Written by Dave Shrein

Alternatives to .com Domain Names, How to Choose the Best One

You have worked hard to come up with the perfect business name; your next step is to see if the .com is taken or, if by some providence from on high, it is still available. Before even searching, you already have a feeling that the .com is not going to be available and that you’re going to need to find alternatives to .com.

You visit your favorite domain name registrar, type in your business name and you see the message, “Sorry, yourdomain.com is already taken.” It’s kind of what you expected, but it’s still a bit deflating because now you have to begin the process of thinking of another domain.

You’re not alone. Almost everyone goes through this exact same thing.

It’s a major bummer to finally land on a business name only to find that the .com is already taken.

But wait, that domain name registrar has offered up a bunch of alternatives to .com — so many different extensions. There is a .net, a .org, a .us, a .info and probably over a dozen other suggestions. So the question now is, “If the .com is taken, what is the next best domain name extension?”

Getting your domain name right is important and in this article you will learn how to walk through the process of either coming up with a .com that is still available and will work for your business or selecting a .net, .me, .us, or any one of the other options that are still available.

At the end of the article, the question that we will answer is, “Is using something other than a .com domain name an acceptable alternative in today’s online business landscape and is there a next best alternative to the .com?”

What You Need to Know About The .com Extension And SEO

Having a .com for your business name is the holy grail of domain names. However, did you know that it doesn’t actually have any technical or analytical impact or advantage for your website? Each domain name extension has a general association with it, but as far as giving you a better ranking in Google, there really isn’t evidence that having the actual .com promotes your site over an equal competitor.

Historically, the .com stands for a website meant for commercial intent or a commerce enterprise. Obviously, it’s become synonymous with the internet at large, it’s the most common domain name extension, and it is the most recognized. But as far as having the most influence on where your website ranks in searches, there is no weight given to the .com extension.

Click here to learn all about what WILL impact your website’s search engine ranking and how to best position yourself to get on page one.

Now, having a domain name that contains the term you want to rank for, yes, that does play some part in rankings. After all, if you want to rank for movies, and you own movies.com, there’s not a whole lot of words better in your website url than movies. However, you could have movies.com, movies.org, movies.net, movies.info, movies.us, or movies.me and technically speaking, they would all be on an even playing field based on domain name alone.

You probably already know this, but for those who do not, the next most popular extension is going to be .org and historically, .org is meant for non-profit organizations. After .org, you have .net, which historically has been associated with net infrastructure companies like Comcast or Cox. To round out the top six, you have .mil which is for military, .gov which is for government, and lastly .edu which is explicitly for education.

  • .com
  • .org
  • .net
  • .mil
  • .gov
  • .edu

In the late 2000s, new domain name extensions started to be made available, and today, new domain name extensions are slated for release every year. Some of the new domain names you can purchase include:

  • .solutions
  • .love
  • .farm
  • .expert
  • .church
  • .media
  • .cafe
  • .us
  • .me
  • .info
  • .biz
  • .io
  • .shop
  • .online

Again, that’s just a few. Do a quick search for “domain name extension release calendar” and you will find dozens of new domains scheduled to be released in the coming calendar year. Here is the best one we found as of this writing.

When the .com is taken, many business owners will take a look at .org and .net as alternatives to .com because they are the second and third most commonly recognized domains. But what if you’re not a non-profit organization or you’re not a net infrastructure company? Are those options off limits?

Can I Use A .org or .net Domain Name If I’m Not A Non-Profit Or Internet Service Provider?

So if .net and .org are the best alternatives, it does make sense to want to use them for your business, at least so far as they will be easy to remember and easily recognizable.

So can you if you’re not a non-profit or a net infrastructure company? The short answer is yes, you can.

There are no regulators, no government politicians, no special interest groups that are scouring the internet just waiting for a business like yours to register an incorrect domain name extension so they can pounce on you and take you down. This is good news when new extensions becoming available. You don’t have to be a coffee house to use the .cafe domain name extension. Rejoice!

This is not an opinion piece, however. As someone who has worked in the online world for nearly 20 years, I would say that very rarely do I see a business that is a for profit using the .org extension. While you will be able to find plenty of organizations and businesses using .net, .org typically remains a sought after domain for true nonprofits. Nothing’s stopping you from using a .org for your for profit business, but it’s not something you’ll find many others doing.

Are The Newer Domain Name Extensions Just As Good As .com, .org, And .net?

One of the best features many domain name registrars offer is actually showing you other domain name extensions or providing you with alternative versions of the .com that you were trying to buy but is already taken. You’ll see several very short extensions such as .co, .me, or .cc as options. These extensions are less desirable, however, you have probably started to notice more and more of these domains being used for newer websites, online services, and shopping sites. If you can’t get yourbusinessname.com, is there any reason why you wouldn’t want to use some of these alternatives?

Sites like GoDaddy will give you filters to help find an alternative domain name using your preference for extension.

A simple search on any domain registrar will render a dozen or more alternatives to .com names if your ideal domain is taken. Some of the more popular alternative have been .co, .me, .tv, .io or .cc. These extensions are less popular and you’ll most likely find that while that perfect .com isn’t available, the .co, .me or .cc is available. Is there any reason why you wouldn’t use these extensions to secure that perfect business name?

