How to Choose the Right TLD

The Short Version

  1. .com isn’t everything, Generic (gTLD) and country-code (ccTLDs) top-level domains can contribute to a successful website.
  2. Consider whether a TLD is relevant to your particular field. For example, go with a TLD that relates to your business such as .film for a movie production company.
  3. Consider new gTLDs to create a unique and memorable domain name.
  4. Think about your target market, if you are selling a product will only be sold in Mexico for example, it’s a better choice to go with the local ccTLD. In this case, .mx. This may affect local search engine results.
  5. Factor SEO into your decision making. Be sure to avoid tell-tale spam TLDs which could result in your website ranking lower in search engines.

A TLD or Top-Level Domain by its full name is the bit that comes at the very end of a web address, for example the TLD for Namecheap.com is the .com suffix. The most common TLDs are .com, .net, .org. but there are hundreds more available.

The average business owner might not give the components of an URL much thought, let alone the differences between top-level domain extensions. It’s so easy to overlook a domain suffix if you assume that .com is the one to go with. However, the tail end of your domain name can Impact your website's search engine ranking, people's perceptions of your brand and more.

Picking the second level domain name of your website — the word or phrase that appears before the TLD — can be the easy part. You’ll soon find many different TLDs appended to your chosen domain name. How do you decide between hundreds of options? Should you go with the eternally popular .com suffix, your local country code extension or some descriptive word that aligns with your brand?

This article will guide you through the most common types and the factors that go into picking the right TLD for your website.


Pick a Top Level Domain

The primary objective of a domain name is representing your brand with a name. This name is important since it will determine how many people will be persuaded to come closer and take a look. Admittedly, choosing the right TLD extension for your website can be an unwanted peculiarity during this process.

When the go-to .com version of your domain name is not available, you need to widen your net and consider another TLD, but which one? We suggest having an open mind regards new TLDs, and there are many available, each with its intended purpose which might be a more fitting match for your business needs over a .com extension.

It's easy to skip over TLD selection and go with the first domain that comes to mind. This decision can't be reversed, so it's worth choosing the right TLD from the get-go.


.com and Brand Authority

We know that there are many options, but the perception of your potential customer base is a consideration you don't want to overlook when choosing your TLD. Think about it; most people are used to seeing .com and other country-code TLDs, and are less familiar with new generic top-level domains (gTLDs) such as .cat.

A domain with a standard .com tld, a familiar gTLD, or a localized domain is likely to be seen as more trustworthy by potential customers which is especially important for business websites, and new company websites in particular.

Don’t be afraid to consider domain extensions beyond .com

There was a time when TLDs were limited to the classic extensions. It took a long time for the TLD market to open up. At one point, for example, it wasn’t the norm for business and small business to even own a domain. However, once the world wide web became more established, the emphasis went into choosing a domain name. Now, the second-level domain name is the easy part. There’s a staggering number of TLD registrars to choose from aside from most people's go-to .com.

Contrary to popular sentiment, the internet doesn’t end at .com. Just as the web grew and became part of people’s lives, the new TLDs will become more common and accepted, especially by users who have grown up with the web.


How and when to use an alternative TLD

Despite the popularity of .com domains, it should be noted that it is entirely possible to run a successful online business using any TLD. There are hundreds of different domain extensions available, so we won’t cover each one here. Instead, let’s consider the most popular options and those which cater to a specific industry to help hone down your options.

The most common TLDs are .com, .net .org and a handful of others. These so-called 'classic gTLD's' represent just a snippet of what's available. New TLDs like .biz, .mobi and .club are used by specific industries or business interests. TLDs like this are fine options if your business model is focused, but what if your website focuses on an individual? New TLDs such as .me and .name extensions have taken off for biographical websites and blogs.

The purpose of this post isn't to rave about the exciting world of new TLDs. The extension is just a piece of your web address, but it should work together with your domain name to create a cohesive brand for your website. In the spirit of this, let’s move on to our failsafe tips for choosing an appropriate domain extension.

