Should You Use a Creative Domain Extension?

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Choosing a .COM for your domain seems like a no-brainer for most site owners. Out of the 330 million registered top-level domains on the web, roughly 136 million have a .COM extension, according to Statista. While this common TLD was once a sign of credibility, the internet is swelling with new sites competing for attention and memorable names. Using a less conventional domain extension may offer advantages when your preferred .COM is unavailable or too costly.

Why Dotcoms Are the Norm

Is a .COM domain truly necessary for your online business? Until recent years, this common TLD was the go-to choice for the majority of site owners who wanted to established a good reputation. In the early days of the internet, the dotcom designation was created to distinguish for-profit, or commercial, businesses. The .ORG and .GOV domains were reserved for nonprofit and government sites, while .NET was intended for network and telecommunication service providers.

A .COM extension doesn’t automatically boost a site’s credibility with search engines. However, web users are so familiar with this TLD that it became closely associated with professional companies. In the past, it was also common for spammers to create junk sites using cheap domains with less popular extensions. These factors contributed to the idea that a site using a lesser known TLD might be unreliable or untrustworthy.

Pros and Cons of Ditching the Dotcom

More and more, business owners are gravitating toward new domain extensions out of necessity or to differentiate their brand. Google’s parent company Alphabet bravely debuted the abc.xyz domain in 2015, sparking a .XYZ trend.

A wave of .INFO, .TECH, .BRAND, and .STORE domains have also flooded the internet in recent years. And you’ll find plenty of industry-specific choices, such as .HEALTH and .BANK, along with custom TLDs, such as .HBO and .AARP. Before you invest in a creative TLD, consider some advantages and disadvantages of ditching the dotcom.

Cost/Availability

Finding an available domain is challenging these days, especially when there are thousands of speculators who buy up domain names and charge a premium for them. If your preferred domain is unavailable but not in use, choosing an alternative TLD is one way to avoid a hefty fee. While it’s always possible to buy the .COM domain down the road when you have a bigger budget, there are no guarantees that it will still be available. And if another brand claims the .COM, you may have a hard time distinguishing your business from a competitor in the future.

Brand Differentiation

Adding an unexpected domain extension is a great way to stand out, make an impact on your audience, and reinforce what you do. For example, industry-specific TLDs immediately provide context for your brand, especially when you use a personal name to do business. Using the URL “JaneDoe.attorney” differentiates a professional with a common name from the thousands of other people doing business under the same name.

The same goes for other topical domain extensions. When you see a TLD such as .ADULT, .REALTY, or .BIBLE, you can easily guess what type of content you’ll find on that site. If you’re using a creative TLD for branding purposes, stick with simple, relevant identifiers that tell users what to expect. That way, your domain includes a useful keyword that helps to bring in quality leads.

Online Visibility

To get steady web traffic, you have to make it as easy as possible for people to find you online. The average web user automatically uses a .COM domain when searching for unfamiliar sites, and many people aren’t aware of the numerous extensions available today. So, be prepared to lose web traffic if there’s another company using the more familiar .COM domain. When you’re choosing a creative TLD for branding purposes and budget isn’t a hindrance, consider buying the .COM version as well. Then, you can redirect traffic to your primary domain and still differentiate your brand.

All trends take time to gain traction with the general public. Don’t shy away from a lesser known top-level domain simply because you’re afraid of challenging the status quo. The internet community is steadily growing, so you can expect the demand for new domains to keep climbing as well.

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