The Rise of Alternative Domains

The Rise of Alternative Domains

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Are you ready to give your business the online presence it deserves? Then you’re likely thinking about registering a new domain name. Seeing that “.com” at the end of your business name is a great feeling for business owners who want to become a part of the world of eCommerce.

The only problem? More often than not, the .com version of your domain name has long since been registered.

Chances are good that, unless no one’s thought to use your idea for a domain name, the .com you’re looking for is unavailable. Considering that there are more than one billion registered websites globally, it comes as little surprise that your domain idea using “.com” is probably already taken by someone else. That’s because .com is, hands down, the most popular top level domain (TLD) that’s used around the world.

The TLD is the ending extension of the URL you type into your address bar to view a website. The .com TLD is the oldest and largest domain extension that’s used as part of the domain name system (DNS), undoubtedly, but that’s not the only reason it’s so popular. The internet’s largest search engine, Google, tends to favor .com TLDs over alternative extensions.

Google tends to afford domain authority to sites with useful content and a high level of cognitive fluency. It just so happens that Google views the .com TLD as cognitively intuitive because of how familiar people are with it. So, even if a website with a .com TLD doesn’t receive much traffic, its strong domain authority can typically secure a high ranking among Google’s search engine results pages. 

It’s wise to prepare for your chosen domain name to be already registered and unavailable. This doesn’t mean, though, that you’re out of options just yet. There are a few ways you can proceed if your domain name of choice is already taken by someone else.

The domain name that you choose should complement your strategy to generate more traffic to your site. Do you, for instance, market your product on mainly offline channels? A name that’s concise and to the point should be your focus. If you’ve already established your brand across online sales channels, you can get away with choosing a domain name that’s a little quirky or has unique spelling.

Remember to consider the country to which you’re marketing as well. Are you planning on growing your company as a country-specific business? You can decide to highlight this fact with your domain name. It’s recommended that you use a ccTLD (country code top level domain) for country-specific domain names. For example, a business that’s focused only on the Canadian market should use the .ca domain name extension to connect with the greatest number of interested users.

Many country-specific businesses tend to use an alternative available TLD such as .uk, .org, and .net together with their domain name of choice. This option still allows businesses to go with their preferred name while still generating organic traffic from markets of interest. Alternative available TLDs, while not as common or as popular as the coveted .com extension, are memorable to their regular visitors which can be seen as a competitive advantage.

Users searching for your website and visiting it on mobile devices may make up more of your organic traffic than you may think. Unfortunately, users on mobile devices can’t see domain names in their search engine’s results pages. Even if you have a one-of-a-kind idea for your new domain name, it won’t make much of an impact on visitors using a tablet or smartphone. 

Approach your mobile device users as an outlier demographic when choosing your domain name. Emphasize mobile-responsive web design to prevent mobile users from skipping over your site and expose them to your marketing department’s efforts. Converting your website to one that’s more mobile-responsive can instantly increase the rate at which you connect with mobile users, even when they’re unable to see your stellar domain name.

Creating a mobile-responsive website, while not always cheap, also contributes to a more enjoyable user experience. Mobile-responsive sites tend to be much more flexible in terms of web design and development options when compared to old sites not built on responsive, more secure foundations. For online businesses that are growing rapidly and taking on larger projects with more clients, newer websites can even make it easier to directly conduct your business transactions.

An intuitive transaction process delivers a greater number of sales and a more memorable customer service experience. Newer websites that are designed for users on both desktop PCs, as well as mobile devices, can support automated, fully customizable payment process software for maximum customer satisfaction. Professional invoice software creates confidence in your clients that they’re in for a stress-free experience.

Once you know what to expect if you have a .com domain name that’s taken, it’s time to start iterating on your original idea for a name: 

Create variations of your domain name

You can begin iterating on your preferred domain name if you’re sure that a .com domain isn’t available to be registered. The most popular way to make variations of your domain name idea is to simply use an alternative extension. Users who just want to make a business transaction may not even care what extension your domain uses and probably won’t notice that there’s no “.com”.

