Why Choosing the Right Domain Extension is Crucial to Your Site’s SEO
Find out why domain extensions matter and how to choose the right one for your business and your SEO strategy.
Image Source: Godaddy
Domain extensions are a small but crucial part of your business image. It’s tempting to think that they’re too small to be of any significance at all. However, in the big shouting room that is the internet, you don’t get long to make your point before you’re being outshouted by somebody, so you need to take advantage of every weapon at your disposal.
Domain extensions can deliver a huge amount of information in just a few letters. This information is important for the viewer and SEO. We’ll see that it’s even possible, with imagination and application, to contribute to the customer experience with a domain extension. Let’s see how.
The deal with domain extensions
A domain extension (or top-level domain, or TLD) is the bit in the address that follows the domain. What’s the domain? It’s the address component that pertains to a company’s home page.
So, let’s take Disney’s address: www.disney.com.
The domain is disney. The domain extension is .com. What does .com mean? It originally meant company, but this has broadened to include a range of entities now. The extension .com can be seen as a vanilla kind of extension. It’s dependable and reliable and people don’t hate it. But it’s not the most imaginative.
What domain extensions are there?
Since the heady pioneering days of 1986, when domain extensions were first made available to the public, there has been an enormous rise in the number and types of domain extensions available. Let’s go through the main groupings.
Generic, or gTLD
So, this includes the most familiar domain extensions, such as .net, .org, and of course, .com. Each of these extensions carries certain implications. For instance, sites with a .org extension tend to be nonprofit. However, as we’ve seen with .com, there are no hard and fast rules.
Plenty of sub-generic TLDs have come online in the last few years. These are very strongly linked to company activity, such as .plumbing, or even branded, such as .toyota.
Restricted, or rTLD (sometimes called Sponsored, or sTLD)
These are domains that are strictly for specific purposes. The best example is .gov, which is reserved for government usage only. This has the benefit of endowing the site with authenticity.
Country code, or ccTLD
These are codes that were initially meant for use by specific countries. For instance, co.uk means a company in the United Kingdom. Or, if you want to pop up in a Canadian domain search, you’ll want to go with .ca.
Not only will it be beneficial for you to pick up a local domain extension, but it also pays to use a local virtual hosting server in order to reduce latency and have fast speeds. So if you and your customers are based in America it would be wise to look into VPS USA hosts, such as Ultrahost
However, increasingly, countries are permitting businesses in other locations to use the code. It can be the case that a country code fits with the business name or activity. Of course, the country benefits from selling its extension. It’s a nice little earner for them.
These are like rTLDs, in that they are restricted for certain practices. Examples include .test. They’re not made publicly available, so we’ll say no more about them.
So, now we know a little more about domain extensions. There are all sorts of reasons why you might pick one over another. But, when it comes to internet success, you should have one term front and center of your thinking at all times: SEO. Let’s see what domain extensions do for it.
Domain extensions and SEO
Here’s a bit of a shock. Domain extensions do nothing for SEO. Or, at least, this is what Google tells us.
Officially, it makes no difference to your SERP ranking what domain extension you employ. However, SEO is about the bigger picture. It’s about the impact your site address has. The greater the impact, the more people are likely to visit it, and the more links will be generated. All this makes for better SEO statistics in the long run.
There are a number of factors we need to consider when thinking about extensions and SEO.
The trust factor
A .com extension, unexciting as it is, does have recognizability. Given a choice between www.awesomedogscarves.com and www.awesomedogscarves.biz, it’s the former that gets the hits. This is because the internet is a bit wild west and stuffed full of dodgy operators, so we tend to look for symbols of trust. So, .com is a big one.
Interestingly though, we don’t have to stick with .com if we really don’t want to. There are others that are becoming almost as universally trusted in specific areas. For instance, the extension .io is much-used in the tech sphere, and users seem to place significant levels of trust in it. (It stands for input-output, incidentally.)
The local factor
If your company spans the globe, then .com’s an excellent choice. However, if your company’s smaller and sales are likely to be to people within a particular country, then it makes sense to use that country’s extension. This is because Google will prioritize companies with the appropriate ccTLD for a search specifying a particular territory.
For instance, a search for computing in Stockholm will put addresses with a Swedish ccTLD (.se) at the top of the SERP. This makes sense – you’re not going to be very impressed with info about a computer company in Toronto, if you’re needing some Stockholm brick-and-mortar action.
Beware of the situation, though, where a place name has other meanings. For instance, looking for taps in the English city of Bath will often get you more results to do with bath taps than anything with a .co.uk extension.
Screenshot from Google
Same with microservices in Java – this is unlikely to give you much in the way of domains with an Indonesian extension (.co.id).
