Domain extension guide: What you need to know before you pick a domain name

A reflection of your brand

Whether it’s for a business or blog, or you just want your own slice of the internet, your domain is your digital address online. If your domain is your address, your domain extension is like your postal code in that it gives your website visitors a little more information about you.

In the beginning of the internet age, domain extensions were extremely limited. As Make Use Of tells it, “In 1984, the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) established the first six domain extensions: .com.edu, .gov.mil.org and .net. Shortly after, the first two-character country code domain extensions (like .uk and .us) were established. In 1988, .int was also introduced.”

Fast forward to today, and your domain and your domain extensions can be just as unique, and utterly fantastic, as you are. How unique? Let’s put it this way, there are more than 1,000 top-level domains for internet addresses online.

Your guide to domain extensions

We’re going to take a deep dive into domain extensions in this article. Here’s what we’re going to cover:

  • What is a domain extension?
  • How can domain extensions help with business branding?
  • Can domain extensions improve SEO?
  • What are top-level domains?
  • What is a gTLD?
  • Understand the options for naming and branding your business with domain extensions.
  • Using domain extensions for creative marketing and customer engagement.
  • Using geographic domain extensions to connect with local customers.
  • Using industry-specific domain extensions to show what you offer at glance.
  • Conclusion and next steps.

In this post we’ll cover what domain extensions are, what you need to know before you commit to one, how your choice can help you with branding, and so much more. Let’s get started, shall we?

What is a domain extension?

In case we’re speaking Greek to you, let’s explain what domain extensions are.

A domain extension is the combination of characters following the period in a web address.

For example, in GoDaddy.com, the .com is the domain extension of the GoDaddy domain name. The five most common domain extensions are .com.net.org.co and .us.

How can domain extensions help with business branding?

Consider for a moment the time and research you put into your last car purchase. Just like you wouldn’t blindly buy a vehicle, you also shouldn’t fly blind when buying the pieces that make up your online presence.

After all, much like people will make assumptions about a person by the car they drive, your public will judge you by both your domain and your domain extension — so you must choose wisely.

If they see a .org attached for example, they might think it is a community driven or nonprofit website. If the domain ends with .edu, well, that tells the visitor it’s most likely an educational website, or associated in some way with a school or academy.

The domain extension you choose should reflect what your brand stands for.

We’re going to talk a lot more about specific domain extensions for specific industries further along in this article.

Can domain extensions improve SEO?

The short answer? Not quite yet.

However, as the .coms continue to flood the market, the newer and more unique domain extensions could rise to the top at some point in terms of search engine preference. This could happen because people like their brevity and will tell search engines they prefer domains with shorter domain extensions by way of clicking.

After all, domain extensions are a faster indication of what a domain offers, which can help a time-deprived user when they do a quick scan of results in a search.

Where domain extensions really come in handy for businesses, however, is in website visitation and conversion.

When a business has an easy-to-remember domain and domain extension, it’s more likely that people will visit it.

And, if they are searching for something specific online like diamonds, for example, a jewelry company with a domain name such as yourjewelrystore.diamonds might get more visitors than a business with a domain name like yourjewelrystore.com simply because of the specificity of their domain extension.

domain extension woman sitting with laptop

What is a TLD?

Spoiler alert: It’s the same thing as the domain extension.

The top-level domain, or TLD, is the last section of a domain name — the part to the right of the dot. In the domain name, example.com, the .com is the TLD (aka domain extension). The TLD is intended to communicate the purpose or location of a website.

There are several types of TLDs, but the three most common are gTLD, ccTLD and sTLD.

Country-code top-level domain (ccTLD)

Country-code top-level domains (ccTLDs) are intended to be specific to countries, sovereign states and territories.

Many of these domain extensions have strict rules that prohibit just anyone from being able to register them.

One such restriction for some ccTLDs is that you are a resident of the country, territory or sovereign state you’re registering for. Codes like .us and .mx require you live or be located in these countries to register a domain with these extensions.

Exceptions include .co for Colombia and .ly (looking at you bit.ly) for Libya — anyone can register these ccTLDs. Similarly, .fm — the domain extension for Micronesia — is being unofficially used by FM radio stations, podcasts and related broadcasting businesses.

Sponsored top-level domain (sTLD)

Sponsored top-level domains (sTLDs) have a sponsor that represents a specific community that is served by the domain. Think .gov for government sites, .post for postal services, and .mil for military websites. Like ccTLDs, these domain extensions have very strict rules for ownership.

