Beyond .Com: How Alternative Domains Boost Branding
Now that we don’t have to wait for a dial-up modem to kickstart our Internet connections, and most sites open without having to type in http://www, there is still one final frontier to overcome: the “.com.”
Dot-com is a popular web address extension in the U.S., while other countries often favor domains with location-based significance: Germany has .de, the U.K. uses .co.uk, and .ca stands in for Canada.
Regardless, most people are familiar with the extension, even if they don’t realize that the “com” stands for commercial. It’s so preeminent that countless blogs offer advice on what to do if your preferred .com isn’t available, and when people talk about the Internet boom and collapse of the late 1990s, they talk about the dot-com bubble.
But now a new wave of global domains is challenging the old .com hegemony — and the change could help your brand align more closely with its online space.
Why More Brands Are Shifting Away From .Com
Little functional difference exists between the new top-level domains and their more traditional counterparts. You can run any type of website on them, create matching custom email addresses, and employ identical security options. So why are more businesses following Overstock — which launched its O.co URL back in 2011 — in shifting away from .com?
Some people might point to the lack of available .com options, but a global giant like Google doesn’t worry about that problem. When the company restructured to create a new parent company — Alphabet — it chose abc.xyz as its new homepage. Almost 2 million other websites have also picked up on adopting the .xyz extension, and the domain now claims more than 15 percent of the domain market share.
The domain name fit perfectly with the company’s new branding, and small businesses could reap huge rewards by choosing new top-level domains. Luckily for anyone in marketing, Google has made clear that its search engine does not discriminate between one TLD and another.
If you’re a designer, then why not use .design? If you repair computer hardware and software, then try .tech. If you run a clothing shop, then .style or .clothing could be for you, or you could adopt one of the increasingly common location-based extensions.
Making the Most of Your Alternative Domain
Filling your domain with relevant keywords will help with your search ranking, make your website more memorable, and tell potential customers exactly what you offer. It’s a great way to get ahead of the competition. Keep these three pointers in mind as you get started:
Many of the new domain names offer huge creative potential. Playing on the popular saying “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas,” the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority launched whathappensin.Vegas as a new launchpad for hotel, flight, and show bookings.
Think of the other possibilities. DonaldTrump.sucks already exists, but imagine a mouthwash company running a campaign from the website badbreath.sucks or an anti-homelessness initiative using poverty.sucks as its homepage? While .love and .guru offer similar opportunities, hundreds more domains exist to transform your website from a simple home for your business to a memorable expression of your brand identity.
Build Your Digital Footprint
Everybody understands that a domain is a business’s primary online location regardless of the extension, but businesses can also use domains in alternate ways. My own company employs a range of TLDs. We host our sales and promotions at rebel.deals, use rebel.vision to highlight our purpose, and soon we’ll launch a swag shop at rebel.style.
Many small businesses are now registering a number of domains, with plenty choosing .media for press releases and news stories or .menu for restaurant menus.
You don’t have to rely on one corporate domain anymore. If you do decide to build your digital footprint across domains, however, be sure that your content continues to act like one single website for search engine optimization.
If you run a small local business that shares its name with a number of others around the world, then choosing a local TLD is a great way to help people find your website easily. Looking for good pizza in New York City? Realpizza.nyc seems like a good place to start.
The .nyc domain is exclusive to New York City, so it carries a lot of cachet, but there’s no reason why any other city-specific domain shouldn’t serve your business just as well. By going local, you can immediately signpost how convenient you are to local customers, spurring them to choose your business over that generic .com.
So why not break free from the .com and choose a shorter, more relevant, and more memorable new domain extension for your website? It could do wonders for business and make your brand that little bit more memorable.
Rob Villeneuve is the CEO of Rebel.com and an expert in Internet domains, hosting, infrastructure, and policy. Rob actively contributes to global Internet policy through the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers and currently sits on the board of directors for the Canadian Internet Registration Authority.