Some particularly persistent website owners who are determined to create a .com domain name can try contacting the current owner of their desired domain. Domain names that are currently registered aren’t necessarily in use and if an owner is willing to sell their domain name, you can secure your original idea for a .com domain. Websites with an outdated registration will eventually expire, whereupon you can also try purchasing the domain name if the owner decides not to renew it.

Businesses that successfully secure a .com domain name should keep in mind that with a greater amount of organic traffic comes the inevitably larger tide of data-scraping bots collecting information from your site. It’s important that you use a website hosting provider with protection against unscrupulous third-party bots that sell your site’s data to equally dubious advertisers. Domain privacy is important beyond just protecting your personal information and is even more important for domains with .com TLDs.

For businesses that still need to think about iterations on their name, there are multiple options for alternative TLDs. Online businesses that rely on traffic from search results should consider using new Top Level Domains (nTLDs) including .jobs, .agency, and .online. While it’s true that many users are unfamiliar with these nTLDs, these alternative extensions make much less of an impact on users searching for your site or who stumble on your domain based on a referral.

Domain names that combine multiple words are prime candidates for slight name changes. Rearrange the words that make up your domain name in an order that you like. Certain word orders are sometimes already registered as a domain name in which case you can consider adding even more words to your name. Don’t be afraid to combine several engaging and unique words to create a domain name that’s entirely your own. 

Simply adding some descriptive words to your domain name speaks volumes about your marketing department’s efforts and is sure to resonate with potential customers who appreciate thoughtful branding.

What to know before registering your name

There are a few key best practices that every business should follow no matter what name they settle on. Following these practices can help create a more memorable and impactful domain name that better represents your brand identity.

You should aim to establish a social media presence together with an eCommerce one. Regardless of whether you drive most of your traffic from online or offline advertising, you need to think about your social media presence and how you can use your domain name to grow it. Create new social media accounts that use the same name as the one in your domain to generate buzz across your online platforms, be they social or sales-driven.

A domain name that you can use seamlessly across your social media accounts is one that’s concise and easy to spell. Choose a domain name, regardless of its TLD/nTLD, that is as short as you can make it. It’s not a good idea to use long and difficult-to-spell names since they aren’t fully visible in search engine results and are often prone to typos made by users searching for them.

Your domain name should be unique to your brand and your business. Therefore, it’s highly recommended that you avoid using domain names that are in any way related to another business’s licensed trademark. The use of such domains is illegal and can quickly get you and your business into legal trouble should that domain’s owner find out about your indiscretions. Using domains that are at all related to a registered trademark will immediately dissolve the brand credibility you’ve worked hard to achieve and can even result in a cease-and-desist notice arriving in your mailbox.

If possible and at the recommendation of your in-house SEO experts, you can also choose to integrate a keyword or two into your final domain name. You can use keywords to create a slight increase in your keyword-to-domain associations among your site’s visitors, which in turn makes it clearer to users what, exactly, your business does and offers. Be careful, however; stuffing too many keywords is a big red flag that search engines such as Google warrant as grounds for penalization among search results. 

At the end of the day, you owe it to the success of your business’s online growth to purchase similar-sounding domain names without making too many compromises. You should feel encouraged to purchase domain names that incorrectly spell your business name or are strikingly similar to yours. Don’t give away huge amounts of your online traffic, though, by settling for a .co TLD or a “The” that’s appended to your domain name. These concessions often negatively impact your traffic and redirect potential customers to the .com versions of domains that use your business or brand name.

Conclusion

Your business doesn’t need a .com TLD to establish the online presence it needs to grow its sales. These days, it’s more than viable to register alternative domains that use ccTLDs and nTLDs instead. Although it’s initially frustrating to discover that your preferred domain name with a .com TLD has been registered, there are multiple options businesses can explore to create an alternative domain that is still easily findable across multiple devices.

Don’t fret if your .com name of choice has been taken. First consider your strategy to generate traffic to your site in the first place, your target markets, and your demographic of mobile-only users. Iterate on your domain name and see if you can’t come up with an alternative that still articulates your brand identity. Protect your data from unscrupulous competitors by using a website hosting service that protects you against third-party data-scraping bots and programs.

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