One word of caution, if you do choose to use a lesser known domain name, try and choose one that can’t be confused with the big three, particularly .co.

When your domain name is yourbusinessname.co, it is very likely that some who are typing in your domain will mistake .co for .com, thinking that the m was accidentally left off. It’s a small thing, and they’ll most likely be able to put the pieces together when they realize that .com is not your business. However, do you want to risk that they can put the pieces together?

If it’s imperative that you have your ideal domain name, just minus the .com, scroll through the list of alternatives that domain name registrars will offer up. Sometimes, they’ll have a very creative alternative.

The Simple Truth About Domain Name Alternatives

There are three truths that you need to know about as you make a decision on what your domain name will be and which extension you want to use.

You Should Choose .com First

The first truth is .com is still, and for the foreseeable future will be, the most desirable domain name extension. If you can secure a .com for your business with your perfect name or a variant of your perfect name, that should be your first option. This is the best practice for domain names, and unless you have a good reason why a variant of your perfect .com won’t work for you, it should be your choice.

If You Don’t Use .com It’s Not The End Of The World

The second truth is that in nearly all scenarios, your domain name or domain extension will not make or break your business. Being awesome, providing value, and having sought after products and services is what will make or break your business.

Don’t blame your domain name when you don’t garner as much traffic as you thought you would. Don’t point to the domain name when your business doesn’t take off the way you thought it should. The domain name is one piece of the puzzle and just like getting a .com doesn’t ensure success, anything other than .com doesn’t doom you from the start.

Domain Names And Search Engine Optimization

Finally, as mentioned above, your domain name will have an impact on your search results to a certain extent. If you are a New York sandwich shop and you can secure newyorksandwichshop.com that will play a factor into people searching for New York sandwich shops. If newyorksandwichshop.com is already taken, maybe consider newyorksandwiches.com and if that’s taken, try newyorksandwich.com.

If all those are taken and you still want New York Sandwiches to be in your name, then explore a domain like newyorksandwichshop.us. The SEO juice isn’t in the .com or .us, it is found in the newyorksandwichshop.

Then there are instances when your domain name itself will not help your business. For instance, if you like Johnny Cupcakes and your domain has nothing to do with cupcakes, you won’t find yourself ranking for cupcake searches because your site won’t talk about cupcakes.

Check out JohnnyCupcakes.com to see what I mean.

Just Tell Me, Am I Okay Buying Something Other Than A .com?’

Don’t kill the messenger – there is one more thing you should know before the final answer on alternative domains when yours is taken.

Your domain will be attached to a domain name history and search history.

Why does this matter?

Let’s say you wanted ceramiccoffeemugs.com but your .com was taken. So you purchase perfectcoffeemugs.us and begin building your online business using that domain. Every month that goes by, every product you add, every time someone shares a link to your site, and every time you publish a new blog post, you are building your domain rating and developing a domain ranking. You are building a rapport with search engines like Google.

In the same way you can build a good rapport and healthy domain, you can also build a bad rapport and have a domain name that is penalized.

Websites will be given unofficial healthgrades, and when business owners implement bad practices trying to trick search engines, they are found out and penalized.

When you commit to your domain name, don’t plan on changing it. Don’t plan on purchasing the .com down the road and switching everything over. If it comes to that point, great, but commit to building up your domain name health and building a strong reputation online with search engines and with users.

Overtime you will develop a domain rating, ranking, and overall SEO profile. It is a very big deal to switch your domain and should be done with GREAT CARE!

If the opportunity to purchase the .com of your domain name arises, talk about it with a SEO expert and decide if it’s worth the cost of transitioning. Do your research on the new domain and be in agreement with those whom you’re trusting for advice on the transition.

Just Tell Me What I Should Buy If My .com Is Taken

Your .com is the criteria you should use as you choose what to buy as an alternative.

  1. Your domain name should be easy to remember
  2. Your domain name should be clear over clever (don’t go with gr8successonline.com)
  3. Your domain name should be proper spelling if possible
  4. Prioritize getting a .com
  5. Look at what is available as a .net if you are unhappy with all .com options
  6. Look at .cc, .biz, .io, or .us as your next option
  7. Avoid .co because people will think it’s supposed to be .com

Once you buy your business domain, commit to it. Don’t switch domains four months into your website. Commit to the domain you bought and begin investing in the domain name quality. Create great content, submit your website sitemap to Google. Publish regularly and build a good reputation with search engines. What you publish on your website will be the determining factor for whether or not your online presence sinks or swims – not your domain name.

Even after this article, it’s quite possible that you still have questions. If you would like to bounce a few ideas off of our team, we would love to hear from you. You can send us a message through our contact form just letting us know what you’re considering. It would be our pleasure to give you some insight into how we would approach the situation and hopefully give you a greater level of confidence moving forward with your purchase.

Do not let your domain name anxiety prevent you from getting your business online. Get your site launched ASAP and start the building process.

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