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Why NOT To Use A .CO Domain

A while ago, I received an email from a friend asking if he should get a .CO domain for his website. I thought for a while, and gave him my answer. “No.” He responded, thanking me, and then asked me why not. I thought for a longer while, then gave him several reasons why, in my opinion, businesses should NOT go out and get a .co domain to use as their primary website domain. After looking over my notes, I figured the reasons were worth sharing. So here they are.

[ Note: for those of you who don’t know what I’m referring to—there’s now a new option for a TLD (top-level domain). It’s called .co. Meaning, instead of your website ending in .com, .org, .net, or .biz, you can now have a website that ends in .co. That’s what this post is all about—why you should not get a .co domain. ]

Why NOT To Use A .CO Domain

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A .co domain is simply confusing. The web culture for so long has focused solely on the .com, almost to the utter exclusion of every other TLD (top level domain). So most people who are going to visit your website will expect to type in “.com” at the end of it. It’s just habit. Actually, it’s an old, longstanding tradition—the .com has been the primary TLD since the very first domain, www.symbolics.com, was registered in 1985. Don’t think that you can change 26 years of history. You can’t. Maybe Amazon, Google and Facebook can, eventually, but you can’t. And you shouldn’t try.

If you tell people to visit your “dot co” website, they’ll either assume you meant “dot com,” or that they misheard you. And if people read “.co” on a printed page, business card or brochure, they’ll assume it’s a mistake or typo and just change it to .com. Either way, you’ve lost that web traffic and a potential sale. Confusion is bad for business.

Having a .co domain when a .com domain is already taken is even more confusing. Domain registrars such as Godaddy sell domains. That’s their job. So they like to say that if www.yourcompany.com has already been registered by someone else, registering www.yourcompany.co is the next best choice for you. But they’re wrong. That’s a terrible idea. If the url for your online dog treats store is www.example.co when www.example.com is the URL for a barber shop in Memphis, you are going to send MASSIVE amounts of traffic to the wrong website. And a ton of your potential customers are going to wonder why on earth they’re seeing haircut specials on your website instead of an order form for buying dog treats online. Guess what? They won’t end up being your customers. Again, confusion is bad for business. You’re losing customers, all because of a missing letter “m.”

As of today, .co domains aren’t being used as a primary domain by any major websites. Right now, the .co domain is only used by über-geeky people who use url shorteners like twitter’s http://t.co and godaddy’s http://x.co, etc. Most of your customers, I’ll bet, don’t even know what a URL shortener is. And they don’t care. But they would like to do business with you, if you would make the process simple.

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For now, just embrace the fact that the world is behind the times and it still stuck on the .com domain. If your business is called “Craig’s Burritos,” do everything you can to get a domain name that’s close to www.craigsburritos.com. Don’t try to be clever with www.craigsburri.to or www.burritos.co. That’s not clever—it’s obscure and confusing. All that really matters in the end is what’s best for your customers. If people can’t find your website = you lose.

A better way to use a .co domain, if you absolutely must have one, is to register your regular .com domain, such as www.example.com, then ALSO get www.example.org, www.example.net and www.example.biz, and now, also get www.example.co. But have them all redirect to your main website. That takes advantage of the new “domain name real estate” that’s available, and avoids confusion.

Although the web has grown up a bit, and it’s not nearly as gangly and awkward as it was in the 1990s, it still has some major growing pains it’s working through. Don’t let your business become a casualty of those growing pains—make your business shine by looking as professional and easy to find as possible.

93 replies on “Why NOT To Use A .CO Domain”

I’m not so sure I agree with 100%. .co has been growing very rapidly in popularity. Many of your points are valid but I think we’re going to see a lot more active .co companies (especially among start-ups). O.co is a major brand. The other thing to note is that for most sites less than one third of traffic comes from people typing in a URL- it’s far more important to focus on social sharing, SEO and in bound links. I so agree that for now the .co is still confusing among many consumers but it’s open for debate as a strong alternative domain. Sure beats .biz, or .us.

Interesting points, but I’ll use your example as proof that my original thesis is valid: o.co is not a brand at all! It’s just a short domain used by Overstock which redirects to http://www.overstock.com. …so even Overstock hasn’t found a way to capitalize on it other than redirecting people to their main dot com website. More companies probably will try to push people down this road, as you said, but I think they will ultimately fail.

I totally agree that being able to find a website is, for the most part, more important than direct visits since most websites do have a majority of their traffic coming from search engines and social media, but that doesn’t negate the fact that it’s still extremely confusing.

There are fringe cases where a .co domain might make sense, but for the most part, they’re just like Overstock’s—a short domain for link shortening, redirects, and things like that. Thanks for commenting! 🙂

I think you contradicted yourself there in the first paragraph. In the article you say that .co doesn’t do good for branding. And that’s exactly what Overstock did. They used the .co extension for branding purposes. The re-direct to their .com extension happens behind the scenes and doesn’t really matter in the real world. In the real world, they thought .co would give them some sort of an advantage.

2 years have passed, and .co still isn’t popular. Startups come and go. Those that do last eventually get enough money from investors so they can buy the .com for thousands of dollars. .com is the end game in the long run of a startup, if it lasts. Many use .co for their personal projects. Vine is a great example of a .co becoming popular, but twitter easily pushed it over night in the seo rankings & it is mainly an app. I’ve seen many .co website that are used as a place holder on the web to direct people to download their main product…an app on the phone.

This was very informative i really wish i had found this before i purchased my domain http://www.realincome.co . Unfortunately the other TLD’s where all spoken for. I hope redirect will still provide some traffic. I think that the .co is a rapidly growing TLD but i do agree it is confusing a lot of the people i send to my url do in fact assume that .co is somehow short for .com an understandable mistake if you think of things in terms of the average user most of which these days seem to be using sms shorthand for everything.

