There are two basic components within a website address. First, there’s the domain name, it’s what connects the website to a company or individual. It usually contains the name of the business, or speaks to what the business offers, or both. Then, there’s the domain name extension, it identifies what kind of website it is. There are over a thousand domain extensions although these are the most common:
The two most frequently used domain extensions (.com and .net) are used by individuals and businesses who are trying to expand their reach online. Having a website allows you to buy and sell products online, offer research into a specific topic, and to spread a captivating message. So with both .com and .net being so common, which domain extension should you use?
3 Factors to Consider When Choosing the Right Domain Extension
Whether you’re a for-profit business, a blogger, or a conspiracy theory debunker, the right domain extension sets the proper expectation for users accessing your site. Imagine trying to purchase shoes online and seeing that the domain extension is a .org. One might make the logical leap that purchasing these shoes is in some way benefiting a nonprofit (as most nonprofits and charities will use the extension .org).
While at first, this sounds great — even more reason to buy those shoes! — some might consider that a dishonest use of a domain extension. (Not that there are many requirements as to which TLD (or, top-level domain) businesses can use, but there are certain expectations and connotations for each one.)
To properly utilize the .com or .net domain extension, consider these three factors.
What is the Purpose of the Website
Are you selling a product? Are you offering information? Are you trying to save a species of animals? These are important questions because they strike at the heart of your business and determine which domain extension is appropriate. Here is a breakdown of the most common domain extensions:
- .com – Usually offers a product or service. “Com” is short for “Commercial.” Commercial businesses, for-profit companies, personal blogs, and non-personal blogs are all standard for owning a .com domain. That being said, because of its generality, almost any website is acceptable as a .com.
- .net – Stands for “Network,” and is generally associated with “umbrella” sites — sites that are home to a wide range of smaller websites. Network sites were initially created for services like internet providers, emailing services, and internet infrastructure.
If a business’s desired .com domain name is taken, .net can be considered an alternative. Other commonly used domain extensions have a more specific purpose:
- .org – Short for “Organization.” These sites are generally associated with nonprofits, charities, and other informational organizations that are trying to drive traffic not for commercial purposes. Other organizations who use .org are sports teams, religious groups, and community organizations.
- .edu – or “Education.” Schools, universities, and other educational sites will utilize the .edu domain extension for an air of authority in the education space.
- .gov – or “Government.” These sites are required to be part of the U.S. Government. Anything related to U.S. government programs or other departments must have a .gov domain extension.
How Common is Your Business Name
Imagine: A business offers standard products like sewing equipment and materials. The name of the company is something equally familiar like Incredible Sewing. Because “incredible” and “sewing” are two commonly used words, the chances that the appropriate domain is available for a .com domain extension is much less than for .net. (Although as of writing this, Incredible Sewing is available in the domain space.)
The reason for this is how frequently each domain extension is used. In 2018, upwards of 46% of all registered domains used the .com TLD while only 3.7% used .net. When trying to come up with the perfect web address, sometimes it feels like every one-word or two-word .com domain name is already taken. This is one reason why some individuals and businesses will choose to use a .net extension versus a .com.
(Note: It might be beneficial to check if your desired domain is available before moving forward with a project or company. Going to great lengths to plan in the beginning will save time and prevent you from having to remake those business cards due to an unavailable domain name! If you’re wondering how to search for your domain, check out Domain.com.)
Memorability: Com vs Net
Has this ever happened to you: An advertisement is playing, and you barely catch the tailwind of it? You type in the website address only to have it come up blank. Later, you find out you had put in .com when it was a .net, or some other, domain.
The fact is, the basic assumption about websites is that they all have a .com domain extension. This is because the second most common top-level domain is only used about 5% of the time (.org). By going with the tried and true .com, companies can ditch this confusion and not worry about decreased traffic.
If this seems absurd, consider this: Most cell phone keyboards now come with a “.com” button, though none come with .net, .org or any other domain extensions attached to it.
Other Considerations for Creating a Web Address
While both .com and .net are resourceful domains, there are other considerations to think about when creating a web address. Some of those center around:
- Traditional vs nontraditional domains
- Domain protection
- SEO: how each performs
Traditional vs Nontraditional Domains
For most businesses, straddling the traditional and nontraditional is part of the balancing act. While companies want to seem edgy and unique, unconventional ways can be viewed negatively by more traditional businesses and customers.
In the web domain space, there are now over a thousand domain extensions available to the consumer. All but a handful are looked at as “nontraditional.” So, while it might seem valuable to stand out, be sure to consider how it may be viewed professionally.
