Business leaders spend a lot of time debating what to name a company. Many feel that the right company name may make the difference between being known in every household or merely falling by the wayside. In the digital age, companies have even been known to change the name of their company because a specific domain name wasn’t available.
When it comes to domain names, specifically suffixes, there is usually one which reigns supreme — .com. According to Statista, 51.6% of websites around the world use a .com top-level domain name (TLD).
The popularity of the .com (dot-com) name can’t be understated. Still, given the emergence of other popular alternatives such as .co and .io, many may wonder, does the domain name matter, especially from a marketing perspective? To answer this question, we spoke to marketing experts to determine how much the domain name can affect a brand.
How Relevant Is Your Domain Suffix?
The dot-com bubble was significant when it occurred in the late 90s and early 2000s since the internet was new and digital marketing channels and search capabilities were only now being established. Companies were built on the strength of a URL alone. But that’s no longer the case.
According to Dave Shanley, serial entrepreneur and current founder of Portland, OR.-based, sales enablement tool, Content Camel, “the .com suffix is a nice to have at best and not a requirement for success for years now.”
If they can’t acquire a dot-com address immediately, companies may decide to wait instead. “Most companies follow the typical path of choosing a good, related suffix or name derivative, and then, as they become much more successful, they acquire the dot-com domain,” he added.
So when should you choose to worry about a domain name suffix? Many marketers are under the belief that having a dot-com suffix can yield better results when it comes to SEO purposes. After all, dot-com is the most recognized TLD in the world. But as it turns out, the domain suffix isn’t the real determining factor in SEO results for everyone.
It really depends on your go-to-market strategy says Kirk Morales, Co-founder of Phoenix, AZ.-based digital experience company, Persosa. Many companies today rely on digital marketing methods like social media, paid ads and more so an easy to remember dot-com name isn’t as important.
“On the other hand, if your brand depends on more traditional means of marketing (TV, outdoor, etc), then the domain name becomes more important since users will be expected to remember it and type it into their browser (correctly),” Morales continued.
Sanket Shah, CEO of video creation software company InVideo also believes that the dot-com suffix isn’t as important as once was. “Many countries are opting to use their own country’s TLD rather than the .com suffix, and with the decreased availability of domain names, some companies are using industry-specific suffixes without facing a huge penalty,” said Shah.
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What to Do When Top-Level Domain Isn’t Available?
While it won’t matter too much when it comes to branding and findability, many companies will automatically wonder what’s the best alternative. After all, dot com is miles ahead of every other TLD in terms of popularity. So, how can organizations choose the next best thing?
Shanley believes that “when your domain suffix isn’t available, do your research to find some alternatives that are just as good. Killerapp.com not available? try killerapp.io, killerapp.ai, killerapp.app, killerapp.co, and so on.” Most domain registrars will also suggest available alternatives when the first choice you’ve entered is already taken.
Another alternative is to adjust the name of the company slightly to get the best URL. That way you can still secure the popular do-tcom suffix with a bit of ingenuity. “There’s still the trend to add prefix action words, “get”, “use”, “try” and postfix words like “app”. Even the biggest players do this,” added Shanley.
One caveat in choosing alternative domain names is you need to avoid those names which seem entirely unrelated or random. The reason for dot-com being popular is that visitors automatically trust it due to the familiarity; other suffixes don’t have this luxury.
“The perfect dot-com isn’t required, though I’d recommend staying away from obscure or confusing TLDs and while not perfect, depending on your industry, a .net or .io could work great,” Morales suggests.
Ultimately the choice of the domain name will depend on the type of company and the industry where you find yourself. Dot-com works best for most but don’t be afraid to branch out to .net, .io, .ai to establish your brand name first and then reconsider for the name you really want at a later date.