You want to build a new website and you need a good domain name for it. Should you register a domain with a generic TLD or should you get one with a country-code extension? There is no definitive answer to this question but certainly there are both the pros and cons of either option. The domain name is quite important, so making the right choice is the first step to success.
What are gTLDs and ccTLDs?
First, let’s have a look at what generic and country-code top-level domains are. A TLD, or a top-level domain, is the last part of a domain name – the one that comes after the dot. There are two types of TLDs – generic and country-code ones.
The generic ones cover a thematic field. The so-called original gTLDs that were launched in the 1980s - .com, .net, .org, stand for “commercial”, “network” and “organization”. They were meant to be used for domain names in the respective field they covered. The new gTLDs that were introduced in 2012 cover a much wider range of generic terms, such as .lawyer, .london, .fun, .services, etc. The original generic TLDs consist of at least three letters, while the new ones are usually whole words. Each generic TLD is managed by a registry operator, but the gTLD policies are adopted on a global scale by ICANN – the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers.
The country-code TLDs are made up of the ISO-3166 two-letter code for every country. A few examples are .de (Germany), .us (United States), and .ca (Canada). Some oversea territories that are a part of a country have a TLD of their own, such as the Coco Islands (.cc) that are a part of Australia. The two exceptions are .uk that is used by the United Kingdom instead of its official ISO code (GB) and .eu, which is used by the European Union, and not by a single country. CcTLDs are managed by local registry operators, which can be either state-run or commercial entities. They oversee all policies and registration requirements for the respective extension they manage.
So, which one is better for your new website? Let’s have a look at the pros and cons of either one.
- Recognized worldwide. The .com and .net extensions are the most popular ones and anybody around the world will recognize such a domain. The new gTLDs have also been gaining in popularity and are recognized by the public as global ones. If you want to target a global audience, this is probably your best choice.
- No special requirements. Anybody can register a domain with any generic TLD. There are no eligibility requirements, there is no need to use a local presence trustee service or to provide any documents to register such a domain.
- A huge choice. Although the good domains with the original TLDs have already been taken, there are lots and lots of good domains with the new extensions that you can get. Due to the nature of these TLDs, you can easily register a domain name with a business-specific extension that will match the nature of your website. A new gTLD may be more suitable for your new project than any other generic or country-code extension.
- Prestige. As good as any other extension can be, the original generic TLDs, especially .com and .net, have a sense of prestige.
- Thematic domains. You can tell what JohnDoe.lawyer and JohnDoe.dentist are about at a glance. If anybody is looking for legal services, for example, they are more likely to click on a .lawyer website than on any other extension.
- Organic traffic. A lot of people will add a gTLD in the end of a domain if they are not sure what the exact URL is.
- Few good domains are left with the original TLDs. Most people are still used only to the classic extensions, but it is very hard to think of a good .com or .net domain that has not been registered yet.
- Not suitable for local websites. Unless you want to reach a global audience, it may not be a good idea to use a generic TLD. A domain with a ccTLD may be more appealing to local visitors and will rank higher in local search engine results than a generic TLD.
- Price uncertainty. The contracts between the registry operators for the original gTLDs and ICANN include a maximum price for each TLD. The contracts for the new gTLDs, however, do not include such a clause, so the registry operators can increase their prices as much as they want and whenever they want.
- Trust. Lots of good names are available with the new gTLDs, but not with the original ones. The problem is that many people do not trust the new gTLDs, so even if you get a short and appealing domain, many people may simply ignore it as they are still not used to the new gTLDs.
- Shorter domains are available. If you need a domain name to target a local audience, it is more likely that you will find a good and short domain name with the local extension rather than a generic TLD.
- Domain hacks. A domain hack is a word or a phrase that is formed when two or more parts of the domain name are connected. Some companies use domain hacks with their company/brand names as well. A few popular examples are movi.es (used by Netflix), spoti.fi, goo.gl. You can use a number of TLDs for a witty domain or for a URL shortener that redirects to your main site, for instance.