Back in 2012, ICANN decided to allow businesses to apply for unique domain extensions. This quickly rose the number of TLDs from its original 22. Some of the early applications for domain extensions involved words such as:
Some of these new TLDS offered immediate value to businesses and consumers who wanted a new and noteworthy domain. Others seemed more like gag websites (hence the stereotype of new TLDs being unprofessional). Either way, these new TLDs have exploded to a comprehensive list.
Now, if you’re a yoga company, you can use .yoga. Sell yachts? Make tech? Play tennis? Eat soy? These are all available as domain extensions. Which means not only can you create more unique web addresses, but you can also be more specific. If having a new TLD sounds perfect for your business, be sure to check through the full list to find one that fits your needs.
Depending on what you want to accomplish with your business website, it might be worth registering both .com and .net. In this way, you can protect yourself from competing companies taking a very similar domain. Otherwise, another company can ride off your success and potentially drive traffic away.
As companies grow, they become more susceptible to being confronted with these sorts of schemes. They are then forced to decide whether to buy out the competing website or to let them be. Needless to say, the larger the company, the more they’re going to have to pay.
What are other things you should look out for when it comes to people using similar domain names?
Typosquatting is when individuals purchase web domains based on common misspellings of words. From our last example of Incredible Sewing, they might take the web domain by spelling “incredible” as “incredibel.” By systematically using misspellings, these forms of leaching can drive substantial traffic away from the intended website. These typosquatters can then offer to be bought out, or they’ll just continue to steer traffic to other organizations that they own.
As of right now, the most viable option for protecting yourself is to purchase multiple domains. Although, this is becoming more difficult with each new TLD.
SEO: How Each Performs
Search engine optimization has to do with complex algorithms that determine how relevant your website is to a given search. In terms of which domain extension you should pick (between com vs net), there is no evidence that suggests one does better over another.
It can be noted, however, that having certain keywords within your web domain can improve your SEO ranking. Having “sewing” within your domain will make your site more relevant for keyword searches around sewing. It’s that straightforward.
Com: Pros and Cons
As an overview, let’s run through the benefits and pitfalls of using a .com domain extension:
- Pros – Using a “commercial” extension, companies and individuals can signify their intention. Whether that’s to sell a product or service or to promote your work, the .com does this in a matter that’s professional and can be trusted. Also, there’s no worrying over your web address being confused.
- Cons – Because nearly half of all websites are based on .com, finding the perfect domain name that isn’t already in use can be tough. It can be pricey to buy out an existing domain and time-consuming to find one available.
Net: Pros and Cons
Originally designed for any network organization like internet providers and email sites, .net sites have been rising in popularity as an alternative to .com.
- Pros – Many fewer .net website domains have been registered than .com domains. This means there’s a higher chance of getting your ideal web domain. Also, because of its original design, .net sites are often associated with having a community around them. This can promote a positive image.
- Cons – These websites will need to market harder to compete with a similar .com site. Automatically, people think that any website is a .com site, which means businesses can lose traffic due to confusion.
How to Create the Perfect Domain Name
Once you’ve decided whether you’re going with a .com or a .net domain extension, it’s then important to make sure it’s paired with the perfect domain name. The ideal address will do one of three things:
- State your business
- State what your business does
- Incite intrigue
The first two are preferred, while the third is more of a backup strategy. Because many .com and .net sites have already been taken, sometimes a roundabout domain will be the best solution.
A domain name should also have a few decisive characteristics. Try creating a web address that is some combination of:
The first step is always to check if the business name is available as a domain. If your business name has been taken, check to see how up-to-date the website is. If it’s not current and doesn’t look like it’s being used, it might be possible to purchase the domain name from whomever owns it.
Having the business name as the domain name is ideal because it’s the logical extension of that business. Starbucks has Starbucks.com. Apple has apple.com.
If the business name is unavailable, sometimes it helps to add a modifier word. If starbucks.com was already taken, the next logical domain would be starbuckscoffee.com. In the same way, Apple would be able to use appleelectronics.com. It’s not as short as only having the business name, but it is still clear, concise, and unmistakable.
Branding a Unique Term
Another idea for getting the perfect website domain is to coin a term that’s unique to your business. Then you can use that term within your brand’s website. By doing this, you not only have crafted a unique web identity, but it can also be concise and short.
When determining which domain extension is better, com vs net, always be sure to look inward first. Acknowledge the purpose of putting your content online. Whether it’s to market a brand, sell a product, or connect various smaller sites by theme, each domain extension has its proper setting.
By crafting the perfect domain name with the suitable domain extension, you can have a web address that is memorable, unique, and fitting for your business.
To find out more about the differences between new TLDs and gTLDs check out our domain blog today! There you’ll find other resources like How to Block an IP Address, How to Design a Website, and more.