When visiting a website, how much do you pay attention to the domain name itself?
Well, if you’re trying to build a high-quality website, you should pay a lot of attention to your domain and its extension.
There are many unique extensions out there, but the top three are still .ORG, .COM, and .NET.
We’ll break down the differences between these three options and what they can mean for your website.
What is a Domain Name?
Domain names are what people use to find a website on the internet.
Without these names, it would be impossible to navigate through various pages because you would need to know a complex line of numbers and integers.
Domain names are broken up into three sections, which go from generic to specific.
➤ The end of the domain, which is often .com or .org, is the top-level domain (TLD).
➤ The next part to the left of the TLD is the secondary level domain (SLD), which may be the website’s name.
One example would be rockcontent.com. The .com is the TLD, and rockcontent is the SLD.
➤ To the left of the SLD is the third-level domain (3LD).
For example, a page like info.rockcontent.com could be a subdomain of the primary website.
In this case, the page would likely be information about the website, hence the “info” tag.
Domains are different from URLs
URL stands for uniform resource locator, and it contains a domain name along with other information.
An example of a URL would be https://rockcontent.com/blog.
The components before rockcontent guide the computer to the exact IP address of the website, while the term after the last backslash (blog) points to a specific page within the site.
What Does ORG, COM, and NET Mean?
In the early days of the internet, top-level domains were meant to be a quick and easy guideline for users to navigate the web.
The idea was that each type of organization or entity would have a particular domain extension for fast reference.
However, these days, the original intent of TLDs has been more or less lost, which is why the top three are still so prevalent.
Here’s a quick overview of each extension and what it means:
This extension was initially meant for nonprofit organizations.
While that’s not 100 percent true today, many charities and nonprofits still use .org to signify that they’re different from a commercial enterprise.
As a rule, sites with this extension are often more reputable than those with different ones.
Com stands for commercial, and it was meant for businesses and other for-profit organizations.
However, because .com became the defacto extension for almost all websites, it’s the one that everyone tries to get.
Typically, users are more likely to visit a site with .com because it’s easier to recognize.
Net stands for network, and this extension was designed for networking entities like tech companies.
As .com extensions became harder to get, more businesses (of the non-tech kind) started using .net instead.
Why Have the Lines Been Blurred for These Top-level Domains?
Because no one enforced the rules about each extension. The differences were meant only as guidelines, not hard and fast rules.
That said, an organization manages domain names so that no two websites can have the same domain.
This organization is called the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).
Because the internet is so vast, ICANN outsources registration to hundreds of different registrars around the world.
When buying a domain name and extension, you have to pay one of these registrars.
Typically, sites have to renew their domain annually. If they don’t, it becomes available to the next buyer.
While ORG, COM, and NET are the primary top-level domain extensions, they’re not the only options.
There are literally hundreds of unique extensions that companies can use.
Not all extensions are available to everyone, though. For example, the extension .museum is only reserved for actual museums. In that case, an entity has to prove that it’s a museum to get the extension.
There are also country code domains, such as .uk, .ca, .cn, and more.
There are currently over 250 country code domains, which tell users in which country the domain originated.
Only the U.S. has special designations for specific domains, such as .gov or .edu. While every country has a government, only the United States can use .gov without adding a country code.
How to Tell if a Domain is Credible
Here’s a quick experiment.
If you had to visit one of these two sites based on the domain name alone, which would you choose?
If you’re like most users, you’ll choose the .com domain name because it’s more recognizable.
However, the extension itself is not enough to determine whether a site is credible.
Since anyone can purchase a .com or a .biz, there is technically no difference between the two.
That said, here are some ways to tell if a site is authentic and reliable:
HTTP vs. HTTPS
HTTP stands for hypertext transfer protocol, and it’s an essential part of any URL.
HTTPS is the more secure version, as it means that a site has active SSL encryption.
Since cybersecurity is much more of a concern these days, it’s better to visit a domain that uses HTTPS. Google also thinks so, as it favors these sites in search results.
Sites that provide information like the date and author of a piece are more credible than those that don’t.
If you can’t tell who wrote something or when, it’s impossible to know if the material is accurate.
Links to Other Reputable Sites
One way for websites to improve their SEO is by link building.
The more links to credible sites, the higher the ranking. If a page links to sketchy websites, it’s probably not reliable.
.ORG vs .COM vs .NET: Which Domain is Right for Your Website?
If you want to follow the domain extension guidelines, it’s easy to determine which one is best for your website.
If you’re a nonprofit, you should choose a .org. If you’re a commercial business, a .com. If you’re a technical company, then use .net.
Even if you’re concerned about name recognition, all three top-level domains are pretty well established.
That said, if you’re not a nonprofit organization, it’s best to avoid using the .org extension.
Three Important Factors to Consider When Choosing a Domain Name
Once you’ve picked an extension, you need to come up with a domain name. Here are three ways to ensure that you make the best name for your website:
Keep it Simple
This strategy comes with a catch.
Unfortunately, since so many brands and enterprises are out there, it can be hard to get a short domain name.
Generic titles like pizza.com were taken a long time ago, and the current owners are likely unwilling to sell (for an affordable price, anyway).
That said, you can still be simple and come up with an available domain name.
The first option is to try your company or brand name with the extension you’ve chosen.
If that doesn’t work, you might try variations, such as adding your location or specialty along with the brand name.
Let’s use our domain as an example.
If rockcontent.com was already taken, we might try rockcontentseo.com or rockcontentmarketing.com.
Start there and make adjustments if necessary.
Avoid Complicated Elements Like Numbers and Hyphens
Ideally, you want your domain name to be easy to remember.
If you tell someone your website, they should be able to look it up without having to read it for reference.
So, while rockcontent.com is easy, rock-content23.com is much harder.
Adding these elements means that users may accidentally mistype the domain, which can be frustrating and affect your web traffic.
Make It Easy to Remember
Even without hyphens, numbers, or underscores, you can still complicate your domain name with unnecessary or confusing words.
For example, if you use a unique spelling, users might not remember it when typing your web address.
So, let’s say that we changed our domain to rockkontent.com, using a k instead of a c.
Then, whenever promoting our website, we have to notify users of the change, lest they visit some other page.
Wrap Up: Who Won the “.ORG vs .COM vs .NET” dispute?
.com extensions are the most common on the Internet, besides being super easier to remember. You really can’t go wrong with it.
But remember that the other two extensions are also valuable and could be the perfect fit in your context.
Since we’re talking a lot about domains, maybe you’re considering expanding your reach by creating a blog for your business.
If that’s your case, we have a perfect tip: our WordPress Guide for Corporate Blogs. Check it out!