Pros and Cons of Specialty Top Level Domains

Pros and Cons of Specialty Top Level Domains

You know by now that maintaining an online presence for your business is mission critical. A small percentage of business owners find that social media is a sufficient platform, but for the majority of small businesses, a website is a must-have. If you are just starting out or are looking to refresh your web presence, you’re likely considering what your web address will be and how your customers will find you. Here’s another option to add into the mix: a specialty top level domain for small business.

A top level domain, or TLD, is the last segment of your web address. The most common of these is .com, followed by others like .net, .org, and .gov. You may have come across some unique variations of this, like when you visit an Australian website ending in .au or the site for your favorite show ending in .tv. If the kids in your life are looking into colleges, you may have seen enough .edu websites to make your head spin.

In all of these examples, unique TLDs help communicate something specific about the entities behind them. If you visit a .gov website, you’ll expect to see something government-related, be it your town’s website or a national resource. If the website of the restaurant you’re scoping out for dinner ends in .gl, you’ll want to double check that you’re exploring its Google site and not an eatery in Greenland (unless you happen to be there).

As options for top level domain names continue to expand, more and more businesses are looking into differentiating with TLDs. Before you launch a new site or ditch one with clout to start anew, take a look at the pros and cons of registering a specialty top level domain for small business.

Pro: Your website will be unique and memorable.

A specialty top level domain for small business can be just the differentiation you need to snag the spotlight for your company. Swimming in a sea of .com competitors vying for a party planner’s attention, your .catering business website could help you rise to the top and book the gig. Similarly, if your tech manufacturing business is trying to edge out hundreds of other booths at the year’s biggest trade show, your .tech web address may help you make a splash. Making even the simplest website memorable can be a challenge, so adding extra flair to your web address can help your small business stand out.

Con: It may be confusing to customers.

While a pro of doing things differently than your competitors is the opportunity to stand out, a con can be just that – it’s different. We are creatures of habit, and with nearly half of all registered domains ending in .com, stumbling upon a specialty top level domain for small business can be confusing. In addition to potentially confounding your customers, an unfamiliar TLD can seem less secure and reputable when compared to its .com counterparts.

A specialty top level domain for small business can also negatively affect search results, making your business harder to find. While Google does not discriminate against new TLDs, .com websites may “indirectly rank higher due to Google’s preference for aged brands,” according to HubSpot. This is a good reason to think twice before abandoning the .com web address your small business has had for 10 years in favor of a new and trendy TLD.

Pro: A TLD can be marketing gold.

In particularly competitive industries, choosing something clear and memorable can be worth its weight in marketing gold. In fact, your TLD can serve as a major marketing tactic in and of itself. Promoting your TLD across business cards, social media, giveaways and the packaging for your products can really drive the point home. Since a TLD outside of .com or .net is less common, you will want to put in plenty of extra promotion to make sure your customers and prospects make the connection.

Con: It could be cost prohibitive.

The final point I’ll make on a specialty top level domain for small business is the potential cost. With the exceptions of 501(c)(3) nonprofits and other charities that may be able to register their domains and host websites free of charge, there is a cost to registering every site, be it .com or .lamborghini (sorry, but yes that one is taken). This cost can be minimal, on average about $10-$15 per year. But there are domains out there that can cost your business hundreds if not thousands of dollars to hold onto.

If you’re interested in registering a custom top level domain that is not currently listed by ICANN, that process may cost upwards of $200,000, plus the recurring costs of renewing the domain name and hosting your site and email.

Before you invest your budget on a custom or specialty top level domain for small business, invest your time in researching your competitors and what domains are out there already. A unique TLD could be the magic ingredient to a successful marketing strategy for your small business, or you may want to explore other creative marketing strategies and continue building the equity of your .com website. If you are looking for inspiration (and perhaps a laugh or two), take a well-deserved break and peruse the expansive list of custom top level domains currently registered with ICANN. Happy Marketing!

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