Websites have become the most important pieces of business real estate over the past decade. The No. 1 rule of brick-and-mortar real estate still applies, though: location, location, location.
Of course, your website’s “location” isn’t a physical address; it’s the domain name. From that space, you establish your credibility, launch your marketing efforts and drive customers to buy.
While the .com domain reigned supreme in the past, that may be changing. New virtual neighborhoods like .club and .tech have been booming in the past few years. You can select a pricey but well-established presence at a .com address or get creative with one of the newer extensions.
What’s in a Domain?
In the internet’s early days, when only 22 top-level domains existed on the web, businesses could choose to be found at .com, .org or .net, among a few others.
The .com domain was a generic location where every company felt at home, regardless of mission or market, so it became the standard. Fast-forward 20 years, and with nearly 124 million .com sites registered, the chances of finding an affordable and desirable — and available — .com address have shrunk.
Fortunately, .com is no longer the only interesting place for brands to live online. Domains have exploded from the original handful of options to 882 possible extensions (with more coming).
Name Recognition Rules
The point of any retail business is to generate sales. One significant advantage of having a unique domain extension like .club, .cloud or .photography is that it sticks in the minds of consumers. That memorability factor alone can help steer them to your site and toward a purchase.
A custom-fit domain name can also tell the market exactly what you do. Paramount Pictures, for instance, built Paramount.news to lend an air of authority and send visitors directly to its social media landing page.
Trying to decide which will work best for you? Ask yourself three key questions:
1. Can it help drive business? When coffee product superstore Coffee.org created a subscription-based service, using Coffee.club made more sense. If you can afford to purchase an available .com, ask yourself whether it’s really going to give you a return on your investment by driving more business.
2. What are your objectives? Let’s say a large retailer like Amazon.com wants to own books.com, but Barnes & Noble already does. Amazon could benefit more by using the Amazon.book domain instead. In fact, Amazon has acquired the rights to the .book extension.
Unless your business would benefit from a category-killer domain name like cars.com (and can afford it), using a keyword domain with a meaningful extension will achieve better results than a made-up .com name.
3. Is there a unique domain name that says exactly what you do? If your business would benefit from a keyword domain, explore whether a more relevant suitable extension exists.
If you’re the leading book design company (or want to be perceived as such) and your name is joesmithbookdesigns.com, then book.design might be a better choice, even if you can afford the .com. See which extension — as well as which keyword to the left of the dot — might better define your place in the industry.
Sometimes Premium Pays
The price of a premium .com domain may be high, but still worth paying in some cases.
David Roche, for example, paid $11 million for the Hotels.com domain in 2001 for his company, Hotels Worldwide. Roche felt it was a steal because of the revenue that category-spanning domain generated. Don’t have a multimillion-dollar budget? Hotels.club recently sold for a fraction of the Hotels.com price, and for the entrepreneur behind the subscription lodging site, the word "club" as an extension made perfect sense.
Always take your budget into account when hunting for online real estate. Whether you seek a high-end .com or a targeted, more unique domain, knowing how to weigh your options is critical.
Jeff Sass is the chief marketing officer of .CLUB Domains, LLC, operator of the new top-level domain .CLUB, which is ideal for clubs, associations, teams, loyalty programs, fan clubs and anyone with a passion interested in a memorable, descriptive domain name.