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The first forms of domain extensions, also known as TLDs (top-level domains), had the primary goal of classifying the different domain names according to their function. This objective is still true although it is less and less the case, either by ignorance or on purpose. Nevertheless, these domain name extensions are an essential part of any showcase or commercial site today. There are now hundreds of generic extensions available, used for millions of websites. As a result, it can be quite complicated to find the right domain+extension combination that is relevant and applicable to your business. 

We will therefore take a look at the different domain name extensions and their purpose, in order to help you choose the one that best suits your business. 
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Contents:

The different types of domain name extensions

The .com extension

In the 90s, the .com extension was created for commercial entities. However, no restrictions were applied, so today, .com has been widely used and has almost become a "standard". This extension is now the most popular one in e-commerce as well as in showcase or institutional sites. It is also found on social networks (facebook.com) and on e-mail addresses. 

The .org extension

The .org extension is derived from the word "organization". It was originally intended for non-profit organizations. But once again, because of a lack of strict supervision, the .org is now used for other types of sites (open source projects, communities, public services...). It is also found in many low quality sites (which can be part of a PBN for example), for the simple reason that .org is more available than .com or .fr.

The .net extension

The .net domain extension is derived from the word network. Originally, it was intended for companies and organizations specialized in communication networks (internet service providers, etc.). As for the other extensions, the .net has become quite generalized today. It is particularly used in the advertising sector, but more as a "substitute" for .com, which is often unavailable. In other words, the .net has become the extension "by spite". 

The .co extension

This extension was created following the saturation of the .com domain that flourish on search engines. Initially reserved for sites based in Colombia, .co has found many followers who use it as an alternative to .com. It is becoming more and more democratic and even enjoys a good reputation internationally. 

Other domain name extensions

Extensions reserved for company names

An extension for a company name is a privilege that only a handful of international companies are able to obtain (.amazon, .apple...). The application fees for the creation of such extensions are $185,000 and do not even guarantee that the request will be granted!

Generic TLDs launched from 2008

We can find them more and more on the web: .cafe, .bio, .bar ... These "new generation" extensions are intended to block the domain name so that it can't be diverted, especially towards adult sites. Moreover, these extensions are rather interesting from a UX point of view because they immediately indicate the category of the site on which the users land.

Country-specific extensions

Some countries like France, Belgium or the United Kingdom limit the use of geographical extensions. Thus, it is not possible for a foreign site to buy a .fr extension for example. 

Who administers domain extensions?

The American organization ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), which mainly manages the allocation of top-level domain names (TLDs). ICANN then delegates an approval to the different regulatory authorities such as AFNIC in France (French association for cooperative Internet naming), whose mission is to manage the national top-level Internet domains for France .fr.

How to choose the right extension?

Faced with the many possible extensions and domain names, some companies choose to buy all the extensions available for their domain. This way, they ensure the protection of their brand. 

When you choose your domain extension, take the following criteria into account.

1. The purpose of your site

This is certainly the most important criteria to consider. When you work on setting up your site, you must ask yourself its purpose: is it to inform? To sell? To federate? If you operate an ecommerce business, a .com is ideal. If the site is for an organization, you should consider a .org. In any case, the TLD you choose should be related to the purpose of your site so that the domain is consistent.

2. Local extensions

With the rise of local SEO, if your site has an international reach, you might also consider targeting a specific geographic area. There are over 200 different country codes that will be valuable allies in your international development strategy.

3. The SEO potential

Search engine optimization is a crucial topic for any website creation. It is common to read that the .com extension is the most optimal. However, depending on the nature of your site, other extensions may be much more relevant.

Extensions to avoid

Some domain extensions have acquired a bad reputation over time because they have been misused by spammers to send unwanted emails. Here are some extensions that should be avoided: .gq, .cf, .tk, ml, .ga, .men, .top, .link, .work, .date. 

Not only do they make your targets suspicious, but they could also be put directly into spam if you use them in your CRM strategy.

Top Level Domain

The Top Level Domain (TLD) is usually the last label of the domain name. For example, for "www.mysite.com" the TLD is "com".

The choice of the TLD will depend on your situation: 

  • If you have a 100% French-speaking site whose target is located in France: it does not matter, you can choose the one you want. The best ones are ".com" and ".fr".
  • If you have an international component in your site, several possibilities are available to you. 

But whatever your choice, make sure you have several!

And yes, even if you choose one main TLD, you still need to protect yourself and acquire several. Here is how it works:

  • Check by testing directly on your browser that the other TLDs are still available. Look at the other generic and geographical versions: .com, .eu, .info, .org, .fr.
  • Acquire these versions
  • Set up 301 redirects from unused TLD versions to your main version. This point is essential, especially if an Internet user makes a mistake, so that he is redirected to your main version.

The same goes for spelling and typographical errors , to protect you. For example, if you have "my-site.com" as your main site, don't hesitate to also get "mysite.com". It all depends on your name and the different ways of spelling it.

So check, by doing the test, that you have these versions and that they redirect to the main version, always in 301.

How to check a domain name yourself

  1. Directly on the browser, by typing the URL; you check if you land on the site.
  2. By using tools or extensions, like "redirect path" which allow you to see all 301 redirects.

Do not hesitate to check also by taking into account the versions in HTTP, HTTPS, with or without WWW, etc., any additional version available.

Let's suppose that your site is "https://mysite.com". you need the following redirections:

And that's it, you know everything about top level domains!

Conclusion

The choice of the domain extension is almost as important as the domain name itself. The TLD market is nowadays quite saturated (especially because of domain squatting), however it is essential not to jump on the first available extension, at the risk of discrediting your site.

   Article written by Louis Chevant

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