You can choose between many different types of domain name extensions, but the most popular by far (and often considered the most “valuable” as well – if you are considering domain names as an investment) is the .com extension. The vast majority of large companies use .com domain names and they’ve spent hundreds of millions of dollars branding the .com TLD in the minds of web users worldwide. In fact, .com names are so widespread that many people don’t even know that other domain extensions exist!
.Com domains can be bought or sold by anyone. Consider them the equivalent of prime real-estate on the Internet. Most companies place a premium on having a .com name over any other domain extension.
As of April 2010 there are over 83 million .com domain names registered!
Other generic international TLDs (also called gTLDs) include .net, .org, .info, .biz, .name, and .pro. They’ve each earned a certain level of respect as top-level domains.
You can think of these other extensions as distant cousins to the almighty .com. They may seem less desirable to a .com, but that’s not necessarily the case. In fact, the availability of these other TLDs allows webmasters to get a domain that would not have been able to otherwise get.
In terms of functionality, all of the above extensions are equal. This means that having a.com won’t help a website rank higher in search engines of get a higher ‘click-through’ rate. However, in terms of investment, the .com domains bring a significantly higher ROI. Statistically, .com names are worth more than 7 times what .net equivalents are worth.
Most countries now have their own top-level domains (called ccTLDs), such as .uk for the UK, .fr for France and .us for the United States. The rules for buying domain names under each country top domain vary from country to country, so always check before you register a domain.
The most popular ccTLDs right now are .uk (United Kingdom) and .de (Germany) names although others are quickly gaining momentum such as .asia and .in (India). And, because of their popularity, they’ve become a good investment for domainers as well.
Some countries have essentially sold their cyber-rights to enterprising entrepreneurs. For example, anyone can pick up a .to domain name (Tonga) or a .cc domain name (Cocos Islands), or a .ws domain name (Western Samoa) and most people are not even aware that these were intended to be country-level top domains in the first place!
Some companies are even selling sub-domains, also known as third-level domains, of memorable domain names. For instance, you can buy a third-level domain of .uk.com (i.e. if you could not get the .uk domain name you wanted. These are not official, internationally sanctioned TLDs, but rather companies sub-domains of their own domain. As we mentioned in a previous article, they too are gaining momentum and in turn becoming quite valuable.
The choice of which top-level domain to register your domain name under depends on several factors:
ccTLDs are often firmly associated with that particular country, so if you are working for an international company or organization, you’re better off buying a .com name. However, over 81 million.com names have already been registered, so you may have to get creative with the name that you choose or compromise with an alternative gTLD such as .net. If you do business in one country, but you also want to appear as international as possible, register both the .com and the ccTLD versions of your new domain name.
In terms of search engine value, the search engines generally focus on your site’s relevance to the user’s search terms rather than TLD, except in cases of the international versions of their search engines. For instance, if you perform a search on google.co.uk, your search results will generally contain more .co.uk domain names.
If you are buying domain names as an investment and you are very confident that the name you have chosen is valuable, it can be worthwhile securing the .com, .net,.org and other extensions of the domain name as well. By doing this, you prevent others from “undercutting” you when you go to sell the name by offering a different extension cheaper.
You can follow the same approach to secure your company or brand name against people trying to cash in on its popularity. For example, Microsoft had registered windows.com, but had failed to register windows.net. Someone else ended up registering the name and the company had to get it back through legal means. For large companies, it may be easy to get these additional names, but for smaller operations, it may be better – and cheaper in the long run – to register the popular TLDs in the beginning.
Some take this even further and secure popular misspellings of their primary .com domain name as well. Registering these in the beginning will keep others from typo-squatting on your domain in the future.
Now that we’ve talked about the different TLDs and which ones are best for different purposes, let’s look at what you can do with your domain name.