Websites have become even more important to businesses and freelancers following the global lockdown from COVID-19.
People are now preferring to visit a website over the brick-and-mortar alternative.
- Find a domain that’s easy for people to read and remember. Avoid misspellings, numbers or hyphens. Choose “CoolDomainForYou.com” instead of “KewlDomain4U.com”
- Search for domain names that reflect your business, whether that means including your name, slogan or keywords associated with your targeted niche.
- Select the right domain extension — aka top-level domain (TLD). This decision may depend on your business, industry and domain name availability.
A domain extension is the combination of characters following the period in a web address.
The domain extension may seem like a subtle choice, but it can have significant importance. Take .ca for example, Canada’s official domain extension. Although not as popular globally as .com, it is a better choice for businesses that serve primarily Canadian audiences.
What are the five most common domain extensions?
When it comes to choosing the right domain, you should start with familiarity. Look for what domain extensions are most prevalent in your space and choose one that aligns with your brand and consumer expectations.
This typically means selecting a TLD that is popular. Here are five of the most common domain extensions to consider.
The domain extension you select has a much more important role than you might think.
Let’s explore the five most common domain extensions and why you should consider that extension for your new domain.
A .com domain extension is hands-down the most popular TLD available. It was originally used to designate for-profit businesses but has now become the go-to for websites of all kinds.
When deciding on a domain extension, you should almost always choose .com — if it’s available.
The .com TLD is usually the best choice because it’s most familiar.
Humans are creatures of habit. We’ve all been typing .com domains into our web browser for decades, so it’s what we’ve come to expect from websites.
When we hear a domain or business name for the first time, we automatically assume it ends in .com because it’s the extension we’re most accustomed to.
In fact, if there is a .com for your domain that you don’t own, there is a good chance visitors are accidentally landing on that domain instead of yours simply because of human error.
Some hackers may even try buying the .com and other misspelled domains of your business for fraudulent scams on your customers — known as typosquatting.
The .com extension isn’t just the most popular because of its familiarity. From a backlinking perspective, a domain with .com carries much more authority than one with a new or unfamiliar extension.
Thus, when conducting outreach for backlinks or PR, you’re going to seem more credible with a .com than another less-popular TLD.
Editor’s note: Use our company name generator to get ideas for your business and domain name.
The downside to .com
The only negative to choosing a .com for your new website is that you may not have the option because it’s already taken.
The rise of the internet brought a gold-rush type of mentality to domains.
Many entrepreneurs purchased popular domain names and eventually flipped them for more money — in a few cases, millions of dollars.
If your .com is not being used for a website, you might have to pay a premium to purchase it from the current owner.
If you can’t find a good .com — or don’t want to invest a lot of money to purchase it from a squatter — there are other TLD options to consider.
See if the domain name you want is available now:
Much like the .com extension, .net is open to anyone. What was originally intended for internet service providers (ISPs) or networks has now become a popular alternative to .com.
The .net TLD might be a nice option for tech- or web-based companies because it implies network and technology.
Some of the most popular internet brands in the world have a .net extension:
People have come to associate .net with web-based applications and services.
If your business operates in those or related industries, .net makes perfect sense and can help communicate your services.
.net is in less demand than .com, meaning there is a greater likelihood that the domain you want is available.
Because many people associate .net with technology, businesses that operate outside the tech space or web-service industries may want to avoid this TLD.
For example, if you operate a baking business and wanted a .net domain, you might think Cookies.net would be perfect. However, users might think your business provides a service for web cookies rather than edible baked goods. This disconnect could lead to confusion for visitors landing on your baking website.
One brand using .net effectively is SourceForge.net. They are a web-based service that provides an online community for people who need help with open-source web projects. It’s a collaborative community focused on networking and technology-based business.
SourceForge understands how their .net extension positions their brand, and they used it to their advantage to grow their credibility and community within the IT space.
The .org extension was originally designed to represent not-for-profit organizations but is now available to anyone. It’s a popular domain extension for many:
- Non-governmental organizations (NGOs)
- Politicians and political parties
- Online communities
Many web users associate .org with a trustworthy and reliable source of information, but they don’t typically associate it with commercial brands.