1. Factor in your site’s purpose

Before you begin the TLD selection process, consider the purpose of your site. There are extensions to fit a whole host of business types and models. If your site represents a non-profit or charitable organization, .org is a wise choice. if you are creating a straigh forward commercial website, .com and .biz are a commonly used TLDs for online businesses. On the other end of the spectrum, you may envisage a blog to keep a journal for instance, in this case, an extension like .me would be a fitting solution.

Technically, you can go with almost any TLD that takes your fancy, even if the purpose doesn't fit your selection. However, this won't be helpful to your site visitors. We recommend choosing an extension informed by the use of your website. This way your domain will create a cohesive first impression.

  • Look for a gTLD that helps explain and exemplify what you do.

  • Think about the audience you are pursuing. You might be better going with .com if you host your advertising on offline platforms, TV, radio, print, etc. where your audience will naturally assume your extension is .com, and you could stand to lose some visitors who try .com.

Here’s a summary of just some of the TLDs perfect for particular industries:

2. Consider new gTLDs

If you don’t want to limit yourself to a particular location, you've eliminated the use of typical country-code top-level domain (ccTLDs), but, you are still left with an overabundance of choices. Should you go with the probably pricier, and due to the lack of remaining options, less flexible .com or one of the new TLDs.

It's inevitable that most valuable .com domains are already taken, so you might want to go with the same domain name, with a different TLD. For example, if mybikestore.com is taken, you may want to check to see if mystore.bike is available. Choosing an established and recognizable generalized gTLD, like .io and .me might be the way to go. There's plenty of reasons to go with one.

Use a Country Code Domain Hack

If you want to be really creative with your domain name and TLD choice, look to Silicon Valley. As the .com landscape got more and more crowded, the rapidly growing startup scene had to go somewhere new for memorable URLs. Creative founders started blending their company names and their domain names together to create domains like ow.ly. On top of new URLS, brands began to use country codes to create domain names, concatenated versions of brand names. For example: Apple’s dedicated domain for iTunes is itun.es, which uses the country code is the country code for Spain.

You can use a TLD to simply give your brand a shorter or more memorable URL. for example .tv should be a country tld but used for those in the television industry.

  • .ly is the actually the country code for Libya, established back in the ‘90s, websites like the previously-mentioned ow.ly and adf.ly came into being.

  • Google uses the country code for Greenland with their goo.gl domain name.

  • .co, the country code for Columbia is frequently used as an alternative to .com extensions. The most popular one is Twitter’s in-service URL shortener, t.co.

Tread Carefully with New TLDs

We recommend you consider a range of perspectives before setting on a given suffix.

While getting a standout TLD extension might make it clear what your site content is about, it might also suggest to more tech-savvy visitors that you haven’t been around for that long. If you are working in fields such as finance or law, this can be a problem.

Similarly, while having a hip new extension might appeal to specific demographics, you will be alienating others would see it as unprofessional or plain weird. TLD choice is about striking the right balance. A new domain extension can help you stand out by being unique while creating a more memorable impression without putting people off.


Consider Your Target Audience

The location of your business, or more often, the location of your target audience can be a major factor in your choice of a TLD. Think about whether you want to attract local visitors. If you need to consider the geographical location of your business before choosing your domain extension. Are you targeting a single country or town or are planning to go international? Country Code TLDs (ccTLDs) are the best choice if you need to market your site's audience to a particular geographic region.

There over 200 ccTLDs available so you shouldn't have much trouble finding one in your desired area. If you want to sell products only in one country, Canada for example with have Canadians as your target audience then you can think about choosing .ca. Google will understand that your goal is to rank higher in Google.ca. Say for example you have an international target audience then, store that sells products worldwide, choosing a .com, .net, .org or .com (the most used TLD), would be the best solution.