The third type of TLD, generic top-level domains (gTLDs), perhaps hold the most branding potential for business owners.

What is a gTLD?

Generic top-level domains, aka gTLDs, are domain extensions that aren’t tied to country codes or regions, do not require a representative, and are not always restricted in terms of who can own them. (Some geographic domain extensions do require registrants to live and/or do business in the area represented by the geographic gTLD — more on that later.)

gTLD examples

Some examples of generic top-level domains include:

  • .loan: How perfect would this be for a bank or loan company?
  • .club: Imagine your loyalty program or membership site with this fun extension!
  • .work: This could be the perfect domain extension for an online job board, for example.
  • .stream or .live: Does your business do live streams or live broadcasts of any kind? This could be just the right gTLD for you.
  • .blog: Where my bloggers at?
  • .guru: You’re already called a marketing guru or an internet guru or whatever type of guru, why not make it official?

These descriptive new domain extensions — such as .lawyer.careers and .tips, just to name a few more — give you a new opportunity to register domains that perfectly represent what you and your business are all about.

With all the new generic top-level domains now available, the online branding possibilities are endless!

desk papers laptop and mug

Understand the options for naming and branding your business with domain extensions

As of 2019, there are now more than 1,000 domain extensions available. If you’re trying to find the right name and domain for your business, this could be good news for you. On the other hand, maybe all these options are starting to feel a little overwhelming.

Not being limited to a more traditional TLD like .com (although that’s still the most popular and recognizable domain extension) means you can get more specific than ever before.

We’ve addressed a few domain extensions above, but there are also others that might specifically intrigue business owners — including .app.shop.menu.jewelry and even .pizza.

For instance, if you have a pizza shop named Dubai’s Pizza, you might try to register Dubaipizza.com. This is a short, representative domain name. Alas! It’s not available (Remember, the .com domain has been around awhile so many short .coms have already been snagged). Check out a few of your other options:

domain extension duabi pizza

Here’s another example: Before gTLDs, you might have resorted to a cumbersome domain name like PhoenixBikeShopOnline.com. Now, you can shorten that name to PhoenixBike.shop. Awesome, right?!

“These new gTLds are really hot,” said actor Oleg Taktarov, star of 15 MinutesRollerball and Predators. “They are fantastic for branding yourself or your business. People breaking into the [entertainment] business can easily market themselves with a .actor domain for their website and show the world that they are in the trade.”

Should you purchase a domain with one of these newer domain extensions to be yourprimary website address? How about to be an alternate domain name or to protect your turf? Let’s take the considerations one-by-one:

Branding and naming

As we mentioned earlier, taking one of these new domain extensions for your web address is more descriptive, and explains what you do in a simple and easy way. On the other hand, .com is so ingrained in our psyche that customers might not remember a web address that doesn’t end with a .com.

But, as more and more of these new extensions become available, we’ll all become more accustomed to alternate addresses.

A lot of them might become even easier for us to remember. Looking for a pizza for dinner tonight? Go to a .pizza web address.

A related question: If the .com you want isn’t available, should you grab a different domain extension or change the name of your business online?

Our vote goes to the new domain extension.

It’s better to have a domain name that truly represents who you are and what you do.

The bottom line: For now, a .com might still be the best way to go, if it’s available. But, if it’s not, don’t hesitate to get a new extension. Even if you already have a .com address, you might want to consider a new extension as an alternate, or vanity, web address and redirect visitors to whichever domain you prefer.

Protecting your brand

For those of you who already have a .com address, you might be wondering if you should scoop up your name with additional domain extensions so that you can protect your brand. After all, if you are Dubaipizza.com, you might want to register Dubai.pizza rather than letting someone else take it.

Should you do it? Sure, you can do this, but don’t go crazy.

After all, unless you’re in the business of buying and selling domain names, owning too many domains can get pretty expensive year over year.

You really only need the addresses that are truly relevant to your business.

Protect your brand by purchasing your name with a new extension or two (maybe even three or four), but there’s no need to go overboard. You probably only need a couple of truly relevant ones.

Using domain extensions for creative marketing and customer engagement

If you haven’t guessed by now, domain extensions hold value for creative marketing campaigns and increased customer engagement. Strategically place them within your existing website, and they instantly become a valuable shortcut and marketable URL to drive visitors deeper into your primary website.

