It is pretty well established that for most blogs and websites, most of the time, the “dot com” Domain Name suffix (TLD; Top Level Domain) is preferable to all others. There are a few circumstances where a country code TLD is preferred, but even then, it is always advisable to secure the .com extension too.
But what happens when you can’t get your desired name as a dot com because it is already registered to someone else? What are your options, and which option is best? This is going to be a near certainty for any potential one word domain name. Every single combination of three letters has already been registered. Every single word in the English language dictionary has already been registered too!
The typical entrepreneur and new blogger is going to be faced with a tough choice. Basically the choice is going to come down to this:
Do I use my desired name, but attach it to a less popular TLD (like .net, .org, .biz), or do I come with a creative name that I can still secure as a .com, but that may not be the name of my business or blog?
To answer that question, we need to start with the reasons that the .com (dot com) TLD is so popular.
- .com came first
In the beginning there were basically only three TLDs easily available to regular people and businesses. They were .org, .net, and .com. Dot coms were fore businesses, dot orgs were for organizations, and dot nets were for networks. There was even some enforcement of these divisions at first. But every single business in the world wanted their-name.com.
- .com is easy to remember
Since every business jumped at securing their-name.com, everybody soon learned that entering any-business-name.com would likely bring you to the website belonging to that business.
- .com is so ubiquitous that sometimes you don’t even need to type it
Some web browsers will automatically assume and add the .com extension to a domain name, even before it is fully typed into the browser window.
- Search engines prefer .com
This may be changing as search engines develop more complex and accurate algorithms, but it is probable that dot com names will always enjoy a big search engine advantage. A .com Domain name tells Google that the site has probably been around a while, that the owner has taken the trouble to secure the .com, that the site owner likely owns the trademarks to the name, and that the site is probably legitimate.
Your site is legitimate too, but you can’t get the .com. Now what?
Let’s look at alternate TLDs. Maybe you can buy yourname.net or yourname.org. Maybe you can buy yourname.ca, yourname.us, or yourname.co.uk. But should you?
There are differences of opinion here. I’ll give you mine. My opinion is based on buying and using Domain Names since the very early days of the Web. I’ve owned dozens, I currently own and use about twenty.
In my opinion, .org and .net are useful only if .com is not available, AND you want your registered and/or trademarked name included in your URL. If these two TLDs are available you should absolutely secure them, even if you choose to use different URL for the main page of your blog or website. Unfortunately, you will nearly always lose to whoever owns the .com when your name is entered in a search engine or browser window. If the .com is not being used, and is for sale, consider buying it. Unless the name is obviously, and spectacularly special, you can nearly always buy a for sale domain name for substantially less than the asking price. The people and businesses reselling Domain Names often own huge inventories that are very expensive to maintain. They can often be more desperate than they seem to unload a name in their inventory.
Country code TLDs can be excellent alternatives to .com. If your blog or business is location specific, like “Natural Wonders of Canada“, or “My Favorite American Chinese Restaurants“, then securing and using a .ca or .us Domain Name is a perfect alternative to a .com. Unfortunately, if your site is not locale specific, the message sent by a country specific TLD is going to be that either you are uninterested in reaching out beyond your borders, or you couldn’t secure a .com so settled for a .country.
What about all of the new TLDs coming on stream now? Honestly, IMHO, I think these are all completely useless. The entire exercise borders on being a fraudulent scam, designed to fool unwary netizens into perceiving value where none exists, and to force bigger, legitimate enterprises into buying useless intellectual properties for the sole purpose of securing them against squatters and extortionists. Don’t waste your time or money on them.
The Last Best Option
You can’t get yourname.com, yourname.us isn’t encompassing enough, yourname.org or .net is also unavailable. Whatcha-gonna-do? (yes, at the time of this writing watcha-gonna-do.com was still available!)
The best option for most of us, most of the time is this… get creative!
Make a list of things that your blog is going to be about, or a list of things that your business does for its customers, or the main products that you sell. List the kinds of things that your ideal clients are looking for. Remember, every dictionary word is already taken, but chances are that you can find a combination of relevant words that are still available as a dot com.
Heck! That’s exactly what I did with this very website! From the outset, I knew that there was going to be virtually no chance of securing an incredible Domain Name like, blogs.com or blogging.com. But I started playing with different combinations until I found a Domain Name .com that related exactly to the kind of service that I offer my clients. So, get creative. Start thinking. Start searching. My favorite name search website is Netfirms.com. My favorite Web Host is 1and1.com, who also have a decent search function.
A note about hyphens
Hyphenated domain names ARE allowed. But this is a bit of a mixed blessing. On the plus side, a hyphenated name can be easier for humans to read, and it is also far more likely to be available. The downside (and it is a major downside) is that hyphenated names are not treated kindly be search engines, and because they are uncommon, the hyphens will often be left out by humans trying to manually enter your URL into a browser. I suggest avoiding hyphenated Domain Names.