How to choose a domain name for your website : TLD vs ccTLD vs exotic

Domain names
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Whether you're planning to build a mind-boggling blog or a bustling online shop, every current online project needs a smartly chosen domain name. More often than not, the name you pick out for your website can make or break your business in the long run. 

You’ll want to go with something catchy yet not too common - after all, your site should stand in the crowd. At the same time, you’ll need to think about the domain’s reputation since some perfect-looking names come with sins from the past - perhaps it was used for a spammy site or compromised in an infamous data breach.

Also, while going with a free domain name may seem like a smart strategy budget-wise, it might make your business less brandable and serve as a free ad for the company that gave you that name. 

Coming up with a solid domain name is easier said than done, after all. That’s why we’ve come up with a list of a couple of things you should consider when starting your domain name search. 

Before that, let’s look at the types of domain names you can find online and remember to use the best domain registrar when you've made your mind up.  

TLD vs ccTLD vs exotic: What’s the difference?

There are different types of extensions out there and every one of them says something about the site it’s used for. 

The original top-level domains (TLDs) are extensions like “.com”, “.org” and “.net” and they can give your site instant credibility. However, due to their popularity, most perfect-looking TDLs have already been claimed by the competition. So, while they’re seen as trustworthy, it can be terribly tricky to find the right one and up for sale.

Also, while most of these TDLs are seen as generic, they can give useful information about the site. For instance, “.org” stands for organizations, “.net” for networking sites, and “.com” used to represent commercial sites but it’s now utilized for all sorts of online projects. So, you’ll find “.com” being used for various purposes, whether it's a business site, a personal blog, or an online store.

As the name suggests, country code top-level domains (ccTLDs) are specific to particular countries or territories. For instance, “.us” represents the US, “.uk” stands for the UK, and .ca suggests Canada. Since these stand for specific countries, they are a superb way for individuals and organizations to show their connection with the audience they’re targeting. So, if you’re thinking of starting a site with a local focus, using a ccTLD might be a smart move.

Now, it's time to talk about exotic domain extensions. These are the newer and more unique TLDs that have been introduced over the last few years. Instead of relying on traditional TLDs like “.com”, you can now find more exciting extensions like “.photography”, “.pizza”, or “.guru”. These exotic,  industry-specific TLDs can be excellent for creating catchy, creative, and unique domain names that match your site's mission.

In conclusion, the primary difference between TLDs, ccTLDs, and exotic domain extensions lies in their purpose and usage. Traditional TLDs are the most common and very versatile, while ccTLDs are specific to countries or territories. Meanwhile, exotic domain extensions will allow you to be more unique and get your creative juices flowing. 

WWW and COM domain name technology concept

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Tips on choosing a domain name  

Even if you know what domain extension you’ll be using, picking the right domain name isn’t as easy as it seems. To help you out, we’ve come up with tips you can use when choosing a domain name for your online project.  

1. Keep it short and simple

When choosing a domain name, simplicity is key. So, pick out a name that is short and simple to spell - a length of six letters is perfect but you’ll surely want to use fewer than 12 characters.  Long and overly complex domain names can be hard for your visitors to call to mind and type correctly. 

To avoid this, aim for a name that is concise and captures the essence of your site or business behind it. By keeping it simple, you’ll ensure that your visitors will have no trouble finding their way to your online presence.

2. Make it easy to memorize

When it comes to domain names, making one memorable is critical. By choosing a name that’s catchy and memorable, you’ll make sure visitors remember your site address without difficulty. So, avoid confusing and complex words that can easily slip one’s mind and opt for something simpler yet unique.  

A well-chosen domain name can leave a lasting impression on your visitors, increasing the chances of them returning to your site in the future.

3. Pick out the right domain extension

As you already know, the domain extension plays an important role in your site's identity. So, before choosing one over the others, think about the purpose and audience of your online project. 

Some of the most common domain extensions include:

.co - Often used as an abbreviation for company, commerce, or community.
.info - Common with informational sites.
.net - Typically used for Internet infrastructure sites.
.org - Suggest non-commercial organizations and nonprofits.
.biz - Business or commercial use, often as an alternative to “.com”.
.me - Used for blogs or other types of personal sites.
.blog - Apply to blogs, as the name suggests.

