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As you may know, .com domain names are becoming harder and harder to find. A search for a .com name on domain registration sites like GoDaddy can often lead to frustration. And for most businesses, name extensions such as .org or .net just won’t work.
To make matters worse, domain squatters purchase thousands of names, holding them for ransom, often at exorbitant prices far more than a typical small business can afford.
Alternatives to .com
New Domain Name Category Offers Alternatives, Relevance
The good news is that a new category of domains and alternatives to .com now exists that includes everything from .accountant to .boutique, to .menu to .services, and even alphabetized extensions like .xyz — a range of options that numbers into the hundreds.
Why so many, you may ask? Small Business Trends interviewed Mike McLaughlin, senior vice-present of domains at GoDaddy for more.
“The number of domain names being registered is running into the 100s of millions,” McLaughlin said. “As such, it has become harder to find a name that works for individuals and businesses using the .com extension. The rollout of these new namespaces means that many more names are available.”
According to McLaughlin, not only do these new domains and alternatives to .com mean greater availability, but they also carry semantic significance.
“The new domain names provide semantically meaningful choice,” McLauglin said. “If your business serves a particular geographic area, for example, you can get a domain that reflects that, such as .london or .miami. You can also find those that reflect your type of business: .photography, .attorney or .pharmacy. The new names provide more choice and greater relevance.”
Men’s Apparel Site .Club Domain Creates Brand Awareness
One small business that has taken advantage of the new name structure is ManBrands.club, an ecommerce and online subscription service selling men’s apparel.
Small Business Rends spoke with the founder, Ry Russell, to get his take on why he opted for the new extension.
“We started the company two years ago, to sell men’s branded products,” Russell said. “We registered ManBrands.com, but when I saw that the .club extension was available, something clicked. I felt it added a level of sophistication and exclusivity that would appeal to our customers.”
Russell also noted that .club caught people’s attention, which resulted in an unexpected branding advantage.
“Since the .club domain is relatively new, it caught people’s attention and started a conversation,” Russell said. “It really sticks with people and adds value from a marketing and branding standpoint. It’s not something they quickly forget. As competition increases, finding ways to differentiate yourself is important, and that’s what .club has done for us.”
New Domain Name Drawbacks
Despite the advantages, there are some drawbacks associated with the use of the new names, according to McLaughlin. One, in particular, is that people, when searching for a particular company by typing in what they presume is the domain name, will default to .com.
“There is a certain ubiquity associated with .com,” McLaughlin said. “It is well known and has a high amount of social proof. Everyone uses it, and it is still the preferred choice.”
McLaughlin went on to explain, however, that there is precident for names other than .com, particularly in countries outside the U.S. Overseas markets, for instance, use domains that, in addition to .com, incorporate country codes such as .uk (United Kingdom), .lt (Lithuania) or .ru (Russia).
“These carry meaning for local populations,” McLaughlin said, “and with more than 100 million country code-related domain names, it is not just a .com Internet, and hasn’t been for years.”
Ethics of Registering Similar Names
And what is the ethics of registering a domain using one of these extensions when an existing business has the same name but with a .com.
“First, you have to consider whether a company has a legal trademark on their name,” McLaughlin said. “If so, doing something that is similar could be questionable. Second, it could create customer confusion, particularly if it represents a brand, product or service with which people are already familiar.”
McLaughlin stresses that if a business offers products and services that are entirely different, he believes there is no ethical violation. However, a company offering something substantially similar may present problems.
Domain Name Registration Tips
McLaughlin offered these tips when it comes to registering a new domain name:
“If you’re just starting your business, select a name that perfectly represents what you’re trying to do,” McLaughlin said. “The new domains can help you accomplish that. If you can get the .com, of course, that’s a good thing. If not, find an alternative that is semantically meaningful. If you can get both the .com and alternative name, that’s best. Use one as your primary name and point the other to it.”
For existing businesses that already have brand equity, the issue is different, McLaughlin said. “You should pick a name by which everyone knows you. If you’re in a financial position to do so, look at aftermarket names, those you could purchase at a reasonable price.”
New Domain Names Signal Small Business Growth
According to McLaughlin, the domain name expansion represents a good sign that more and more small businesses are coming online, both in the U.S. and around the globe.
“As more and more people shop online, small businesses are following suit,” McLaughlin said. “To be successful in 2016, it’s a necessary step. Yet, of the 28 million small businesses in the U.S., nearly half still do not have a website, so there is plenty of room for growth.”
Dot-com Photo via Shutterstock