Do you really need a .com domain?

Domain extensions, like .com and .net are almost as old as the internet itself. We’re very used to visiting Google.com or CNN.com, or in my case BigBadToyStore.com. Typically you see businesses with a .com, but does the .com help your SEO, or is it just a preferred extension for businesses?

The debate is old, I’m a snob and I do my best to build sites and recommend to our clients that they build sites that represent the easiest URL for a customer to remember. I’m not a fan of .co or .net even, I believe that customers expect a .com. We were talking earlier on Facebook about this topic and Matt Stigliano commented; “The only danger is that people won’t remember the .net and use .com and then get frustrated. “Don’t Make Me Think” rules still apply, even as we get more tech savvy.

A company here in San Antonio recently launched using a .co domain, but when you visit the same URL as a .com you wind up at another company entirely that does pretty much the same thing. That company is going to lose potential clients to the confusion of sending visitors to the wrong website and ultimately their SEO efforts will be hurt when the ease of use factor kicks in, like Matt says above, “Don’t Make Me Think”.

That said, on the SEO front, Google could care less what your extension is.

People often ask if a .edu or .gov domain has some sort of built in bonus from Google, but ultimately that bonus comes from the content of the website, not the domain extension. Logically, a school with a .edu or a government page with a .gov is going to be linked to by other school or government pages, it’s going to be referenced in dozens or hundreds of places and with that comes a sizable SEO boost.

Also, .edu and .gov domains tend to be fairly old. The age of your domain is a factor in it’s value in Google’s eyes, so it’d make sense that a University with an older .edu domain would have built up ample authority over the years. Whenever you buy a new domain with no history, you’re starting from scratch.

Bloggers are a big fan of the .me extension, and while the user might still put in .com when looking for your website, the .me extension doesn’t limit your SEO potential. At the end of the day, the links to your site, the content on your site, and how frequently you post and update your content is going to make a much larger impact on your Search Rankings than a .com, a .co, or even a .edu.

When I named Image Freedom I had a spreadsheet of names that were available via GoDaddy. Our company was almost called FlightFive, simply because the domain was available as a .com. The snob in me recommends using a .com if the option exists, but if your content is sound and you can get the links, the domain extension doesn’t really matter.