Choosing the right domain name is vital when you’re starting a new blog. Your domain name will be the brand that people associate with your blog. Even though choosing a domain name may seem inconsequential at this early stage, it’s a critical decision that will stick with you, your blog, and your potential business for many years to come.
Finding a domain name is becoming more challenging by the day. There are over 350 million registered domains, and that number has grown by an average of 17.9 million names per year since 2010.
While there are still good .com domain names available, many website owners are turning to alternative domain name extensions, such as .net, .co.uk, or .in, to brand their domain name uniquely.
One of the drawbacks cited when evaluating alternative domain extensions is trust. Some blog owners and businesses assume that their readers and customers will see their brand as suspect if they don’t have the premium .com extension. But is this really true? I’ll come back to that later in the post.
My opinion is that while .com will always be the most trusted option, choosing a memorable blog name with an alternative extension is better than choosing a forgettable or complex name with a .com extension.
MIT referred to domain names as “virtual real estate.” Why? There are many parallels between how the real estate market and the domain name market have grown over the years. With that in mind, let’s look at the history of the housing market in the US and how it ties into the world of virtual real estate.
A Brief History of Real Estate
Before World War II, only 13% of Americans lived in suburban areas. Living in the suburbs while working in an urban area had only started to become an option in 1908, when the average American could afford automobiles like the Ford Model T.
Fast forward to 2010, over 50% of the population of the United States lived in suburban areas. Having a single-family home with a white picket fence and a two-car garage was one of the defining images of the “American Dream.” Suburban areas helped more people attain that dream, thanks to lower costs.
They could have a bigger house with more space in areas less densely populated than major urban areas. Instead of having to choose a cookie cutter home ten feet from your neighbor, you could have a unique home on a larger lot that would be more memorable.
Take Southern California as an example. Due to the high general cost of real estate in cities like San Diego and Los Angeles, many people live in suburban areas. It’s routine to have a one-hour daily commute in exchange for a lower cost of living.
From a supply perspective, most of the oceanfront properties were taken a long time ago, making any available lots expensive. From a demand perspective, people who want to live close to the ocean and within a short driving distance from their office will pay a premium to attain those properties if they become available.
Alternative Domain Name Extensions As Virtual Suburbs
Premium .com domain names are like real estate near the ocean. Since these names are unique, they are limited in supply, and demand for them is exceptionally high. As a result, ultra-premium domain names can sell for millions of dollars once they become available.
If you’re starting a blog, you probably don’t have a budget for a $2,500 domain name. The vast majority of websites don’t belong to startups with venture capital funding.
With limited money to devote to a blog or an early-stage business, many people choose the best $10 unregistered domain name that they can. In 2019, the majority of strong names may be taken on .com, but not on alternative domain extensions.
Just like how the high cost and limited supply of oceanfront real estate drive home buyers to the suburbs, the high price of premium .com domain names and limited supply of quality domain names drive website owners to alternative domain name extensions.
The statistics back this up. In 2012, there were 145.8 million domains registered with alternative extensions. During the same year, there were 106.2 million .com domains registered. That equals a difference of almost 40 million names.
By the end of 2018, that difference had ballooned to almost 71 million names! Domain owners are registering alternative extensions at a much faster pace than .com names.
Which Alternative Domain Extension Should You Choose?
Not all alternative domain extensions are created equal. In the real estate market, you’ll want to stay away from investing in Antarctica. In the domain market, you’ll want to stay far away from registering a domain like MyFunCreativeNewBlog.pro.
You’ll want to make sure that you stick to the most trusted of the alternative domain extensions. Here are some of the most popular extensions to choose from for your new blog.
.Net and .Org
When I thought of the analogy between oceanfront and suburban real estate, .net and .org domain names were the first extensions that I associated with suburban real estate. They were part of the original five top-level domain extensions.
The .net and .org extensions were initially intended for networked websites and non-profit organizations, respectively. However, there were never any restrictions enforced. Hence, any person or entity can register a domain with these extensions. Slideshare.net, themeforest.net, coursera.org, and hbr.org are examples of websites that do not fit the types of websites .net and .org were created for, yet they still remain quite popular.
Country Code Domain Extensions
If you’re targeting users from a specific country with your new blog, a country code extension is a strong alternative to .com. According to Moz, country code extensions show search engines and users that you are targeting your site to a specific country or region. The top country code domain extensions in use today include .tk for Tokelau, .de for Germany, and .cn for China.
Interest and Industry Specific Extensions
If you can get your desired domain name with one of the newer extensions, it could be an excellent fit for your blog. You could try the .blog extension first, or one relating to your blog’s main topic, like .fashion or .photography. There are now hundreds of alternative domain extensions for everything from .ads to .zone.
But What About Trust?
If you told someone to go to your .co domain name in 1999, they probably would have asked if your domain name had a typo. Now, .co domain names are becoming more popular. Startups like AngelList (valued at $150 million back in 2013) and Bench ($49 million of funding raised) have built successful businesses with a .co domain name.
As more and more successful companies use alternative domain extensions, readers and customers will become more familiar with them. Over time, the level of trust in alternative domain extensions will continue to increase.
Great examples of alternative domain extensions used by reputable individuals and entities include Google’s Alphabet (abc.xyz), Amazon Jobs (amazon.jobs), GoDaddy (godaddy.pro), Slack’s Help Center (get.slack.help), New York Times bestselling author Tim Ferriss’ blog (tim.blog), and Twitch (twitch.tv).
As a website owner, you can create trust through solid branding. High-quality content across multiple channels can help increase your trust, no matter what domain extension you choose.
Making Your Alternative Domain Name Selection Distinct
If you do choose an alternative extension, make sure to check the site on the .com version of the name and any other extensions that are registered. It’s generally safer to choose the name if there isn’t an active company on one of the other extensions.
You can also look at social media sites to see if the name you have chosen is available to see if there will be any competition with your blog’s branding. Matching your domain name with your social media handles will strengthen your blog’s branding across the web, making it even easier for your audience to find and remember your website.
To ensure that your blog’s domain name stays distinctive, consider a trademark as well. Squadhelp has a package where you can get a full trademark report on three names for $129. I was able to get a full report on one name for $49 in 2018, so that may still be an option for you.
Choosing a great domain name is an essential step for your blog. Having a few more extensions to use with the domain name you like will give you some more options in your search. If you can find a great name, your blog will have a fantastic foundation. If you put together a solid content strategy and stay consistent, you’ll be able to create a successful blog!
Axel DeAngelis is the founder of NameBounce, a new business name generator that finds business names with matching available domain names. Using NameBounce, users can find hundreds of domain name ideas with one simple search. Follow NameBounce on Twitter at @NameBounceHQ.