Whichever you choose, bear in mind that picking the right extension could be the difference between being found or not.  

While newer domain extensions like “.io” or “.co” can add a modern touch, if in doubt go with the “.com” option. After all, it’s considered to be the best choice for commercial sites with a global market in mind, and it sends a message that you are a professional operation.

4. Check out the existing domain names

Before singling out a domain name, it's essential to research existing domain names first. Double-check if a similar or identical name is already in use by another site or business. This will prevent any confusion and potential legal issues down the road.

So, take some time and explore domain registration databases or perform a simple search engine search and make sure a similar domain name isn’t already used.

A good place to start is, as this will show you if a word has been used as a trademark, in a domain, or even if it has been used on social media sites.

5. Double-check spelling and grammar

This might sound like a no-brainer but double-check the spelling and grammar of your domain name before registering it. If you miss any misspellings or grammatical errors, your site will appear unprofessional and untrustworthy. 

To avoid this, proofread your domain name thoroughly, ask friends for feedback, and consider using online grammar tools to make sure your chosen name is free of spelling and grammar errors.

6. Conduct a trademark search

To protect your brand from the very beginning you’ll want to carry out a trademark search. So, before settling on a domain name, make sure it doesn't infringe upon any existing trademarks. Trademark conflicts could lead to legal complications and potentially force you to change your domain name later on. 

To prevent such a scenario, use online trademark databases or consult with a legal professional to ensure your name of choice is free from trademark conflicts.

7. Steer clear of hyphens, numbers, and double letters

To maintain simplicity and memorability, avoid using hyphens, numbers, or double letters in your new domain name. These could make your site address confusing and hard to communicate by word of mouth. Plus, hyphens and numbers can be easily forgotten or misplaced in a domain name. 

Also, It’s smart to avoid the use of slang like using “u” instead of “you” since it can confuse your future visitors. 

So, opt for a clean and straightforward domain name that is simple to type and share with others.

8. Add keywords for SEO boost

To level up your site's search engine optimization (SEO), think about adding relevant keywords to your domain name - but don’t go over the top with “keyword stuffing“ or your domain name will sound unnatural.

The key is to strike a balance between the inclusion of keywords with readability and brand appeal.

9. Try to leave room for expansion

To make your brand future-proof, think long-term when picking out a domain name. Consider the potential for expansion or diversification of your site or business. Opting for a too-specific name may limit your options in the future and hinder your business growth. 

So, to keep your options open, think up a domain name that’s broad enough to support potential growth or changes in your business offerings while staying up-to-date and aligned with your brand.

10. Check out a domain name generator

If you're feeling stuck and could use some inspiration, don't worry - there are domain name generator tools out there to lend a helping hand.

These handy online tools can generate creative and industry-relevant domain name suggestions based on keywords, industry, or your preferred style. To use them, you only need to choose one, add your preferences, click the Enter button, and let the generator do its magic.

female hand typing on laptop, internet extensions flying

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TLD vs ccTLD vs exotic: Which one is the best for your site? 

When it comes to choosing the best TLD for your website, there are a couple of factors to consider. Traditional TLDs, ccTLDs, and exotic TLDs each have their unique advantages and considerations.

If you're looking for a TLD with global reach and recognition, a traditional TLD like “.com” might be your best bet. These familiar TLDs can help create an atmosphere of trust with your audience. Unfortunately, many of these TLDs are already taken. 

On the other hand, if your online project is targeted towards a specific country or region, a ccTLD like “.uk” can provide localized relevance and help improve your visibility in local search results.

Exotic TLDs, such as “.app” offer a more niche appeal and can be ideal for tech startups or app developers, giving your site a modern and inventive vibe.

In the end, choosing the right domain name comes down to your goals, target audience, and branding strategy. While it affects your site's first impression and visibility, it's the quality of your content, user experience, and marketing strategy that will determine the success of your site at the end of the day.  

Mirza Bahic is a freelance tech journalist and blogger from Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. For the past four years, Mirza has been ghostwriting for a number of tech start-ups from various industries, including cloud, retail and B2B technology.