Guide to Domain Extensions
Domain extensions are an essential part of your website but with so many options, how do you know which one is right for you?
Choosing the domain name for your website is one of the biggest decisions you’ll make when building the online presence for your business.
Making sure you opt for the right domain extension to sit alongside that domain name is crucial and depending on the needs of your website, you’ll have various options to choose from.
Whilst many websites naturally opt for the popular .com domain extension, that may not necessarily be the right choice for you.
The web experts at KIJO have vast experience in advising clients on the right domain extensions for their websites, which is why the team have put their heads together to create this guide on everything you need to know about domain extensions.
What is a Domain Extension?
The purpose of a domain name is to allow users to find and visit websites without having to remember and input bulky IP addresses.
Domain extensions are the combination of characters that come after the domain name in a URL, for example, .com, .co.uk or .org.
When it comes to selecting a domain extension for your website, it’s important to think carefully about the purpose of your website and how you want it to be presented to your audience.
Think about it, when building your business and making important decisions you’ve surely taken the time to research and think carefully about your choices right? Selecting the domain extension for your URL should be no different.
We’ll take you through the most popular domain extensions a little later in the article but for now, some examples of choosing the right domain extension for your business are:
- .org is often used for community-based websites
- .edu is often used for education-based websites
- .co.uk is used for websites based and operating in the UK.
History of Domain Extensions
Domains have been around from as far back as 1983 but they weren’t available for public registration (through the Domain Name System) until 1986.
The DNS was originally just a small number of domain extensions but as the internet has grown, so too has the DNS.
Now the system includes hundreds of top-level domains (TLDs) and domain extensions after new rules allowed individuals and companies to create their own.
What started as a way to help users remember the names of the websites they wanted to visit are now an essential part of hosting a website and browsing the web.
Types of Domain Extensions
With such an array of different domain extensions now available, it’s important to understand that not all domain extensions are equal and the purpose of your website will have a large impact on the domain extension you need.
Generic Domain Extensions
The most popular type of domain extension, generic domain extensions (gTLD), are a type of top-level domain (aka the last part of your domain name).
Generic domain extensions always include at least three letters following the dot and include some of the most common domain extensions such as .com, .net and .org.
Anyone can use a generic domain extension for their URL.
Restricted Domain Extensions
Restricted domain extensions are generic top level domains that have specific requirements for those using them.
Examples of restricted domain extensions include .gov which can only be used by government entities and .jobs which is only available to websites that feature job listings.
Country Code Domain Extensions
Country code domain extensions (ccTLDs) are exactly what they sound like, domain extensions reserved for use in specific countries.
For example, the country code domain extension for the UK is .uk whilst in Thailand, it’s .th.
Whilst some country code domain extensions are limited to use by websites in that country, most can actually be used by registrants from anywhere in the world.
Special-use Domain Extensions
Special-use domain extensions are limited to specific use cases and are maintained by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) which prevents them from being publicly registered through the DNS.
Domain extensions such as .test and .local fall into this category.
The Most Popular Domain Extensions
Types of Domain Extensions
When it comes to popular domain extensions, .com is always going to come out on top. Other generic top level domains such as .net and .org are also always high up in the rankings. All three of these have been around since 1985.
We’ve already mentioned other popular, restricted domain extensions such as .edu and .gov which can only be used for certain purposes.
The rest of the most popular domain extensions are usually country code domain extensions. It makes sense for countries with large populations such as Russia (.ru) and China (.cn) to have a high volume of country code domain extensions registered.
Other popular country codes are countries that have high levels of technological advances such as Germany (.de) and the UK (.uk).
Whilst many of us are familiar with .co.uk as a UK domain extension, in 2014 the shorter version, .uk, was launched.
The use of the .uk domain extension was restricted to websites that already had a .co.uk extension or a restricted UK domain extension (eg. gov.uk).
Businesses had to actively claim the .uk version of their domain and a UK address is required to register a .uk extension in a bid to stop cybersquatting and URL hijacking.
Other popular domain extensions that you can choose from include:
- .org – useful for non-profit organisations.
- .io – popular with tech-focused websites and mobile and computer app websites.
- .info – ideal for information-centric websites.
- .biz – often used to indicate online businesses.
Statistics Taken from W3Techs – Results May Differ at Time of Checking
New Top Level Domains
In order to keep expanding the DNS and ensure there are plenty of domains and domain extensions to go around as the internet keeps growing, new domain extensions are sometimes added.
Whilst new top level domain extensions are not as established as the more popular options, they do give plenty of scope for building websites.
