So…which domain name extension should you use? .COM, .NET, .ORG, .INFO or .US? The answer depends on your business model. If you want to learn more about these extensions (and their ability to rank on Search Engines), read on.
.COM Domains, History and Ranking
You should always pick the .COM before any other extension. This is because .coms have become the industry standard for domain names. Whenever you hear someone start saying www…you naturally expect a .COM at the end. It also ranks best because, in the beginning (1985), .COM was created to represent commercial usage. Since businesses naturally embraced the domain extension, it’s presence and familiarity took off. This large presence of .com domains helped establish its reputation forever on the Internet.
.COM domains rank easily and quickly. I always pick .COM domains whenever possible. I even prefer a long .COM to a short .NET or .ORG. More examples are given near the end.
.NET Domains, History and Ranking
This domain is .com’s ugly brother. The .NET extension is an abbreviated version of the word ‘network’. The .NET domain was created in 1985 and originally intended to be used by network providers such as Internet service providers. Unfortunately, this domain name never really took off. Yes, companies like Comcast.net (internet service provider) used it…but consumers didn’t care much for it. As a result, .NET became the default 2nd choice if a .COM wasn’t available.
It is difficult to rank a .NET domain. You’ll need much more time and incoming links (backlinks) to start ranking properly. If you’re planning on building out a large business with lots of great content, .NET is a good choice. If you’re building small niche sites and are hungry for fast rankings….stay far away.
.ORG Domains, History and Ranking
The .ORG (organization) domain is a generic top-level domain and was one of the original top level domains that was introduced in January 1985. Anyone can register a .ORG domain; there are no requirements for registration. The .ORG TLD is usually associated with non-profit organizations, charities and open-source programs. In addition, many political parties also use the .ORG extension.
Now that you know it’s history, it’s easy to understand why a .ORG domain ranks as well as a .COM. Yes…I’m serious. they both rank quickly and easily. So if you’re looking for quick ranking, .COM and .ORG are your best bets.
.INFO Domains, History and Ranking
The .INFO is meant to be an informational domain, to be used for sharing information. Unfortunately, GoDaddy completely destroyed the domain’s purpose (and it’s ranking ability) with hundreds of $0.99 domain specials between 2006-2008. The result? Nearly every spammer and affiliate marketer started buying $0.99 .INFO domains in bulk to create top-level domain redirects for articles, spam and autoblogs. Google quickly took notice and penalized the domain heavily. If you purchase a .INFO domain, you can expect significant frustration trying to rank (even with backlinks). Google simply hates this TLD. Stay far away. Only use this as a “throw away” domain you don’t plan to develop. For example, if you’re advertising in someone’s paid newsletter and don’t want your original website being flagged as spam, use a .INFO domain redirect to protect your original site’s URL.
.US Domains, History and Ranking
This domain was created for US based individuals, companies and websites. You must be a US citizen, a permanent United States resident, or a US entity such as organizations and corporations. Additionally, any business or corporation with a bona fide presence in the USA may register. Lastly, you cannot WHOIS protect a .US domain which makes it a deal breaker for almost everyone.
You would think these strict, exclusive requirements would improve ranking, right? Wrong. I personally bought a .US domain and waited for months in order to achieve ranking. I watched junkier .NET and .INFO outrank my articles day after day. I finally gave up and retired my .US domain name in favor of a .COM. Needless to say, traffic and ranking immediately shot up after creating my suitable 301 redirects and getting indexed.
.US? Never again. Not recommended for anything or anyone. It’s high price and restrictions don’t allow the “throw away” usage recommended for .INFO domains, either.
.LY .SY .TV and Other Country Domains Are Risky! Do Not Buy Them!
I’m updating this post to include a warning about .LY and other vanity domain names that belong to foreign countries. For example, .LY belongs to Libya and in the past, the registrar has been shut down due to wars within Libya. In 2011, this resulted in the company Letter.ly getting shut down because their domain expired during that shutdown and the domain was quickly snatched up by another company when they returned. These foreign-based registrars do not abide by US law and are extremely risky to purchase. For the record, .SY belongs to Syria and .TV belongs to the Tuvalu Islands, a series of nine slivers of earth in the middle of the South Pacific, with a population of about 10,000. Buy these extensions at your own risk.
So why do some domains rank better than others? Here’s my theory after 200+ domains and 15+ years of experience.
#1 Pick for SEO Ranking: .COM
Firstly, people trust .COM domains. Google recognizes this and allows this “trust” to continue unaffected. As the most popular, .COM always wins in terms of ranking and recognition. This is always my first pick. I never use hyphens. Google stopped liking hyphens a while ago.
#2 Pick for SEO Ranking: .ORG
This is only my 2nd pick for online marketing and SEO ranking purposes (see Important Note below)
.ORG was always meant to communicate to people…with charities and non-profit groups. As such, .ORG immediately carries trust and respect. This makes .ORG is my 2nd pick…even for extremely commercial properties. I know it goes against the original idea behind the domain…but my sales aren’t lying. People don’t care. It was intended for non-profits…but people just don’t care. They’ll visit and buy from .ORG domains in a pinch. There is nothing unethical about using a .ORG domain for a commercial website.
Important Note: If you’re running an offline or semi-offline business, get .COM or .NET. Telling people you run a commercial .ORG over the phone kills integrity. In these cases, slow ranking are preferred to integrity-killing conversations and business cards.
#3 Pick for SEO Ranking: .NET
.NET was never intended to be commercial. As such, it’s an awkward domain to communicate to people. This awkwardness carries over in it’s ability to rank. I pick .NET domains as my dead last 3rd choice regarding SEO ranking. To be honest, though, I can’t remember the last time I bought one. These days it’s all .COM and .ORG. However, if I’m creating an offline business that includes phone calls or business cards, I will pick .NET before .ORG. for the purpose of retaining integrity. Offline businesses truly expect .ORG domains to be non-profit.
How I Pick Domains
Here’s my dirty secret. I use http://www.domainsbot.com or http://www.leandomainsearch.com. They both use an Ajax interface to show you available domains asap. So, if I’m looking for a domain called “Brokalicious” (fake name), here’s what I’ll look for in order of most preferred to least.
- Brokalicious.net (I only pick exact matches in .NET)
Hope that helps clear up the domain name debate.
P.S. I’ve received a lot of emails asking me where I register my domain names. I currently use Namesilo to register my 50+ domains names after Namecheap raised their prices. They have the cheapest domains anywhere and they give you free WHOIS Privacy for LIFE. Everyone else charges for WHOIS protection from inception or after the first year. I’ve used them since 2014 with zero problems.
Update: It’s now April 2016 and I still enjoy using Namesilo. I’ve slowly moved all my domains from Namecheap over the past year and currently have 30 registered with them. Transferring them over is always a breeze and usually takes around 1 day to approve all the requests and 2-3 days for Namecheap to officially transfer them. Make sure you unlock them at Namecheap first!