Which top-level domain is right for you?

Anyone launching a website has a lot of choices when it comes to selecting a top-level domain (TLD). This little extension that comes at the end of your domain name is more important than many realize. It creates the very first impression of your brand and sets the expectations of your website visitors.

Currently, over 1,500 TLDs are available. So, how do you know which one is right for you?

Quality is key and a crucial factor in making the right choice. In this article, we will show you how to spot a quality TLD, why it’s so important to choose the right one, and what you should consider when deciding on your TLD. But first, let’s do a quick recap of what’s out there.

What are your options?

TLDs have been in use since the 1980s when the original set of seven extensions was released (.com, .edu, .gov, .int, .mil, .net, and .org). 40 years later, we have a much larger variety in four general categories:

  • Classic generic TLDs: These were the first TLDs created in the early days of the internet. TLDs such as .com, .net, .org are still among the most commonly used.
  • New generic TLDs: In 2012, ICANN approved over 1,200 new gTLDs to relieve pressure from the classic gTLDs. That’s when extensions like .blog, .top, and .xyz were born.
  • Sponsored TLDs: These are strictly limited, only to be used by certain organizations, programs, and communities. Examples are .edu, .gov, and .mil.
  • Country-code TLDs: These are reserved for businesses and individuals in the respective countries, states, or territories. Around 250 ccTLDs are available, for instance, .de for Germany or .br for Brazil.

What determines the quality of a TLD?

Not all TLDs are created equal. While most TLDs are used by legitimate businesses, some are unfortunately being abused for the malicious practices of professional spammers and malware operators. This devalues the TLDs and turns away website visitors. To find the right TLD for you, we recommend that you first look into the quality of your chosen extension by considering the following:

Usage rates

A TLD with a high usage rate indicates that most domains with this extension are used by their owners as unique, active sites. This builds trust with your potential website visitors who are getting used to expecting a real website behind a TLD.

Renewal rates

A high renewal rate means that many domain owners extend the contract for their domain name. That is a clear sign that their websites are successful and thriving. And when other sites with this TLD are growing, so could yours.

Abuse rates

When many domains with a certain TLD are being used by spammers and malware operators to do harm, then the overall trust for this TLD deteriorates. You should avoid extensions with high abuse rates.

Why picking a quality TLD is crucial

Your domain name, together with your TLD, is your address on the internet. It creates the first impression of your brand and will immediately shape your audience’s perception of your business. When potential visitors see a certain TLD, they form expectations of your site. For instance, they will more likely expect to be directed to a blog when they click on a .blog domain than clicking on a generic .com address.

Choosing a quality TLD will immediately instill trust in your visitors that you have a legitimate site. It can also make your brand more memorable when the combination of the domain name and TLD is catchy and easy to remember. That’s why the decision for a TLD shouldn’t be made lightheartedly.

What about SEO?

A prevailing misconception is that .com domains have the best chances of topping search engine rankings. That is not true. Search engines such as Google treat all TLDs as equals. If you adopt common SEO best practices, every TLD can theoretically rank in the top position.

When it comes to local SEO, though, country-code TLDs have an advantage. For example, search engines make websites with an .au extension more visible for residents in Australia because they assume that’s where your target audience is located. On the flip side, this will give you less visibility in other regions.

You should also consider that some domain extensions won’t rank as well because search engines see them as a spam factor. Here’s a handy website where you can cross-check the TLDs that are on your short-list. The higher the percentage of bad domains with a TLD, the less likely you will rank well with this extension.

What to consider when deciding for a TLD

The quality of the TLD is undoubtedly a major factor, but there is more to deliberate. You should also think about your site’s purpose. Are you setting up a blog? Then .blog would be the obvious choice. Launching a non-profit organization? Most businesses of this kind use the .org extension. Look for a TLD that immediately explains what you do.

Also, consider your target audience and the location of your business. Do you mainly want to reach people in a particular country? Then, a country-code TLD might be best for you. You can get even more specific and pick a city TLD like .nyc or .berlin. If you have an international audience, then a generic TLD might be better.

What if my domain name is not available anymore?

Having your heart set on a certain domain name and TLD only to discover that it’s already taken can feel like the end of the world. We get it; it’s frustrating. But, there are always other options, like choosing a different TLD or slightly modifying your name. This is your opportunity to flex your creative muscles.

Which TLD will you choose?

If you are considering starting a blog, then we can wholeheartedly recommend securing a .blog TLD. Already over 196,000 .blog domains are registered today. Our new TLD has shown steady growth as well as high usage rates (60%) and renewal rates (72%). We see this as proof of the high quality and great value that bloggers receive from their .blog domains.

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