Domain extensions + brand marketing = creative genius!

Let’s look at some of the ways you can use domain extensions to create multiple landing points for your target customers, increase customer engagement, and support your marketing goals.

Loyalty programs

If you’re a marketer or small business owner, you can use the new domain extensions to brand loyalty programs.

Let’s say your business is Fresh Brew Coffee, a local coffee shop, and you have just launched a customer loyalty program. You register a .club domain name — like freshbrewcoffee.club— and link it to your existing website. You could also create loyalty cards with this easy-to-remember domain listed on them.

Building buzz

Say you want to create some buzz around a new product that you are launching. Your marketing campaign could include a domain and a site for the product using the new .buzz extension — yourproductname.buzz.

Promote a sale

Does your business participate in Black Friday sales? If so, create a domain such as yourstorename.blackfriday or set up a custom domain for any big sale, such as yoursalename.sale.

Feature a contest

Offering a contest that you want to build excitement around? Create a domain such as yourcontestname.win using the .win domain extension. You can use the easy-to-recall URL to promote the contest in your social media networks and other marketing channels.

Collaborate on an event

Does your business participate in any collaborative events like “shop local” with other local businesses? If so, create a .events domain and website for the collaboration.

Work with your collaborators to promote the custom URL, such as youreventname.events, to drive traffic to an attached website that includes event details and a list of participating businesses with links back to their websites.

Make it your primary domain

Using a domain with one of the new domain extensions as your primary website address can be a great marketing move for your business — especially if the extension aligns with your product or service (which it should!).

There are so many domain extensions it’s still easy to get a short and memorable domain name that is truly representative of your business.

confetti events website
Events website business Confetti uses confetti.events as its primary domain.

Domain extensions and digital ads

We’ve established that domain extensions likely don’t impact SEO yet — but they could help with ad spend.

In an article for Search Engine Journal, SEO expert Bill Hartzer recommended considering using keyword-rich generic top-level domain names for Google AdWords campaigns.

He based his recommendation on positive outcomes from an AdWords test campaign that used the same keywords, ad copy and landing pages to send traffic to a .com domain and, at the same time, .diamonds domain. As he explains:

“At first, when we first ran the ads, we found that we got more impressions on the .DIAMONDS ads, and the .DIAMONDS clicks were cheaper. The clicks on the .COM ads were more expensive, but ultimately the .COM clicks converted better. Eight months later, however, we ran the same ads again, and found that the .DIAMONDS clicks were still cheaper than using a .COM domain name. But, it turned out that the .DIAMONDS clicks were converting better than they had before.

I’m now recommending that if you’re running Google AdWords ads, consider using a keyword rich new gTLD domain name. You should, of course, do your own testing, but you may end up paying less for clicks and getting more conversions.”

While it is still too soon to know exactly how the newer domain extensions will perform in search engine results pages from a branding standpoint in the future, having multiple domains using the newer extensions makes good sense. And, you might get an SEO boost eventually … so why not?

Using geographic and industry-specific domain extensions to connect with customers

Another big advantage of the available generic top-level domains is that you can use them geographically if you are a local business.

Geographic and industry-specific domain extensions can connect you with your ideal customers.

With extensions specific to geographic areas including cities, countries and continents you can make it easy for local customers to find your products and services (i.e. your business) online.

Use industry-specific domain extensions to show what you offer at a glance

We’ve shared a lot of domain extension examples in this article so far, but now we’re going to get even more specific — industry specific, that is. Take a look at our examples below for the following industries:

  • Hospitality / Food and beverage
  • Travel
  • Schools
  • Construction
  • Media and news coverage
  • Clubs

We’re betting that after you read through them, you’ll be inspired to find ways to use domain extensions to your marketing advantage whether you’re in one of these industries or not.

Hospitality domains fit for foodies

Whether you’re a caterer or chef, own a coffee shop or restaurant, or just love dishing about great eats, the new batch of food-related domains can heat up your business online.

A website name that ends with one of the new food domains — including .catering.coffee.kitchen.menu.pizza.recipes and .restaurant — makes your edible offerings obvious at a glance.

It’ll be faster and easier for people searching for food and beverage products and services online to identify your business.

restaurant burger waiter tray

Want to showcase your restaurant’s special menu for the winter season? Try a website name like SteakZoneWinter.menu. Want your customers to know you have the hottest wings and Monday night football on every screen? Maybe the odds for WingsSports.kitchen are in your favor. Like to blog about 20 different ways to make deviled eggs? Register a name such as PerfectEgg.recipes.