The .org extension is one of the original TLDs, so it carries a lot of the same SEO benefits as .com.
Additionally, .org is less popular than .com, which means you have a better chance to find your desired domain with that extension.
Because of this, many organizations choose to build their website on the .org TLD — making it one of the most popular extensions.
While .org might make sense if you operate a not-for-profit or information-driven business, it doesn’t make sense for everyone.
For instance, many people associate .org with communities and knowledge bases, so if you operate an ecommerce store, choosing a .org for it might not make the most sense.
The websites that do the best using the .org TLD focus on building and cultivating communities. For instance, Wikipedia, Craigslist and WordPress are all brands that use .org. They all provide different services but rely mostly on their communities and users to grow their brand and produce content.
The .co extension was originally designated the country code for Colombia, but has become a popular option for global businesses.
The .co TLD is a familiar acronym for company, corporations, or commercial ventures. This familiarity has led many forward-thinking entrepreneurs to build their brands on a .co domain extension.
Creating a website with .co makes sense if you are a business, particularly if you’re a young startup that markets itself as original or unique.
While .com might be the most popular, .co is newer, shorter and more in line with the brevity of younger generations.
This freshness could be a great way to diversify your brand and target a younger group of people.
You might also consider registering a .co extension because of its domain availability. As mentioned previously, premium .com domains are rarely available. And if they are, you’ll have to pay more than you might like. However, .co domains are less sought after, which gives you more flexibility and options.
With all that said, .co is still less recognizable than .com — and does carry less credibility and familiarity. You risk losing out on the reputation that comes with a .com extension, and if there is a .com using your existing domain, you could potentially be sending traffic their way.
Sometimes, adding the “m” is just habit, so even if a visitor is trying to visit Cookies.co, force of habit could send them to Cookies.com.
500.co (aka 500 Startups) is a popular brand that uses .co. It’s a venture fund and seed accelerator that targets early-stage startups. They epitomize .co because their target audience is innovative, young entrepreneurs.
Last on our list of most common domain extensions is Canada’s own .ca.
According to the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA), Canadians are four times more likely to shop at a site with a .ca web address. This is because they can be sure:
- They’re looking at Canadian dollar values
- The company will ship to their location
Additionally, sites using .ca are required to have a presence in Canada, which means they’ll be subject to Canadian laws regarding users’ data privacy and security.
Many Canadians understand this and give a .ca website preference as they make buying decisions.
Two bonuses to using .ca
The Canadian .ca TLD is also one of the least abused TLDs, which means the sites that use it are considered free from malware the world over. Even .com has more malicious sites associated with it than the .ca TLD does.
There’s one more reason to consider .ca: When it comes to online searches, country-specific TLDs like .ca are given preference for in-country search.
That means your .ca site is more likely to come up in searches done inside Canada. If you want to attract Canadian visitors, this will mean more traffic to your site for the customers you want.
Other domain extension options
The domain extensions above are a great place to start, but they aren’t your only options. In fact, there are more than hundreds of different TLDs available on top of the five most common domain extensions already covered.
Below are some other popular options:
- .quebec —An open extension made for travel agents, tour reviewers and travel bloggers
- .info— An open extension that is short for information
- .xyz— An open extension available for general use
- .ly —Country code for Libya, but used by many tech startups for creative spellings
- .site— A newer, generic domain extension that has over 1 million registrations
- .me– the .me domain is perfect for personal bloggers and influencers
There are a lot of considerations that go into picking out the perfect domain name. In addition to finding a name that reflects your personal or brand identity — and is easy to remember and type — you must also make sure the domain extension is available and aligns with your needs.
If you’re looking to register a domain using one of the most common extensions, then you should consider GoDaddy. The world’s largest domain registrar, they have a large marketplace of domains, so you can find the perfect one to build your new website.
This article was originally published to GoDaddy’s U.S. blog on 21 November 2017 and updated on 16 April 2021 and 14 July 2022. It was updated and republished to the Canada blog on 15 December 2022.