If you’re deciding on a new domain name for your business, chances are that you’re facing a lot of questions and decision points. Since domain names today are such an important part of building a brand for your business, it’s no wonder that everyone wants to get it right.
What kind of domain name should you pick? Should you go with a country-specific option for your main web presence? Will a restricted domain name look more prestigious to customers? Should you set up .ca and .mx versions of your website to connect with customers in Canada and Mexico?
In this article, we’ll explain the concept of a generic domain name, how they’re managed, and why it’s a good idea to use a single generic domain name for your company.
A generic domain name is a domain that ends in a generic top-level domain (gTLD). There are well over 1,000 gTLDs in existence today. The most well-known examples include:
At the same time, new gTLDs are introduced every year. Some of the fastest-growing gTLDs include:
At the highest level, all generic domain names and gTLDs are managed by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a non-profit organization.
As you can imagine, effectively managing every generic domain name is an enormous undertaking even for a global organization like ICANN. Therefore, ICANN delegates third-party companies to keep accurate records of domain names and maintain the computers and servers that store these records. For example, the US-based company Verisign has long been contracted by ICANN to maintain registries for the generic .com and .net domains.
When it’s time to pick a domain name for your business, there are three key reasons why a domain name is the best choice: stability, choice, and searchability.
Interestingly, domain names can’t be permanently bought. Rather, a registrant leases the right to use that domain for a period of time, usually for up to ten years. Since a company’s domain name is so closely tied to its brand, it is worth asking: “How long does it take to register a domain name, and how long can my company keep its domain name?”
Registering a generic domain name is very different from domain names that use other types of TLDs, particularly country-code TLDs (ccTLDs) and sponsored TLDs (sTLDs). In both cases, ICANN has little to no control over who can register for these types of domains. Different countries and sponsoring organizations can set their own requirements for registrant eligibility, paperwork requirements, and laws about selling or transferring domain names. Since governments and sponsors make decisions about their own TLDs, regulations affecting domain names can happen quickly and with little warning. Companies that have been using a country code domain name for years may find that they’re suddenly ineligible to keep their domain name unless they fill out more paperwork or pay hefty fees.
On the other hand, registering a generic domain name is much more straightforward. As long as you renew your domain name before the lease expires, you can keep using it indefinitely. The most reputable domain registrars allow you to manage your domain and account details online. Policy decisions about generic domain names are more transparent than what you might experience with national governments or private organizations.
There are hundreds of gTLDs that a company can use for its generic domain name. Sure, there’s the world-famous .com, but generic domain names can be much more descriptive and help your company use its domain name to build a brand. Here are a few examples of industry-specific generic TLDs:
Food and Beverage
With generic domain names, the creative branding possibilities are endless.
If your business operates in more than one country (including Canada or Mexico), a big decision is whether to create multiple domains for each country — a .com, .ca, and .mx version, for instance — or to stick with a single generic domain name. While having localized versions of your company website can help with local search engine optimization (SEO) performance, case studies have shown that sticking to a single generic domain name tends to drive more traffic than multiple local versions combined.
We won’t go into the full details of SEO and page rankings here, but the basic explanation is that certain ranking signals from link activity are more positive when all customers are using the same domain. In particular, websites tend to rank higher in search results when there’s more internal link activity, such as from clicking on the Spanish or French version of the same website. On the other hand, pages tend to rank lower when there’s more link activity to external domains, such as from navigating to a .mx or .ca version of a website, even if those websites are owned by the same company.
Short answer: yes. Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs) allow people and companies to include international characters in their domain names and TLD. This includes Latin letters with accents and other marks (é, ö, å) as well as non-Latin scripts such as Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, Hebrew, and Cyrillic.
But this begs the question: Should your brand domain include international characters?
On the one hand, there’s some evidence that foreign-sounding brands are more attractive to North American consumers, even when there’s no actual foreign connection. Häagen-Dazs, Estée Lauder, and Rykä are just a few examples of American brands that use international characters.
On the other hand, most American keyboards aren’t set up to easily type international characters, which can hurt your domain branding efforts. So, if your do decide to add some foreign flare to your brand with international characters, it’s best to use the non-internationalized version of your brand as your main domain and having the internationalized version point to your main website.
Contrary to what the name implies, generic domain names are far from boring. In fact, with more than 1,000 generic TLDs to choose from, companies have a lot of leeway to create memorable domains that serve as powerful brand symbols that are easy to remember and more likely to increase your company’s page rankings. And best of all, generic domain names are easy to register.