Whether you know what “TLD” stands for or not, you’re probably thinking that a discussion about top-level domains is likely to be pretty technical. It can be, but we’re here to talk about TLDs from a marketing perspective.
So stow the eye glaze (you know, for when your IT director really gets going and your eyes glaze over …) and lets dive into what to consider as you assess your domain name options.
First, let’s acknowledge that it’s the web’s enormous growth that has led us to a point where the domain name you’d like — yourcompany.com — simply may not be available. Certainly, just about every single-word .com domain has already been registered, even if it’s not in use. So what are your choices?
Changing Your Firm’s Name to Get the TLD You Want
If you can’t register the domain you want, you can change your firm’s name. Typically, that’s going to be a pretty radical option, though this is more palatable if you’re just starting out. If you are launching a new venture, you should find (and register) the domain name you want even before you have your attorney do a legal search for the viability of the name you’re considering.
Variations on a Name
You can also choose a variation of your name. For example, the social media management tool Lately arrived on the scene too recently to register lately.com, so they’ve opted for trylately.com. That works exceptionally well as a domain name for a marketing site.
Relocate Away From .Com
Another option, of course, is to select a TLD other than .com.
The options here have exploded over the past few years. Which option you choose should depend on your market and your audience. Some choices will feel more traditional, while others may provide a level of differentiation. Your choice should be based on your brand’s needs.
Once you’ve determined that a TLD other than .com is your best bet, there are still a lot of choices to be made.
One option is a custom TLD, as Google has created. (Which it uses for sites like https://sustainability.google/.) The expense of these TLDs — $185,000 — makes them an impossible investment for most companies, other than very large consumer brands.
Sticking with existing TLDs, you’ll find that some are off-limits to anyone outside of the groups they’re meant to serve. These include .gov and .edu addresses, as well as some country-based TLDs, like .com.au. Domains using that TLD are reserved for businesses registered in Australia.
Country Code TLDs
Other country-based domains are open to outside registration. “Co” implies “company” to most folks in the U.S., which is why the .co TLD is quite popular here, even though it is actually Colombia’s TLD. It ranks just above the .us TLD here in the U.S.
We’ve seen an increase in .io sites over the past few years. It’s not 100% clear why this is a popular TLD; though, the fact that it rolls off the tongue nicely and is shorter than .com when most other newer TLDs are longer certainly helps. (In case you were wondering, .io is the TLD assigned to the British Indian Ocean Territory. All of you “Old MacDonald” fans should also note that eie.io is currently available …)
TLDs to Avoid
On the negative side, there does seem to be a growing consensus that .info sites are often home to some of the less savory businesses on the internet. You may want to avoid that TLD, even if your site is purely an informational site.
Type the name of your favorite mobile phone provider, airline, or cable company into your browser’s address bar with “.sucks” appended to the end. You’ll see why owning that domain name for your company under the .sucks TLD is a smart defensive move. You don’t want a competitor or disgruntled former employee creating a site ranting about your firm.
Wikipedia’s list of TLDs organized by type can be a great resource to see if you can find a domain name that works with your company name. (We’d love to own andi.go if there was a .go TLD.)
So while there is no definitive answer to the value of TLDs, deciding on one is much more than a conversation for your IT department to have by themselves. It’s tough to argue with .com as a known quantity. You should always register the .com, if it is available. The value of the myriad other options available will depend on your brand personality, your message, and who you are trying to reach.