As web workers, you’ve probably had to purchase domain names, or been asked to get them by clients. Most people prefer a name ending in .com, since that’s the “top-level domain,” or TLD, that everybody knows. But that also means it can be hard to get the name you want.
From a couple of years ago on WWD: “You must get the dot-com: It doesn’t matter how great the name is, if you can’t get name.com, it’s not worth having. People will look for you at the dot-com even if you’re registered at one of the other top-level domains, no matter how often you emphasize the difference.” And from last year: “For most web workers .com is still the place to be. That’s because no matter how Internet-savvy you are, it’s fairly likely that your customers still hear ‘Internet’ and think ‘dot-com.’ If you want to be found, put your site where the clicks will go.”
So, what do you do if you (or your clients) find that the dot-com domain you want isn’t available? Here are a few suggestions.
- Pick a different name, especially if the organization is new. But try and keep it as short as possible. Just because domain names can be 63 characters long doesn’t mean that something that long should be used! “WePickedThisDomainNameBecauseEverythingElseWeWantedWasTaken.com” says it all.
- Add dashes or numbers. Domain names can include letters, numbers and dashes. But be careful. As Mike said in the post I linked to above, “[I]f your…name is not easily and unambiguously spelled over the phone, you’ll regret it.” I agree. As a former radio person, I always cringe when I hear some poor announcer having to spell a domain name on the air.
- Consider buying the name from the current owner if they aren’t using it. Sites like DN Journal have lists of recent domain sales, so you can get an idea of what the name you want might be worth.
- Incorporate the city or region you serve into the domain name.
Sometimes, none of the above options will work. I think that you can take the “get a dot-com at all costs” mentality too far, so you may want to consider alternatives to .com. Some TLDs are relatively well-known, like:
- .net Originally intended to be for Internet service providers and other parts of the Net’s infrastructure, but it’s now unrestricted, open to anyone, and more or less synonymous with .com.
- .org While most people think of .org as being for nonprofit entities, it is actually unrestricted.
- .biz Limited to “bona fide business or commercial use,” but widely available.
- .info Open to anyone.
- Country-based TLDs, like .us, .ca or .uk, depending on where you’re located. Europeans may also register .eu names, and Asians may register .asia names.
Some TLDs, while nominally country-based, allow anyone to register a name. Many can be registered through a number of different companies. Search for “registrar” plus the appropriate TLD to find where to buy them.
- .bz (not to be confused with .biz, mentioned earlier)
- .mp The folks at Chi.mp are giving these names away as part of their service, which I mentioned, and Darrell reviewed, a while back. If you don’t want to use the Chi.mp service, .mp names may be purchased separately.
There are also some specialized top-level domains that you may want to consider, such as:
- .aero Available to aviation businesses and related organizations.
- .coop Available to entities that are legally organized as cooperatives.
- .jobs Can only be used for displaying open positions at the company registering the name. The idea is that users who want to work at Acme Widgets would type www.acme_widgets.jobs and be taken directly to the company’s available jobs page. These domains are expensive, though, so I’m not sure why companies would opt for this domain rather than, say, www.acme_widgets.com/jobs.
- .mobi For sites designed for mobile devices. This TLD seems to waning in popularity, as mobile browsers and technologies for adapting standard web sites to mobile use improve.
- .museum Limited to museums. The list of .museum domains is pretty short, and few of them appear to be active.
- .name Intended for individuals to establish their Internet identities, in the form “first.last.name”.
- .pro Open to licensed professionals only, who must provide proof of their active standing.
- .tel We wrote about this service back in December. The idea of an Internet-based directory is interesting, but there are many other ways to achieve the same results, so .tel has not become popular.
- .travel Only available to travel-related businesses and organizations, although their definition is fairly broad, and includes hotels, B&Bs, restaurants, and “attractions,” among other things; in other words, .travel is available for sites that might be of interest to tourists.
There may soon be a whole new set of TLDs, if a current proposal is approved. Meanwhile, there are more than enough options to find a good domain name, even if your preferred .com is not available.
What alternative top-level domains have you used? Are you satisfied with the results?
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