What Are Alternative TLDs and Will They Take Over the World of Domains | Squarebird

What Are Alternative TLDs and Will They Take Over the World of Domains

Have you seen GoCompare’s latest adverts? The online comparison giant has caused quite a stir in recent times, rebranding to Go.Compare and adopting a new domain and alternative TLD to fit. Why make this change, and run an entire marketing campaign around it? It’s certainly got us thinking!

The supply of domains with recognisable TLDs like ‘.com’ is running dry, and the spotlight is turning on alternative options. Offering greater opportunities for creativity, brand cohesivity, and uniqueness, alternative TLDs are making waves in the digital world – and seem set to become the future of business domains.

At Squarebird, we’ve seen clients run into difficulties with their domain choice time and time again. With alternative TLDs providing much greater flexibility and consistency, we see the supremacy of ‘.com’ begin to lose its hold.

In this blog, our web specialists explore alternative TLDs in more detail, and the opportunities they offer.

What is a TLD?

The term ‘TLD’ stands for ‘top level domain’ and refers to the portion of a domain name that comes after the dot. For example, in our domain name – www.squarebird.co.uk – the TLD is ‘.co.uk’.

TLDs are controlled by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), who delegates registrar responsibilities to a number of other organisations, including Verisign who handles ‘.com’ TLDs. Typically, ICANN has been incredibly strict with the creation of these domain extensions.

Until now.

In the last 10 years or so, ICANN has relaxed its rules – releasing thousands of new generic TLDs using common words, allowing more generic TLDs to be registered, and offering companies the ability to register branded TLDs as in the domains ‘go.compare’, or ‘itun.es’.

Despite this, 52.8% of all registered domain names use ‘.com’ TLDs. The second most popular generic TLD ‘.org’ accounts for only 4.4%. In fact, in the first quarter of 2022, 161.1 million ‘.com’ domain names were registered.

Though the creative potential of generic TLDs has expanded rapidly, traditional options continue to dominate. But, with more and more industry leaders like Mitsubishi, Apple, and Twitter considering alternative TLDs, a surge in adoption seems inevitable.

What is the Purpose of a TLD?

The main purpose of a TLD is to highlight certain characteristics of the website in question, such as function, geographical area, or owner. A ‘.gov’ domain, for example, indicates the owner is a governmental organisation. Similarly, country code TLDs like ‘.au’ and ‘.jp’ reveal that the website is from Australia and Japan respectively.

TLDs have an important role to play in the Domain Name System (DNS). Here, they assist with the DNS search process following uncached requests with DNS resolvers beginning their lookup by contacting the TLD server who then supplies the IP address of the origin server.

From a front-end perspective, TLDs are also for the user, helping to classify the purpose of the website and suggest what content they might expect to find there. TLDs can also be trust-markers, with familiar, recognisable TLDs like ‘.com’ and ‘.co.uk’ chosen over their less well-known ‘.xyz’ and ‘.biz’ counterparts.

Types of TLDs

  • Generic TLDs – Think ‘.com’, ‘.net’, and even ‘.coffee’. Generic TLDs or gTLDs are the most common domain extensions used by websites.
  • Country Code TLDs – Country code TLDs or ccTLDs are reserved for use by websites in specific countries and territories. For example ‘.uk’, ‘.au’, and ‘.us’.
  • Sponsored TLDs – Some TLDs are used to represent specific communities. In these cases, a delegated sponsor is chosen to manage it. For example, ‘.app’ is for the developer community, and is managed by its sponsor, Google.
  • Infrastructural TLDs – This is not so much a type of TLD, but a specific TLD: ‘.arpa’. This TLD is the first ever created and is reserved for the management of technical network infrastructure.
  • Reserved TLDs – Finally, certain TLDs are not available for general use because they are on a reserved list and saved for specific functions like ‘.example’, which is used in example demos.

Do TLDs Impact SEO?

According to Google, TLDs have no impact on SEO; that is, the domain extension you choose will not make you appear higher or lower in the search results. Google is interested in finding the most appropriate content for answering a user query, regardless of domain name or TLD.

What you might want to consider is how users will interact with your domain if it has an alternative TLD. Whilst some purport that non-traditional TLDs are seen as less trustworthy, lowering your click-through rate, perceptions are changing rapidly around this topic.

Alternative TLD domains can also be less memorable, largely because users are familiar with ‘.com’ and ‘.co.uk’. On the other hand, the right choice of alternative TLD can have the opposite effect – making you appear unique and distinctive.

As with anything, it all depends on your business, your sector, and other external factors. For bespoke advice, our SEO experts are always here to lend their knowledge and experience.

Why You Should Consider an Alternative TLD

For years, businesses have faced a TLD conundrum when choosing their new domain. Whilst ‘.com’ and ‘.co.uk’ have typically been seen as the only choice for those wanting to come across as serious and reputable, the supply of these sought-after options continues to dwindle.

But perceptions are changing around alternative TLDs – and now might be the perfect time to take advantage of the trend.

Here’s why.

More Options

Whether you’re a start-up business or an established brand looking for a new website, it’s likely you’ll have come up against a familiar problem: common TLDs are hard to come by.

The majority of businesses struggle to secure the domain that best reflects their brand, having to choose longer, more complicated names, or even irrelevant words – confusing for them and their users.

To combat this issue, some are turning to alternative TLDs because these offer more options for names that cohere with the brand – ensuring consistency across a business’ web presence.

User Friendly

Many businesses are going down the route of choosing a TLD that highlights what they offer. For example, ‘.coffee’ for a roastery or café, or ‘.photography’ for a photography business.

Going back to Go.Compare, they put their dramatic domain shift down to use of use. Anyone, on any device, can direct-navigate – they simply have to type in the brand name and they get taken directly to the website, cutting out the middle man.

In the case of our client Apollo, a leading UK engineering consultancy, it was ‘.engineer’ – a modern domain choice that reflected their forward-thinking, future-focused approach. Find out more about the project here.

In all of these examples, the user immediately understands what the website they are visiting is about, avoiding any confusion and providing a better user experience.

Creative Potential

The sheer quantity of alternative TLDs available means businesses can start getting more creative with their domain choice, opting for distinctive names that stick in the mind. A fashion brand could be ‘.clothing’, a brewery could be ‘.beer’.

When it comes to alternative TLDs, there is vast potential for businesses to choose something a little different to the norm, and even have a bit of fun. The result? A web address that is unique, memorable, and – crucially – ownable.

Forward-Looking Website Design, Development, and Strategy in Bristol

Squarebird is a digital marketing and website agency based just outside Bristol, with experience guiding clients through web projects of all sizes – from domain acquisition to design and build to successful go-live.

We always have an eye on the latest trends, ensuring we keep our clients up-to-date with the rapid pace of digital. Whether you want to follow the rules or break them, we can help you craft a digital strategy that coheres with your values, and acts as a roadmap towards your business goals.

Ready to get started?

Get a free consultation call with our team.