Are you starting a new website? Trying to come up with a domain name? Can’t decide whether to choose a .net or .com domain?
Choosing a domain name is going to be one of your first steps when launching a new website. If you’re like most people, you’re probably thinking of using your business or organization name as your domain name, along with a .com extension.
This makes sense, as .com is the most popular domain extension in the world and you want your new website to be instantly recognizable.
As you may already have found, most good domain names have already been registered on a .com extension. If this is true for yours, you might be contemplating using a .net instead.
Since .net extensions have a far lower penetration than .com, you’re far likelier to find a suitable domain name that matches your brand.
While .net domains may be more readily available, that’s often for good reason.
Before you go ahead to choose a .net extension in place of a .com, you should understand what each extension means and the pros and cons of choosing either one.
Read on to find out more!
What Exactly Are Domain Extensions and How Do They Work?
To fully understand domain extensions, you need to understand how domain names work.
A domain name is like the address to the place where your web files are stored on the internet. These files are stored on a remote computer called a web server.
For users to find your website, they need a way to connect to your web server through their browsers.
Strictly speaking, the actual address for your web server is a string of numbers known as an Internet Protocol (IP) address.
IP addresses tend to be long and not very user-friendly so we mask them with a domain name and use DNS to translate that domain into the IP address.
Humans find it easier to memorize words than strings of numbers, which is where domain names come in.
A domain name is made up of three parts.
- The first is the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP/HTTPS): https://wpastra.com,
- The second is the domain name: https://wpastra.com,
- Third is the domain extension: https://wpastra.com,
Some domains also include the www. but this is optional.
For example, with https://wpastra.com, HTTPS is the hypertext transfer protocol, and represents the particular manner in which the website communicates with web browsers.
In the example above, wpastra the domain. This indicates to users and to search engines that the domain is associated with the WPAstra product.
Finally, .com is the domain extension. Domain extensions are also called top-level-domains (TLDs).
Now that you understand the structure of a domain name, it is time to consider what extension to choose.
First, we’ll briefly consider the types of domains that exist.
The domain name system exists in tiers. At the top of these tiers are top level domains that serve generic purposes, meaning they could be used by anyone, for anything. These domains are suitable for pretty much any type of website and include popular domain extensions such as .com, .net, .org, and so on.
Next in the tier are country-specific domain extensions. These extensions represent specific countries and are typically used in local SEO efforts.
When Google notices that your website uses a country-specific top level domain, it takes this into account when searches are made for businesses and organizations in the relevant local area.
Country-specific domains are usually harder to register and might require some proof that the business or organization is registered at the relevant national level. Some popular ccTLDs are .co.uk for the UK, .au for Australia, and so on.
Sponsored Top Level Domains (sTLD) are not available for use by the general public. They represent specific communities, usually of an official or governmental nature.
They can include TLDs like .gov for government websites, .mil for the US military, .edu for universities and educational institutions, and so on.
Difference Between .Net and .Com? and Is It Bad to Have a .Net Website?
Com stands for commercial and was originally designed to be used for any business enterprises. The .net domain was intended to indicate a network, and is generally intended to represent internet services and the various types of networks, including social networks.
As you probably know, these two names evolved differently than intended. The .com TLD is now used by anyone, for any type of website. As is .net.
For example, social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn prefer to use .com extensions while many commercial enterprises might use .net.
Other than this, there is no significant difference between .com and .net extensions. The main factor you’ll have to consider is branding and user perception.
Which Is Better for Branding and User Perception?
When choosing a domain name, you may want to choose one that most clearly reflects your brand. Given that .com is the default extension used by most websites over 50% of all websites in existence, this is what most users are likely to expect to see.
This is particularly true if your website represents any commercial interests. If you decide to use other domain extensions, you might run the risk of confusing your audience.
Which Is Better for SEO?
When choosing a domain extension for your website, you’ll likely be concerned about SEO. Many webmasters wonder if choosing a .net extension might harm their SEO if their website is not network-based.
The good news is that search engines like Google do not give domain extensions any particular SEO value. Instead, domain labels are of far greater importance.
The best practice is to include a relevant SEO keyword in your domain label if you can.
In general, you shouldn’t worry too much about using your domain name for SEO purposes. Instead, be sure to pursue a more complete SEO plan.
For branding purposes, a .com extension should be your first choice. This is particularly true if you are running a commercial operation of any kind.
Com extensions are not only popular with webmasters, they are easier for users to remember. An additional perk is that they are so commonly used that most desktop and mobile keypads have inbuilt .com buttons.
As we noted previously, if the .com version of your chosen domain name is not available, you might be tempted to try a .net extension of the same name. But there are other solutions you might consider first.
For example, you may consider adding an extra keyword or letters to your domain label. Just remember to keep it short.
There are very few occasions when it will be preferable to use a .net extension over a .com. If you run any kind of network-based website, this will be one occasion where this is appropriate.
If you also simply cannot find a suitable .com domain name for your website, a .net could be a reliable alternative.
Other Domain Extensions to Consider
When searching for a domain name, most domain registrars tend to suggest .net alternatives to popular .com domains. This may lead to the impression that .net is the only alternative to .com.
There are many more options to consider depending on your business type. Here are three popular extensions to consider:
.Org is typically used by non profits and other charitable organizations. If you cannot find a suitable .com domain name, you may consider using a .org variation.
.Io is a popular extension that is commonly used by tech startups. You might wonder if IO stands for internet organization, but it doesn’t. Actually, .io is technically a country-specific TLD for the British Indian Ocean Territory.
Due to its common usage by tech-firms and startups, however, Google says that it treats .io domains as generic TLDs.
Just like the .io extension, .co was originally intended as a country-specific TLD, and represents Colombia. Thanks to popular demand and common usage, it is now in use by millions of firms across the world as a substitute to .com.
As we’ve noted, there is an abundance of domain names to try but you may want to stick with these more recognizable ones.
Another option you might consider is using a vanity URL. Vanity URLs are meant to express the unique personality of a person or brand.
Don’t confuse these with vanity domains which are domain names that are composed out of an individual’s name. These are more novel domain extensions that very few people currently use.
Some good examples are .ninja, .fit, .me and so on.
Remember, Google won’t penalise your search rankings just because your website doesn’t use a more traditional domain extension.
In fact, vanity domains are often cheaper than .com and .net, and even .org domain names, so they are a strong option to consider.
The downside is that most users are still skeptical of vanity domains so trust is lower.
The best practice is to register both a .com or a .net domain along with a vanity domain, and have both of them point to the same target.
.Com vs .Net – The Final Verdict
If you’re looking to register a new domain name, in almost all cases, a .com extension will be the preferred option.
It’s more recognizable, it’s what audiences are used to seeing and it’s the default choice for most new domains.
It won’t always be available however, and this might prompt you to get creative.
There are a good number of alternative TLDs to choose from. You may also consider getting a little more creative by adding extra words or letters to your core domain label, remembering to include a relevant keyword.
If you’re registering a new domain, you might be building a new website. Check out our complete guide to building a WordPress website!
We’d love to hear from you if you have faced any challenges in choosing between a .com and .net domain extension. Let us know what alternative you settled for and how it has worked out for you!