How to choose a top level domain for your business

You might suppose that building your sparkling new website is going to be the hardest part of putting your business online, but thanks to drag-and-drop technology and huge numbers of adaptable templates, it’s actually much easier than you’d imagine. Of course, your website needs a name – ideally the same as your business – and then you’re good to go.

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But wait! Before you go ahead and purchase that .com or .co.uk extension, are you sure that you’re making the right choice? Get it wrong and you’ll have to live with the mistake for a long time, so it’s well worth taking some time at the outset to consider your options.

What is a top level domain?

Your website domain is its address on the internet. Just as a bricks-and-mortar shop has a physical address so it can be found, a website has an online address. This is the domain, and it is broken down into sections. The letters ‘www’ often – but not always – start the address, followed by your business name and then the top level domain, or TLD.

The TLD is often .com, but you’ll also see .co.uk, .org and .gov among, others. And there has been a recent explosion in the number of TLDs that are now available. That’s because the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, also known as ICANN, relaxed the rules governing TLDs in 2013. Since then, there have been literally hundreds of new additions. In fact, there were well over 1,500 options at the last count.

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Are all TLDs equal?

With ICANN permitting so many new additions to top level domain options, it might seem reasonable to believe that they’re all equally reliable, but that’s actually not the case. This is something you need to keep in mind when making your decision. After all, there’s little sense in spending time and effort finding your perfect web hosting package if visitors are deterred by a dodgy top level domain suffix.

Although most reputable organisations, such as names.co.uk web hosting, will make sure you’re only offered high-quality TLDs, it’s still worth taking some time to familiarise yourself with some of the more worrisome options. Spamhaus is a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to cleaning up the internet. According to a report on its website three of the most abused TDLs are .fail, .exposed and .work. It is worth avoiding these options if you’re offered the chance to purchase them.

What makes a good TLD?

You can never really go wrong with the well-known TLDs, such as .com and .co.uk. Dedicated Country Code TLDs, also known as ccTLDs, are a great option for businesses operating exclusively within one country. They’re not ideal for international businesses, however, as they won’t feature in international searches.

Regional TLDs, such as .london, are a great option for some businesses, but consider your options very carefully before making a commitment as you could be limiting your audience.