Top Level Domains (commonly referred to as TLDs) such as .com and .co.uk have been ‘part of the furniture’ of the internet for pretty much as long as there has been an internet. But in recent times new TLDs such as .design and .marketing have started to make a splash. The first of these became available in 2013, with new ones being released all the time. At last count there where now 1535 Top Level Domains.
These new Top Level Domains come in all sorts of flavours, there’s the controversial ‘.sucks’, the odd ‘.horse’ as well as the slightly more practical ‘.design’ and ‘.online’. In other cases brands have registered their own, which is the case with ‘.google’. The process that’s led to the creation of these new TLDs is both political and technical and if you’re so inclined it’s a story which has been well documented elsewhere. What we’re interested in, is exploring in practical terms what the new TLDs mean for businesses and their websites.
We’ve seen a lot of companies start to buy up domains with these new extensions, and we can understand why, there are advantages to them. But what are they? And do they apply to your business? Probably the biggest reason around the rush to buy these new domains is the allure of the being ‘first’. In the history of the internet being in first has shown to have huge advantages. Sometimes getting the right domain name has made a business, but if you don’t get it first you don’t get it at all. Being among the first also has the added benefit of standing out from the crowd, if you see a website with an extension you’ve never seen there’s a good chance it’ll stick in your memory.
While being first and standing out are undeniable affects, they will only last so long, eventually everyone else will catch up. More long lasting reasons to consider going with one of the new TLDs is the vast array of options it gives you to be creative with your domain name and make sure it properly represents you and your company. If you start a design blog, you might have previously bought ‘acme-design-blog.com’ for example but now ‘acme-design.blog’ is a possibility.
But what about the downsides? There are plenty for businesses to consider. Customers are for the foreseeable future likely to see these new domain names as just that, ‘new’. Even if your business is new that may not be the image you want to project. It’s also worth considering that the public opinion of these extensions is still developing, and there is unfortunately always the chance one of them gets heavily associated with spam which is what happened with .info. The perception of .co.uk and .com is unlikely to change in the near future. They are still the two extensions most customers expect domains to use, and many if they can remember your company name but not your domain might guess at company-name.com or .co.uk.
There is also the cost to weigh up, with the prices of these new types of domains varying wildly with most costing somewhere between £20 and £100, but the most expensive cost thousands of pounds per year to register.
For established businesses, it’s also important to factor in the amount of recognition your existing domain has built up in the real world, as well as the SEO (Search Engine Optimization) you’ve worked to establish. A well planned out migration to a new domain can bring a lot of that SEO along, but it can never be 100% so it’s worth thinking about if that’s a reasonable trade off. Barclays bank thought so as they moved their main domain from Barclays.com to home.barclays. Other businesses are moving in the hope the lost SEO can be recouped by potential benefits of a relevant keyword in the extension, but it should be noted Google denies any such benefit and the SEO community is divided on those merits.
Ultimately if one of the new TLDs is right for your business is a decision only you can make, but after much research and discussion within the office we’ve come to some general rules of thumb:-
- Don’t purchase a new TLD domain expecting it to be an SEO shortcut, the only ‘shortcut’ is time spent producing quality and useful content.
- For existing businesses it isn’t worth moving, the established recognition and SEO are far more valuable than the slim possibility of standing out from the crowd for a short period of time.
- For new businesses it is worth considering if a .design or .store extension helps to best represent your new business to customers and clients. But if you’re unsure, go for a .co.uk or a .com.