These domain extensions are so fresh that you’ve got a perfect opportunity to secure a name that’s just right for your business. And that’s yummy.

Travel sites with .vacations domain extension take off

Help your travel services business jump to the head of the line — online — with a website address ending in the new .vacations domain.

.vacations domain tells your visitors exactly what your site is about.

Imagine searching online for travel services and coming across one of these fun names:

  • romantic.vacations
  • getaway.vacations
  • tropical.vacations
  • relaxing.vacations
  • affordable.vacations
  • luxurious.vacations
  • cruise.vacations
  • fishing.vacations

A domain name like paradise.vacations is precise. It can’t be mistaken for a real estate site promoting a paradisiacal home. And your customers can be confident they won’t find themselves on a website about paradise in the afterlife.

The .school domain puts a whole new spin on learning

Schools and training centers now have .school.academy.degree  and more education-related domain extensions to help them shine online.

Whether you run an elite private academy or an apprentice program for electricians, a .school domain name will set you apart from all the others vying for students online.

And because part of your domain name appears after the dot, your web address might actually be shorter than it would be with another domain — always a good thing.

Build your business with a .construction domain name

Planning and building is in your blood … How great is it that there’s a domain extension that speaks to your customers, telling them exactly what you do in a quick glance?

The .construction domain extension does all the talking, letting you focus on building an awesome business offline.

Instead of registering a clunky domain like AwesomeNameConstruction.com, you can register AwesomeName.construction — shorter, sweeter, scannable and downright awesome.

Whether you’re a building inspector, carpenter, architect, general contractor or anyone else in the building trade, a .construction domain name will make your business stand out like a beautiful skyscraper amongst one-story flats.

Breaking .news to drive your business online

Whether you’re an investigative journalist, a specialty blogger, and advice columnist hoping to sell your work into syndication, or even an everyday entrepreneur with a news section on your website, the .news domain name can help you build and grow your business online.

Perhaps you’re looking to share the news of your biz or blog via live streaming. With the new .live domain extension, it’s never been easier to show the world at a glance that you’re streaming fresh, valuable content.

Join the .club

The online world got a little more exclusive by helping to identify groups — formed around shared passions and interests — with the .club domain extension.

Clubs are for everyone, but this domain extension is especially perfect for:

  • Groups and associations
  • Retail loyalty and affinity programs
  • Online networking groups (e.g. Facebook and LinkedIn)
  • Sports and entertainment clubs or teams
  • Consumers with special interests or hobbies

Now, groups such as golf, health, yacht, tennis, chess, book, social and country clubs can make a grand entrance without needing to introduce themselves — the domain does all the work!

Maybe your current domain name is something like, TheBestBookClub.com. It has a ring to it, but what if you could use TheBestBook.club? Instantly, you’ve added marketing value to your group — making your .club even more official!

By the way, those online networking groups we mentioned? If you own a .club domain, you can redirect your domain to your groups on them. Imagine being able to tell someone to join your community at yourbusiness.club instead of finding you at facebook.com/longstringofnumbersandletters.

Don’t see your industry here? That doesn’t mean there isn’t a domain extension that’s perfect for you. GoDaddy’s domain name search tool makes it a snap to find industry-specific domain extensions.

Conclusion and next steps

All in all, domain extensions really are an extension of you and your brand.

We’ve covered a lot in this monster of a post. But it all boils down to one simple question — How will you use the domain extensions available to you?

Domain extensions offer many opportunities to creatively market your business. Their usage is virtually limitless.

If you’re a creative business owner or marketer, or a blogger, the wide variety of domain extensions offer an excellent opportunity for business growth as well as innovative customer engagement.

Next steps

So, what’s next?

  1. Choose the perfect domain name.
  2. Once you decide on a domain name, register it with GoDaddy.
  3. Set up a professional email address using your domain name.
  4. Attach a website to your domain name.

This article includes content originally published on the GoDaddy blog by the following authors: Laura Messerschmitt, Isaac Irvine, Cody Landefeld, Genevieve Tuenge, RuthAnn HogueMaxym Martineau, Andrea Mosher, Andrea Rowland, Nick Fuller and Jennifer Dunn.

Image by: Tim Gouw via Unsplash.