What does domain extension mean?
Definition: A top-level domain (TLD), also known as a domain extension is the part after the domain name in a website address. For example, .com, .net, .org, .edu etc.
The Domain Name System manages TLDs. It controls how domain names are converted into Internet Protocol (IP) addresses.
What are the most common domain extensions?
The most popular domain extension is .com. This is mainly because it is the most well-known to the general public. Most fortune 500 websites use the .com TLD.
Although.com covers the vast majority of websites on the Internet, some site owners use .net or.org TLDs. However, .net TLDs were originally intended for network websites whereas .org TLDs are meant for non-profits.
Even though all three options are available for public registration, there is no consensus on what is acceptable. With that said, many non-profit organizations insist on using the.org domain extension.
The following are other common TLD examples:
.co TLDs were originally intended for Colombian websites, yet they have become popular alternatives to .com. With that said, not all TLDs are suitable for business use. For example, the .gov TLDs and .mil TLDs are only available for government use and cannot be registered for public purposes. This is also the case with .edu extensions – only registered educational institutions can use them.
What about the other parts of the domain name?
A domain name can be broken down into three parts: Subdomain, Second-Level Domain and Top-Level Domain. It can also be broken down further, so let’s take another look.
A subdomain is a domain that is part of a larger domain in the Domain Name System hierarchy. Subdomains can be used to make a unique Web address that is easy to remember for specific content.
For example, you could use a subdomain to make it easier for users to access your company’s support portal e.g support.example.com. The subdomain in this example is support.example. However, the main domain is still example.com. A subdomain may also be referred to as a “child domain”.
Top-Level Domain for Country Codes, or ccTLD
A Country-Code Top Level Domain (ccTLD) refers to domain extensions that are country- or region-specific. Examples include .co.uk or .uk (United Kingdom), .de (Germany) or .com.au (Australia). If your business does not serve an international audience, it’s usually best to use the ccTLD domain for your country.
Sponsored Top-Level Domain or sTLD
At the beginning of this article, we touched on some sponsored top-level domain extensions meanings. A Sponsored Top Level Domain (sTLD), however, is only allowed to be used by niches. The most well-known are .gov, and .edu.
Factors to consider when choosing a domain extension
Your website’s purpose and niche
This is the most important thing you should consider. That way, you can choose a domain extension that’s relevant to your business and the location of your audience.
Do not forget to include local TLDs
You might consider targeting the exact area you live in. A geo-specific domain extension can help rank for certain countries. People may be inclined to choose a local domain if buying local is important to them.
While some domain extensions are more expensive than others, it is possible to make a mistake if you only consider the price. You can come across scammers, spammers, and other less reliable sources when searching for the perfect domain. That’s why it’s best to always register your domains with trusted domain name registrars.
Rankings and SEO are not affected by less-used TLDs
People often believe that unpopular TLDs are not as good for SEO as .com etc. This is mostly untrue. Google has officially stated that it does not give any special treatment TLDs. The same goes for using search keywords in the domain name.
The exception to this rule is country-code TLDs. Google does use the country code extension to target websites for users searching in the same country as the ccTLD.
However, some people may be suspicious of clicking on a website that uses an unpopular domain name extension. For example .xxx is typically used on adult sites. Although you could put your business’s website on a .xxx domain, your visitors may think twice before clicking on it!