net if the .com isn’t available. And if you’re worried about competitors or you have a tech-focused business, snag the .net even if you buy the .com.
What made you choose your domain name when it came to .net vs .com? Let us know in the comments!
Featured Image via Indie Design / shutterstock.com