Choosing a domain extension for your business can be challenging. With the popularity of the .com domain extension, there are very few .com domains available, leaving many small businesses wondering whether an alternative domain extension might work. With an ever-growing list of domain extensions available, we’re here to help you understand how extensions are used, and which is right for your small business website.
Domain Name Extensions List at a Glance
Internet service providers & networking tech
Computers and technology services
Nonprofits and groups
.us (or other location-based domains)
Schools and institutions
How to Choose a Domain Name Extension
The decision as to which domain name extension is best for your business website will depend on your business and the industry it’s in. While the .com extension remains the most popular, it’s not the only option, and it may not be the best choice—that is, if it’s even available. When that’s the case, another domain extension may be a good fit for your business. Here’s a rundown of each and when you might want to use them.
Best for: Businesses
The .com domain stands for commercial, as in a commercial entity or business. It’s the most popular domain extension, which also means it has the least number of available domains. Since it can be such a challenge to find an available .com, many consider opting for a different domain extension.
Best for: Networking technologies
The .net domain stands for network, and has traditionally been used by internet service providers and networking technologies. Given the lack of availability with .com domain names, the .net extension has grown in popularity among technology companies. Learn more about .com vs .net.
Best for: Nonprofits and organizations
The .org domain extension stands for organization, and it is commonly used by nonprofit groups. However, while the extension has become synonymous with nonprofit organizations, it is not limited to nonprofits and anyone can register a .org domain. Learn more about .org vs .com.
Best for: Tech startups
The .io is a fairly new kid on the block in terms of top-level domains, and it is becoming a popular choice for tech startups and software as a service (SaaS) business. While it’s actually a country code domain, representing the British Indian Ocean Territory, it is synonymous with tech because .io is viewed by many as input/output, and unlike the .us location domain, anyone can register for a .io.
Best for: U.S.-based businesses
Country-based domain extensions such as .us for the United States or .ca for Canada are top-level domains designed for businesses within those countries. Some location-based domain extensions, including .us, may require location verification in order to register the domain. This helps build trust and ensure businesses are located where they say they are while promoting their location through their domain.
Best for: Businesses
The .biz domain extension stands for business and is worth considering if your desired .com is not available. It’s also a good option for businesses with very cryptic names that do not necessarily infer it is a business. By using a .biz, users will be able to quickly understand that the website is for a business, as opposed to, for example, a group or organization.
Best for: Broadcasting
The .live domain extension is used for live broadcasting. It’s worth noting that the businesses that use .live generally use it in addition to their standard websites and reserve the .live domain for use during the filming of live events, whether that’s an on-air talk show or while a professional sports game is playing.
Best for: Educational institutions
The .edu domain extension stands for education. In order to register for a .edu, you must be an educational institution, such as a private school, college, or university. Part of the process of registering a .edu involves verification of this.
Best for: Government websites
The .gov domain extension stands for official government websites. Individuals and businesses are not able to register a .gov, as all .gov extensions are reserved for local and federal government entities, such as the city hall and town clerk websites, secretary of state, department of transportation, FBI, or other federal, state, or local government entities.
Tip: Now that you know which domain extensions might be a good fit, you might still be left wondering how to actually choose your domain name. For insight, check out this article on choosing a domain name.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a top-level domain name?
Top-level domains, or TLDs, are domain extensions that are the highest in the hierarchical domain name system of the internet. What this means is that top-level domains are the most trusted and authoritative. In return, top-level domains may be favored by search engines, which helps increase a website’s search visibility.
Do domain name extensions affect SEO?
While your domain name itself can make a difference in search engine optimization (SEO), most domain name extensions have little to no substantial impact on SEO. The extensions that may help boost SEO efforts are the location extensions (e.g., .us or .ca when searches are performed within that country), .edu, and .gov.
How do you register a domain name?
It’s surprisingly easy to register a domain name. Simply go to a domain name registrar, such as GoDaddy or Bluehost (for those who want a free domain name for their WordPress site), search for your desired domain name, and complete the prompts to register it, including adding your contact and payment information. Get the step-by-step instructions on domain name registration.
With so many domain extensions, the best domain name for your business website ultimately depends on which extension best fits your business and industry. So while a .com may be the most popular extension, a .io may be a better fit for a tech startup, whereas a .org may be better for, say, a youth group or local sports league.