A distinct advantage to using your local ccTLD is that they are more widely available than .com and what's more, you don't have to operate in the host country of a ccTLD to own a specific country domain. This means you can purchase them from anywhere in the world and your site will pop up more often in searches relevant to their location. This is ideal when you are offering a localized version of a product or service.

Go Hyper-Local

The internet has transformed into a global marketplace. Your business might be in the United States but anyone across the globe can view what you've got to offer. That said, in most cases, people, and companies don’t need this kind of global reach. If you operate a neighborhood restaurant or run a local gardening clubfor example, you are trading locally and will benefit from local TLDs.

Local SEO is on the rise as google favors local sites targeting a specific geographical area. Hyperlocal TLDs for particular cities have seen many websites swap from .com to a domain extension that reflects their exact location. .Berlin, .Paris, .London, and .NYC are all now available. These suffixes are still relatively new which gives you a better chance of finding the domain you’re looking for.

Target different languages

Another way to target a particular audience is using internationalized domain names. IDN's allow you to use country specific characters in core languages and scripts, such as Cyrillic script in your domain name for example.

It's important to use IDNs with great care. Indeed they will appeal to a specific group of people but will make it more difficult to reach a wider audience, so limit the use of IDNS unless you want to focus your attention on a specific group of people.


Factor in SEO

Worrying about SEO might a bit premature at this point, but it's never too early to think about where you’ll appear in search results. When browsing for a domain, it’s important to understand the value of choosing a top level domains while keeping SEO in mind. Considering SEO from the early stages of creating your domain name is the best way to make sure you’ll rank well later on.

There is a common misconception that .com has the best chance of ranking guides. The fact is, every TLD can rank in the top positions if SEO practices are adopted. .com is the most popular extension and that’s why it’s frequently ranked in top positions.

Using a new TLD will not affect your ranking in search engines. It’s worth noting that in the eyes of Google and other search engines, all TLDs are equal. New gTLDs and ccTLDS won’t carry any inherent SEO value, but neither will they be seen as inferior to .com.

It's generally accepted that if your website has quality content and web design with one of these TLDs, nothing is stopping it from doing well. Just like with any domain, it may just take it a while to get there. Follow our tips for choosing a good TLD for SEO purposes:

  • Since gTLDs don’t target specific countries, and some are widely known, you benefit from a broader, more accepting audience.

  • As mentioned, country-specific domain extensions are advantageous for website who wish to attract visitors in a specific area. The downside to choosing a ccTLD is that you won’t be ranked as well globally. With rare exceptions such as startups with good marketing practices, for example, specific extensions are best off reserved for only websites offering country-specific services.

Watch Out for Spam

While some new gTLDs can help you stay competitive in search engines and increase your brand reputation, others will look spammy and have the adverse effect. There are plenty besides .com, and .co.uk, some of the options for domains extensions are seen by search engines as a spam factor, and won't rank them well.

Before you settle on a domain to register, take a moment to check if the TLD you’re going for is appearing on email block lists. If there’s anything to suggest the TLD is viewed with contempt online, that could be a bad sign. We recommend avoiding such a TLD because it will make your website look like it could be spam, which isn’t a good thing.


Does TLD Matter?

In the case of domain names, does the extension on the end really matter? The short answer is: yes and no. Take Amazon, for example. The company uses .smile and .like for some of their products, that which arguably have no positive SEO value or communicate anything special to site visitors. That said, the right TLD can add a certain “something” to your brand, helping drive visitors to your website.

Ultimately, If you’ve found a TLD you’re happy with, go with it. If you commit to it and observe SEO practices, you’ll be fine.


Decision Time

If you’re about to order a domain name, consider the basic pointers above to guide your overall choice of domain name. If you’re interested in the extensions domain extensions available, explore the Namecheap domain directory of thousands of TLDs. Once you have a basic idea of what kind of domain name you want, have a play around with our domain name search and experiment with the TLDs available with Namecheap.

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