What’s in a Name? Domain Name Extensions Explained
There are 116 Million registered domains with the “.com” extension as of 2015. So with that said, the domain registrars saw the need to add new Top Level Domains in 2014, such as .tv, .social, .co, .us, .info, .photography, .marketing, .company, and so on and so forth. But are these new domain extensions as effective when promoting your website? Does your domain name affect your SEO or page ranking on the search engines? What is the public’s perception of some of these new TLD’s?
First let’s add a quick glossary of terms so we avoid confusion.
TLD: A top-level domain (TLD) is the last segment of the domain name or domain name extension. The TLD is the letters immediately following the final dot in an Internet address.
ccTLD: A country code top-level domain (ccTLD) is an Internet top-level domain generally used or reserved for a country, a sovereign state, or a dependent territory. Examples include: .us, .uk, .il, .au, .de, .fi, .fr, .jp, .kr, .nl and .se .sg. Some ccTLDs have been repurposed, such .tv which is for the country Tuvalu but is now being used by video or media (TV style) websites.
gTLD: These top level domains are meant to be “general purpose domains” and are not generally associated with a particular country, nor are they restricted per industry so anyone can register them. Godaddy currently offers 20 featured gTLD’s including .space, .tech, .global, .xyz, .website, .design, .company, etc.
sTLD: Sponsored Top-Level Domains are actually a subdivision of gTLDs. These names are controlled by specific agencies within an industry. For example, .museum is a sTLD regulated by the Museum Domain Management Association.
What’s In a Name?
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” – William Shakespeare
William had it right, the name does not change the content or the character but can possibly change perception. Does your target audience care if your domain extension is mywebsite.com or mywebsite.info? Apparently yes. Does the search engines range your website higher or lower? Put simply, no. Let’s explain.
The search engines do not rank your page ranking based on the extensions of your domain name, but rank based on quality content, reputable backlinks and search engine marketing. The only exception to this rule is the country code extensions (ccTLD’s) because Google will rank the extension of the country that the user is in higher so if your business is global or has a global target audience, you should avoid using a ccTLD. Example if you’re a user in France conducting a search, the ones with .fr will come up higher.
Your target audience on the other hand, extensions do seem to matter. Since .com sites are in the majority and are the first domain extension that gained popularity, it is not assumed that websites with the .com extension tend to be more reputable. Since .com sites are clicked on more and in return get more backlinks, its just inevitable that .com sites seem to rank higher.
“It is a common misconception that .com sites are the “best” sites, yet it is the currently reality. For this reason, trying to own a .com site is probably your best chance of success, though not your only chance.” – Score.org
The Future of New Domain Extensions
Currently there are between 20 and 30 TLDs, but there soon could be 100’s, depending on ICANN’s decision to add more. The future impact of these TLDs on your company’s brand are hard to predict. Eventually, I believe the unconventional TLDs like .guru or .media will become more accepted, but for now .com still rules the internet. So deciding on a domain name, you will have to determine if you will be stay safe and follow the crowd, or will you be an innovator and lead the charge? If you decide innovator, you may have to work a little harder to promote your brand and your URL.