One such new domain that has proved particularly popular is .icu. One reason for this is the marketing opportunities that the play on words offers (I See You) as well as the fact that this extension is a considerably cheaper alternative.
Other new top level domains include .site, .online, .shop, .me and .vip.
You can also now access geographical domains such as .london that are separate from country code domain extensions as they’re administered differently but are particularly ideal for location-centric websites.
Choosing the Best Domain Extension
With so many domain extension options to choose from, it can be overwhelming to work out exactly which one is right for you. When making your decision there are some key things to consider such as:
Your website is a major reflection of your brand and you should think of it as your online shop front.
Your domain name and extension is going to be one of the key ways people find your website as well as perceive it.
Think about the websites you personally visit. What do their domain extensions look like? Are they pleasing to the eye? Do they look trustworthy? Is it easy to remember? We’re guessing the answer to all of these questions is yes.
When building your brand you want your target audience to trust you and your reputation, your domain name is no different.
The chances are, users are going to feel more confident visiting the URL yourname.co.uk or yourname.com than they are landing on yourname.icu. Why? Because .co.uk and .com domain extensions are much more common and well known.
That doesn’t mean you can’t opt for another domain extension but if building a brand and trust is top of your priority list then opting for a generic domain extension may be the right choice for you.
Search Engine Optimisation
Google has officially stated that having a lesser known domain extension such as .xyz won’t negatively impact your SEO.
That being said, the domain extension you choose may end up having an indirect impact on the success of your SEO strategy.
It all comes back to the trust element we mentioned before. If two websites appear in search results, one with the URL domain.xyz and the other with the URL domain.com there’s a high chance that users will opt for the .com website, even if it’s lower down the results page.
The fact is that alternative and new domain extensions just don’t have the trust factor that generic ones do.
If fewer people are selecting your website from search results then Google will begin ranking it lower than more popular sites, no matter how well you have optimised your website for SEO purposes.
The purpose of your website is another key factor to consider when deciding which domain extension to use.
As we’ve already mentioned, some domain extensions can only be used for websites with specific purposes (restricted domain extensions).
If your website falls into one of these restricted categories though, using a restricted domain extension is a great way of clearly identifying what your website is about.
If you’re running an online business then .biz or .co are popular choices whilst informal tutorial websites can utilise .info to make sure users know the purpose of the website before they’ve even paid a visit.
The location of your business can also play a big role in the domain extension you choose, especially if the target market for your business is also located in that area.
Country code domain extensions are especially useful if your target market is likely to be searching for location-specific services.
For example, if you offer music tuition and your website is yourname.org you’re less likely to appear in search results for people searching “music tuition Birmingham” than if your domain extension was .co.uk.
If your business offers location-specific services or information then country code domain extensions are a great way of showcasing this and ensuring you’re attracting relevant traffic to your site.
Old Vs. New Domains
Thanks to the increase in extensions added to the DNS in recent years, domain extensions are now categorised into old and new domains.
Old domains cover the more well-known, generic domain extensions that have been around for some time such as .com and .co.uk whilst new domains refer to those that have arrived after the initial list of domain extensions was made e.g. .info and .movie.
There are advantages to using both old and new domain extensions. New domains are often much more specific than old domain extensions which can be a great way of showcasing exactly what your website is about whilst old domain extensions are often more trusted.
The price for different domain extensions can vary considerably.
How much a domain extension costs depends on various factors including how “trendy” or popular the extension currently is, the type of business or individual that typically buys the extension and how new the extension is.
For example, .tech domain extensions tend to be more expensive than .com options because they are normally snapped up quickly by tech companies. Similarly, .inc is one of the priciest domain extensions as it’s usually bought and used by incorporated companies.
Generic domains such as .com, .net or .org usually tend to be cheaper options but the cost will be unique to each individual domain.
So, Which Domain Extension is Best?
Generally speaking, .com is still the reigning champion amongst domain extensions. It’s well known, has decades of use and trust under its belt and is easy for users to remember.
That doesn’t mean that other domain extensions should be ignored though. As we’ve discussed throughout this guide, different domain extensions have different purposes and which domain extension is right for you will be unique to your business.
The most important thing is for your domain extension to match your business branding, goals, purpose and mission. If you run an ecommerce store but have a .info domain extension all you’re going to do is confuse users and impact your visitor numbers.
The KIJO team knows that getting to grips with domain extensions can be tricky, which is why they’ve guided countless clients through the process of finding the right domain extension for their business needs.
Posted on by Jake Bostock