In 2023 more than 350 million domain names were registered by businesses and individuals. Registering a domain name is the first step in getting your company and brand on the web. A domain is your website’s name online and acts as an address that takes visitors to your business site. Let’s go into what domain extensions are and how to choose the right one for your website.
What is a Domain Extension?
Before you can create a business website, you’ll need to have a domain name. A domain name has two parts: a label or second-level domain (2LD) and an extension or top-level domain (TLD). For example, in the domain name northwestregisteredagent.com, “northwestregisteredagent” is the label, aka 2LD, and “.com” is the extension, aka TLD. A domain extension helps readers and computers know a website’s category or type. For example, the extension .biz indicates that the website is a commercial business, whereas .org is typically used for nonprofit organizations.
3 Types of Domain Extension
There are thousands of domain extensions out there to choose from. And did you know there are multiple types of domain extension? Specifically, there are three types of top level domain that businesses and organizations can use:
- Generic top-level domains (gTLDs): Generic top-level domains are extensions that aren’t restricted to specific industries or countries. gTLDs include the extensions .com, .net, and .co.
- Country-code top-level domains (ccTLDs): Country-code TLDs are extensions specific to countries or locations. ccTLD domains are great for targeting locals based in specific regions. You do not need to be based in those regions to use those extensions. ccTLDs include extensions like .ae for the United Arab Emirates and .uk for the United Kingdom.
- Sponsored top-level domains (sTLDs): Sponsored top-level domains are only used by specific agencies or institutions. For example, government agencies are the only ones who can use the extension “.gov.” Domain registrars within the industries oversee or sponsor these domains.
The most popular domain extensions for businesses in the United States are .com, .net, and .org, based on the data collected by DNIB.
5 Tips for Choosing a Domain Extension
As you brainstorm to find the right domain name for your business, you’ll also need to pick its extension. Here are some tips for choosing the best domain extension for your business.
1. When in doubt, use .com
In nearly every case, .com is going to be your best choice for your domain name extension. It is so common that many web users see it as more trustworthy than other extensions. However, due to its popularity, your chosen domain name with a .com extension may not be available or may be more expensive. So it’s a good idea to have some alternative names in mind.
2. Check for availability
You’ll want to check to see if your domain name is available by using a trusted domain checker, like the WHOIS directory. WHOIS is a directory of all domain names and their owners registered through accredited domain registrars. If your desired domain name is taken, change the extension! In a lot of cases, you can find your domain name available with a different extension. For example, if katespuppypalace.com isn’t available, there’s a chance that katespuppypalace.net is available.
3. Consider your brand
Your brand involves everything that sends a message about your business, from your company name to the slogans and tone you use in your communications. Your domain extension can help communicate your brand as well. For example, an Italian restaurant might consider using the extension .pizza. (Yes, that’s a real domain extension.)
4. Location location location
Country-code top level domains or ccTDLs are country or location specific. Business owners can use these domain extensions to target certain areas and let visitors know where they are located and what areas they serve. For example, there is a specific domain extension for businesses operating in Canada (.ca). You don’t have to use this extension for your Canadian business, but doing so may help other Canadians find your site.
5. Make it memorable
While .com is the most common and popular domain name extension, there are other extensions that entrepreneurs and start-ups tend to favor. Over recent years .co has slowly risen in popularity for newer companies that want to brand their company as something different and unique without losing the connection to .com. Many bloggers, authors, and other creatives also like to use the .me domain extension. Using a popular domain extension that isn’t .com allows your website to stand out while still seeming legitimate.
Ready to start your website? You can get a free domain name for a year when you hire Northwest to form your LLC or serve as your registered agent. Want more? Try a free 90-day trial of the Business Identity package and get a pre-built business website, business email, SSL security, and phone service.