Your website’s domain name is more important than you might think. Not only does a domain name help to build your brand online, but it can also have a major influence on how well your website appears in search results. Part of this influence stems from which type of domain you choose for your website.

Every domain name has at least two parts: the root domain (typically your brand name) and the top-level domain (TLD), which is the suffix at the end. For the latter, you might choose a non-country-specific TLD like a .com or .org domain, or a country code top-level domain (ccTLD) like .co.uk or .de.

Dot com
photo credit: Darwin Bell / Flickr

Wherever possible, you should try and purchase a .com TLD. Originating in 1985, and designed as a contraction of “commercial”, the dotcom boom in the late nineties saw the TLD rapidly outshine its rivals and become the preferred business domain of choice. But why?

A .com domain gives brands perceived value

99% of Fortune 500 companies use .com domains, underlining its status as the suffix of choice for successful enterprises. Indeed, business owners still splash out thousands—and in the case of SumoMe.com, even millions—on .com extensions. This is because of the perceived value these domains lend to a brand. While this may seem superficial or even illogical, especially with the number of .com websites used for not-so respectable purposes, its reputation remains.

A lot of this comes down to the fact that .com domains can be worth a lot of money. If a company is ready to splash out on one, people are likely to believe the business in question has achieved some level of success. While .net or .org domains are just as safe and dependable, perceived value is powerful in the business world and can hugely influence customer expectations.

Google prefers .com domains

Most businesses need a solid search engine optimisation (SEO) strategy if they are to successfully gain exposure online. SEO aims to give brands greater visibility within search results for keywords related to their industry, thus driving more traffic to a company’s site. Again, a .com domain can be a particularly useful way to achieve this.

Many experts argue that Google is actually biased towards .com extensions, and displays them higher up on results pages. In a guide on why .com is the best domain extension for SEO, Novanym state that this is due to human interaction with the search engine, noting that “cognitive fluency favours a TLD that’s easy and familiar”. Because people are more comfortable with .com domains, and use them more regularly, it makes sense that Google is geared towards this preference.

Secondly, non-country-specific extensions aren’t subject to the same restrictions as ccTLDs. Most businesses use ccTLDs when targeting a particular country. For instance, a business that operates solely in the UK would be well-served having a .co.uk domain. But if the business ever wanted to expand overseas, they’d likely need to purchase different ccTLDs that are better suited for the regions in question. If you wanted to target 30 different countries, you’d theoretically need 30 different ccTLDs – not great for the bank account.

A .com domain extension means you have the potential to appear in search results across the world. What’s more, the extension offers flexibility if you need to localise your domain for various different markets by means of subfolders (yourdomain.com/fr) or subdomains (fr.yourdomain.com).

.com is more familiar to people

People are most comfortable with .com domains

The final reason to plump for a .com domain is that, as mentioned above, it’s what the public is most comfortable with. This is unsurprising, considering that almost half of all websites use a .com suffix. The effect of this on consumers is stark. According to a study by NCC Group, just 9% of consumers are comfortable using new TLDs, while 47% feel “much less secure with the additional domain extensions in use”.

This in part explains why newer and more novel domains like .party, .science, and .pizza haven’t taken off in the same way, especially as they are associated with spammy sites. While alternative TLDs are cheaper and can make businesses more distinctive in a crowded marketplace, a .com domain really is the best way to go.