Country codes can often be used to give an edge in terms of creating a memorable address. For instance, let’s say you’ve got a clothing firm that sells menswear, called MisterMister. You can up the mister factor by registering a Mauretanian extension, giving you MisterMister.mr. Or a designer called Fifi could use a Fijian extension and just go with Fi.fi.
Or a company selling satnavs called Where It Is could use an Austrian extension, giving WhereItIs.at. Montenegro (.me) is a very popular one among egotists. We could go on, but you get the idea. The point is to gain traction with the internet user by using a ccTLD to plant an original and easy-to-remember address in their head.
It might even be the case that the originality used results in some enjoyment for the user, boosting the UX.
A caveat worth mentioning is that some country codes have been associated with a high level of nefarious activity in the past, so you may find that aligning yourself with the wrong territory has negative results for you. One such ccTLD is .pw.
So, if you’re considering using a country code to assist with your memorable address strategy, make sure it’s not making you memorable for the wrong reasons.
The purpose factor
Sometimes it’s handy to give people a clue as to what you do. Ideally, your domain’s going to be the same as your brand, and your brand name’s going to be either instantly recognizable or self-descriptive.
However, if your company’s called Brian’s, because it was set up by your grandfather Brian a few years back, you’re a bit stuck. The domain should probably be the same. Why? For consistency’s sake, for one thing.
But also for SEO, as Google no longer considers exact match domains. Examples include domain names like supercheapsausages.com, which are usually internet aliases put up there by companies called something completely different in reality.
But brians.com won’t necessarily carry much information in its name, aside from the fact that it sounds kind of friendly and old-school.
However, what happens when we use one of the activity-specific TLDs? Let’s say your company sells medicines and bath products. Give it the address brians.pharmacy, and you’re in business.
It gives the internet user something to go on regarding what you’re all about. And it will help with your SEO, as a likely keyword is right there in your address.
Some recommended extensions
As mentioned above, this is great for companies wishing to portray themselves as up-to-the-minute, cutting-edge purveyors of the most exciting gear out there. So, tech startups and SaaS companies often use it as a badge of hipness.
Also, there’s potential for wordsmiths to exploit it. If you have a site bigging up the delights of your favorite state, you could call it fabulousoh.io. Or if you can’t get enough of a certain Italian master of biblical portraiture, you might want to call your site caravagg.io. Or you just love that puppet who yearns to be a real boy. Yes, pinocch.io.
The only downside to .io is that it tends to be quite pricey. So, if you don’t want to splash out. then it might be cheer.io to this domain extension.
This is a cheaper alternative to .com and is very nearly interchangeable. Very nearly. The problem is that .net used to be used pretty much exclusively by internet service providers, and it retains a tech connotation among those with long memories. So, be careful that it doesn’t misapply some tech profile to your business.
If you’ve got a business selling holidays in the sun called Hotspot, then you won’t want to put .net after it, or you’ll look like you’re selling wi-fi access. Though if you have a Download Windows 10 ISO product key for sale then .net would be a perfect domain extension.
A site with this extension will be, unsurprisingly, a blog or similar. What it’s not going to be is a commercial site aimed at parting you with your cash, so internet users can approach it with an element of relaxation. They don’t need to guard against being fleeced but can instead avail themselves of the possibly fascinating and probably casually-worded content within.
All too often, of course, it’s not that fascinating. Perhaps it’s time for the extension .blogworthreading.
It’s handy to use a .blog extension when you want to distinguish between this area of activity and the more commercial areas your business might be involved in.
No prizes for guessing that this is an extension that apps use. It’s very descriptive, which is excellent. An even bigger advantage is that it features on Chrome’s HTTP Strict Transport Security preload list, which means that it comes with HTTPS automatically. This does wonders for instilling trust.
A fabulous choice for a radio station. This is one of those country codes (The Federated States of Micronesia) that deliver lots of naming possibilities, unlike, say, the sg domain, which is great if your company’s in Singapore, but that’s about it. Hang on though – if you’re a monosodium glutamate manufacturer, you could go with m.sg. Or if you sell Angus Young’s guitar of choice, you might fancy gibson.sg.
That really is about it, though.
.Fm is a ccTLD for the Federation of Micronesia, but it makes a great purpose-defining extension. The only downside is that it’s quite expensive. But well worth the money if you want to make the distinction between your radio company and another company with the same name but a wholly different area of activity.
Get the right extension for your needs
So, now you’ve seen what can be achieved with the right extension. It’s worth having a think about the ideal extension for you and your needs. It’s a fairly minor undertaking to apply for a new extension – it’s not like a wholesale website migration.
Overall, it’s all about picking an extension that resonates with the viewer and gives the best local results. If you can do both, then that’s really bossing the extension game. I take my h.at off to you.