Let’s say you owned a martial arts studio called Main Street Ninja and after searching these are the best domain names you can find: mainstreet-ninja.com or mainstreetninja.org. Which would you choose?
Actually, neither is that desirable. The first has a hyphen, which should usually be avoided; the second is a .org, which is inappropriate for business.
Adding a few words or rearranging the name might help you find some more options in .com, such as using ninjaonmainstreet.com or themainstreetninja.com, but those are getting a little wordy. One of the goals of selecting a domain name is to keep it short.
The problem is, words like main street and ninja are common enough that getting a .com with a combination of these terms is a longshot. With millions of .com domain names being registered every year, it’s getting harder and harder to come up with one that hasn’t been taken already.
This is where the new top-level domains (nTLDs) can help. New top-level domains is the label given to the myriad of generic domain extensions that have been released since 2014 - things like .site, .work or .nyc.
Not only can new domains save the day when a good .com isn’t available, they can enhance a brand. For example, what about using “mainstreet.ninja”? It’s shorter, punchier, easy to get across verbally and even has an edgy quality that .com doesn’t. That’s perfect branding for a martial arts studio - it evokes a feeling and is memorable.
In this case, using a new top-level domain might be the better choice. So what are the advantages of using an nTLD? And when should you use one?
On the plus side:
- nTLDs are distinctive, setting a domain apart from all the others that end in .com or .net.
- They can be inexpensive. If you’re happy with a .online or a .space, you may be able to get a domain name for under $10. Mainstreet.ninja is only $9.99.*
- Like .ninja, they can complement your brand. Think of .yoga, .realestate or .energy. Almost anything you need is out there now.
- A new top-level domain can make it very obvious what a website is going to be about.
- It’s still early enough to be the first on the block to get some of these extensions and be seen as being ahead of the crowd.
On the other hand:
- It’s not a .com. The .com still rules and is the default that people use when they’re trying to remember a URL they haven’t written down.
- Though they first came to market in 2012, some people still find it a challenge to feel comfortable with and trust nTLDs. They are definitely getting around (.online, plus a half dozen more have surpassed one million registrations) but they still don’t have the familiarity of a .com or country code TLD.
- Some terms and keywords have been designated as "premium" by the registry, and are more expensive. While Mainstreet.ninja is only $9.99, Mainstreet.dev is $80.00 and Mainstreet.accountant is US$800.*
Of course, as with other domain name selections, you don’t have to stick with just one domain purchase, and you may want to purchase several different nTLDs in addition to a .com. Let’s say you have a store called Westside Bike Wear. In the past you might have automatically purchased westsidebikewear.com and westsidebikewear.ca so no one else can grab those domains. Now you have the option of using westsidebike.clothing, westsidebike.fashion or even westsidebikewear.shop.
Or consider a name like Red Peak Brewery. Appropriate domains could be redpeakbrewery.beer and redpeakbrewery.pub. Here are some other examples of well-used nTLDs that shorten the domain name while keeping it ultra clear what the function of the site is: extrabold.design, Cabo.rocks, dekora.fashion and behold.photography.
If you’re starting your business from scratch and haven’t determined a business name, it might make sense to search domain name availability as you create your business name. You can then look through all the new top level domains to see if any will work as part of a name for your business.
If you already have your business name and especially if you’re an established brand, you want to choose a domain name that’s going to support and enhance your branding.
If you already have an established website, the new top-level domains can serve be used as specialized landing pages or domain pointers. Red Truck Beer Company, for example, which is currently redtruckbeer.com, might purchase Vancouver.beer just to act as a domain pointer to direct people to its site.
At the time of writing, the marketplace domain Vancouver.beer was $5,000, so it would require a good deal of thought, but it could be worth because it's easy to remember and contains relevant keywords, though these do not matter nearly as much as they once did. But be cautious – more expensive doesn’t mean better. Just because a top-level domain is asking a high price doesn’t mean it has more prestige and is going to attract more customers.
Another reason why new TLDs are so helpful is that they can prevent headaches down the road if you decide to expand your business or sell it.
In the past, in order to buy a .com, you might have had to add a personal name, city name or other geographical reference to your domain. For example, if you were starting a restaurant chain called Veggie Burgers but couldn’t get veggieburgers.com, you might have created Samsveggieburgers.com or Vancouverveggieburgers.com. But the first option could detract from the attractiveness of the brand if you want to sell it later, and the second option would limit its use on a national or international scale. Instead, using veggieburgers.restaurant solves the problem.
While the uptake of new top-level domains still lags compared to purchases of a .com, you still might find yourself running into the situation where the domain you want with a new extension has been taken. Don’t give up, however, as a lot of people jump onto a new TLD because it sounds cool, then the excitement wears off and they drop it later on. As with any domain name you search for, check to see if it’s actually being used or if it’s just parked. If it’s not being used for an actual site, it might not get renewed the next year and you can grab it as a pointer domain when the owner allows it to expire.
If you're ready to explore new domain options, Webnames has a number of good starting points. Browse new top-level domains by category in the New Domain Launch Schedule, use the Domain Wizard tool to get targeted suggestions, view an A-Z list for the full gamut of extensions, or simply do a domain search of your idea to see what's available in real time.