- More suitable for local websites. If you want to target a local market, you can get more customers if you use a local domain. You will gain people’s trust as they are more likely to shop or look for some service on a local site.
- International recognition. If the name you want is not available with the original gTLDs and you do not want to use a new gTLD, but something more classic, you can register a domain with a number of ccTLDs that have gained international recognition as global domains through the years. A few examples are .co, .cc and .fm. Last.fm is a popular global service that uses such a domain.
- Connotation. While a new gTLD may seem to be a good idea for some types of websites, ccTLDs are shorter and easier to remember. For instance, .md is ideal for a medical website, while .io (input/output) is very popular for tech startup websites.
- Better ranking in local search engine results. If you want to target a local audience, this is your best option as search engines tend to favor local websites.
- Local presence may be required. Some ccTLDs can be registered only by local individuals/organizations, so the only way to get such a domain is to use a local trustee service provided by the registrar. In this case, however, technically you are not the owner of the domain. A few examples are .fr (only for European Union entities), .com.au (an Australian Business Number is required) or .jp (a valid local address is required).
- Special requirements. Some ccTLD registry operators have special requirements to register a new domain. The .ru extension, for instance, is available to individuals and organizations from all around the world, but you have to provide your national ID / passport information. This is not something that everybody will agree to do.
- Government regulations. While this happens rarely, sometimes governments can change the rules to register a domain. In 2010, for instance, the Chinese government temporarily stopped new .cn registrations.
- Higher prices. Most national registries operate on small markets, forcing them to set a higher price to be able to generate enough income to fund their operation.
- Not for a diverse audience. Websites that use a domain with a country-code extension are likely to be opened primarily by local visitors. Of course, there are exceptions for websites that use one of the more popular ccTLDs, but in general, a local domain will reach only the local population. It is not very likely that visitors from one country will go to a website that is meant to target another country.
- Localized search engine results. If you want to reach a more global audience, your site may not rank well in other countries. While this is an advantage if you want to target one country, it can limit your reach elsewhere. A .fr domain, for example, will be listed in search results in France, but will probably not appear to French speakers in Canada.
So, is one better than the other?
Choosing the right TLD can affect the popularity and the search engine ranking of your website. This is why, you have to weigh the pros and cons of either option.
If you want to target a global audience or you want the domain to tell visitors what the site is about, you can choose a generic TLD – original or new. A .com/.net domain, for example, will build trust in your website. If you have the budget, you can even consider buying an existing domain name. Domains that have been registered for a while will have links from other sites and will generate good traffic to your site from the very beginning. People tend to trust older .com/.net sites as these extensions are widely accepted as traditional ones.
The new gTLDs, on the other hand, give you the freedom to choose a short and appealing domain that can tell your visitors what your site is about. Even if they are less popular, you shouldn’t ignore the fact that lots of good domains are still available with these extensions.
To target a local audience, a local extension will be more appealing, but you may have to meet certain eligibility criteria. You may also have to pay a higher price and put up with the risk of unexpected policy changes. Nonetheless, a ccTLD is the best option to tell local customers that they can trust your website and that you want to offer good and services on the local market in particular. If you want to target two or more countries, you can register several local domains. Depending on your site, you can maintain separate websites or redirect each local domain to a localized section on your main website.
Some ccTLDs can be a great alternative to the generic TLDs for global websites as well. Local extensions like .tv, .fm, or .cc are so popular worldwide that they are often referred to as generic country-code TLDs (gccTLDs). Google often treats such extensions as global ones, so if your desired domain is not available with the original gTLDs and you don’t want to use a new gTLD, you can look for a name with such a country-code extension.
The success of your website depends on a lot of things – quality content, marketing, links from other websites, etc. Although people usually think more about the actual name they will use, the extension can often be just as important. This is why, you have to choose carefully as the extension can affect the amount of traffic your site will get and the audience it will reach.