This has been a long-standing question that has grown considerably since the availability of new top level domains have multiplied. Should a person looking to build a new site delve into the plethora of new choices, or is the .com still the best choice?
Do .Coms Rank Better Than Other Domain Suffixes?
Google itself has said that .coms do not innately rank better than other TLDs, and that seems consistent with my own experience as well as many SEO blogs I’ve read. In theory then, all things being equal and two sites having the same tactics used and the same effort put into them, a .net should have the same potential to rank as a .com for example.
That being said, there are still some other factors to consider. Just because a domain does not innately rank better or worse than another doesn’t mean that, in practice, it will rank as well as another.
When doing SEO training I often touch on the fact that while SEO is certainly for search engines, there is also a big human element to it. It’s that very reason that meta titles need to contain keywords but also pique interest, for example.
The Perception Of Domain and Brand
The .com suffix is the standard most people associate websites with. When they hear the name of your company, almost everyone will naturally assume your website URL is “your-company-name.com”. If you’re using a .net or other suffix, you could be losing traffic simply to that misunderstanding alone. Even though cool/unique .coms are getting difficult to find these days and the temptation is to explore the vast selection of other suffixes, people tend to take .coms more seriously.
In fact, using less familiar suffixes are sometimes viewed with suspicion. Some people associate unusual domain suffixes with spammy or unscrupulous sites. I’ve personally seen this happen, having owned quite a few less common suffixes like .co and .me. In each case having invested the same degree of effort as my other sites, I got less engagement, less click-through, and less comments on those ones.
Getting Some Feedback On Domain Perception
When I reached out to some folks on Twitter about it and asked for their honest opinion, a few of them wrote back and confirmed that they didn’t know what to make of the .me I’d used. And that was just for a personal blog.
For companies and professional brands, the perception also seems to be that if you’re serious about your brand you’ll acquire the .com. A good point that was made to me by a mentor a few times is “When was the last time you saw a .net or .info or something ranking on the first page?”
I can think of a few, actually, but I do concede the point. The vast majority of everything you see are indeed .coms.
Most major brands, while they may own the .net/.org/.info etc. of their domain, each of those are in addition to the .com, which they use as the primary domain for their site. It seems rare for a brand to begin with a different suffix and dominate with it. It may be a silly thing at its core, but it is what it is.
Don’t Let Your Hard SEO Work Be Exploited
Another thing to consider is the following scenario. Say you buy a newer suffix like .us, you set up the pages and meta structure well from the beginning, and submit the site all the right places. You’re diligent about your SEO each month, and before long you’re becoming an authority in your industry.
You probably bought the non .com domain because that one was taken, right? Maybe it wasn’t even a site then, so you figured you weren’t competing against anyone for real. Trouble is, if that domain squatter ever does decide to build a site or sells the domain to someone who will actually use it, it can create brand confusion for you. Someone who’s heard of your site may accidentally visit that .com, and it’s also possible that if people are searching for your brand by name that the .com version will begin ranking for it as well.
If that happens, all that trouble you went through to build that brand name familiarity is bleeding out to someone else. Since generally speaking .coms are taken more seriously some may even make the mistake of assuming that site is the “real one” or the original.
What have your experiences been with various domains you’ve tried?