What Is A TLD? Top-Level Domains Explained

What is a Top-level domain, how can it benefit you and how should you go about choosing one? Everything you need to know is in this post.

What Is A TLD? Top-Level Domains Explained

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An effective domain name is a crucial factor in attracting customers to your website. You’ll find much of the advice concentrates on choosing a distinctive name that everyone is sure to remember. When it comes to the ending, there’s often very little to be said apart from .com being the most popular.

According to Statista, 52.8% of the world’s websites include a .com. In second place is .org. Astonishingly, it’s chosen by just 4.4% of website owners. Before making your final decision, discover the advantages of choosing an alternative top-level domain.

How To Identify A Top-Level Domain

A domain name is usually made up of multiple levels or segments. After the last dot, you’ll find the top-level domain (TLD). As outlined above, it could be a familiar .com or an obscure .xyz.

Whichever TLD you choose, it provides essential information for potential visitors and search engines. It’s worth taking your time when choosing a TLD. Although you can change your domain name, it can cause considerable short-term disruption.

Are TLDs Regulated?

You can’t simply invent a top-level domain. The Internet Corporation officially regulates all the TLDs for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). The organization ensures an orderly system exists across the entire web.

Different categories of TLDs place websites on an equal footing and assist search engines to look through them efficiently. With so many TLDs now in use, ICANN authorizes trusted companies to operate various types. For instance, VeriSign is responsible for .net and .com TLDs.

How Many Alternative TLDs Can I Choose From?

According to Statista, more than 83.4% of businesses in the United Kingdom alone have their own website. The TLD categorizes each website, which in turn helps the search engines to find them. Choosing a less familiar TLD can help your website find a niche that could bring more effective search results.

Alternative TLDs

  1. gTLD – Generic

These are the most commonly found TLDs such as .org and .net. The most popular .com was originally an abbreviation of commercial or commerce and was therefore used for retail. Over time, it has gained a respectability that businesses rely on.

It enhances the reliability of the brand and reassures potential customers. gTLDs can be used by any website, but they are often descriptive. For example, .org is a popular choice amongst charities and information websites.

  1. ccTLD – Country Code

Many websites feature localized country codes. These include .ca for Canada and .jp for Japan. Some country codes have been reserved for decades. For instance, Ireland’s .ie was decided upon in 1988 before the introduction of the internet. .ie is used by many Irish businesses, but also government departments as in gov.ie/en/.

  1. sTLDs – Sponsored

Sponsored TLDs are often preferred by specific organizations. These may include .app which is favored by software developers. The TLD .gov is popular amongst the world’s governments.

  1. .arpa – Infrastructure

The .arpa was the first TLD to be established in the early days of the world wide web. It takes its name from the American Military Research Organization known as DARPA. It’s not in general use as it’s reserved for infrastructural domains including Reverse Domain Name Systems. Other reserved TLDs include .example which is usually restricted to companies involved in work such as computer demonstrations.

Why Do We Need Different TLDs?

Alternative TLDs have evolved to help categorize the incredible number of websites that have appeared. They help search engines gain information on each website whenever anyone searches. Choosing a suitable TLD for your business or organization can help your website stand out.

For example, there are approximately 1,200 registered gTLDs, providing plenty of opportunities to belong to a niche category. These could include the relatively new .motorcycle. Many world-famous brands now use exclusive TLDs. For instance, Twitter uses t.co, while Apple has itun.es to define some of its products.

What Are Off-Label TLDs?

In recent years, the internet has been inundated with off-label TLDs. These are similar to country codes, but unlike .ny which is exclusively used in New York, they can be used in any location. One of the prime examples is .tk from Tokelau, a small group of islands in the Pacific Ocean. Tokelau’s population is less than two million, but in TLD terms, it’s one of the largest territories in the world. For many years, Tokelau’s economy seriously struggled through a lack of resources. However, the introduction of the .tk top-level domain has transformed the islands. By offering it to subscribers for free, Tokelau has created one-sixth of its entire Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Its new wealth has improved facilities and infrastructure. Residents even benefit from free broadband services.

Which TLDs Do Search Engines Prefer?

It doesn’t matter which TLD you choose. Search engines such as Google regard all TLDs as equal. However, you might gain a significant advantage if your TLD is more representative of your website content. For instance, choosing .edu is ideal if you offer educational courses. A descriptive TLD helps search engines gain more information about your business as they search through categories.

Is SEO Improved by Your TLD?

According to Oberlo, there are 40,000 searches undertaken every second, resulting in 3.5 billion in a day. Such statistics present enormous competition in achieving first-page ranking for your website. An appropriate, descriptive TLD on its own cannot guarantee top placement, but it can help when combined with effective SEO.


A top-level domain can be a great asset in helping your website rank highly with search engines. Think carefully about which TLD to choose. A less common form can help place your website in a niche where it’s easier to categorize. This in turn may increase its visibility when potential customers search. Although .com is still the most popular, does it say enough about your website? With a little imagination and some effective SEO, a well-chosen TLD can help your website rank much higher.