I don’t think I contradicted myself: I used Overstock as an example but I didn’t say they did a good job. Just because Overstock.com tried it doesn’t mean it’s good. I think it’s a mistake on their part, and they’re not really using it for branding. If you type O.co into your browser, it sends you to “Overstock.com” and the logo shown says “Overstock.com” as do all the page titles—there is simply no O.co “brand.” They’re trying to make it more memorable, but I think it’s just causing confusion. And again, that’s only one example out of the hundreds of millions of websites on the Internet.

Think of Google’s URL shortener: people use Goo.gl for shortening links, but nobody ever refers to “Google” as “Goo.gl,” and to perform an Internet search, they visit Google.com, not Goo.gl. The same thing goes for bit.ly, the other URL shortener: the system uses bit.ly to shorten links, but the main website is bitly.com now because they found that users preferred that (or assumed it was a dot com when trying to pull up the website).

Vine.co is a huge success. And vine.com doesn’t even appear on the first page of Google search results for “vine”.

I suppose one could argue that point, and if so, it would prove my original thesis that only big strong brands should play the .co game. (The big strong brand here being Twitter, which owns Vine.).

However, while it’s fair to bring it up, I’d say that Vine a bad example because my point is that *websites* shouldn’t use .co domains, and Vine.co isn’t really a website—Vine is an app, and the .co landing page they have is merely incidental to their service. You can’t actually use the service on http://vine.co… it’s just a placeholder page that tells you to download their native app for devices.

Thanks for commenting!

And it is worth noting that vine.com redirects to vinemarket.com. Maybe it always redirected to vinemarket.com, or maybe they had to do something to dodge the behemoth Twitter brand power. Either way, it further bolsters your point.

Indeed! …and vine.com and vine.co are entirely different companies with different products. This will result in enormous confusion for people wanting to use the Vine app.

Frankly I don’t care for shortened URLs especially bit.ly. I heard of folks getting re-directed to X-rated sites a few years back.

I’ve used Bit.ly with great success over the years: I even have my own bit.ly branded short domain which is ron.ly. But I only use that for sharing links, not for branding, and I certainly don’t tell people to “visit me online at ron dot ly” since that’s silly.

Maybe I’m hopelessly behind the curve, but .co is the TLD Country Code for Colombia, is it not?

That’s what led me to your article–trying to locate the source of a “.co” URL link.

You’re right Chris, but I’d definitely recommend getting the right domain earlier when people don’t assume you have money rather than waiting until you’re huge and they know they’ve got you over a barrel. If you want http://www.coolcompany.com, it’s better to try to negotiate when you have no real assets. If you wait until you become a household name, they’ll probably try to price skim you as much as they can.

Hi, I know this is an old article but I just came across it and wonder if your views have changed since writing it? As a start up, it’s hard enough finding a domain that works, then to find most .coms have been taken makes .cos attractive- but with the obvious issues you mention… Curious where you stand now…

I think we just have to build a great website, and people will come if they like you, regardless of your domain extensions. Ex: https://mega.co.nz/. They dont even own the “mega.com” domain. and I see them ranking well for the keyword “mega” 😉 .

True enough, Isaac. …that only works for search engine traffic, of course. 🙂 If your entire business can survive only on traffic from search engines, you have less to worry about.

Hi Ron. Thanks for a great blog post. I’m creating a mobile app and was wondering what would be the best domain name. The domains i checked (and that are available) are the following:

– domainname.net
– getdomainname.com
– domainnameapp.com
– domain-name.com
– domainname.co

Which one would you choose? Thanks very much in advance!

Hi Ana, that’s a great question! I think that the move towards more horizontal domains (i.e. industry specific) are inevitable, though it sure is going to cause a lot of confusion. For example, if I tell a 60 year old that my website is “ron.guru” I guarantee you he’s going to type in “ron.guru.com” or “ronguru.com” out of sheer confusion. Having said that, I think future generations will find it easier to adapt.

To this day though, the only truly popular .co example I’ve seen is Vine.co as you’ve mentioned, but as I told a previous poster, that’s only one, out of billions of websites.

If you’re really concerned about getting a good domain, I’d say just reserve example.web or whatever, but hold it for now until it makes more sense to launch with it and in the meantime, keep using a .com if you can. 🙂

If you’re feeling really nervous, like everyone’s going to go out and steal your brand identity, you could probably get all of them. But if you only want to get one, I think domainnameapp.com is the best choice, because it’s the most common way of doing it (there are lots of apps that use this naming convention). But it’s also good because it tells you right away what the domain is for: an app. So that’s good too. Good luck!

Hey Ron! You wrote this post way, way back in 2011. .CO was only launched in 2010! Give a new domain extension a chance man!!!

In the 4 years since then, .CO has become one of the fastest growing and most popular domain extensions in the world. There are over 1.7 million .CO domains registered by people in 200 countries — and the domain is being used by tons of the world’s most innovative businesses and brands… Beyond Vine.co, please check out http://Angel.co (Angel List), http://Brit.co (Brit + Co) , http://500.co (500 Startups), http://Jelly.co (Biz Stone’s new search engine), http://qplay.co (company launched by the founders of TIVO), http://LeWeb.co (Europe’s biggest tech company), http://Summit.co (one of the coolest company’s ever), http://Launch.co (Jason Calacanis’ startup festival), http://om.co (the personal blog of Om Malik, founder of GigaOm), http://newco.co (John Battelle’s new company), http://leanstartup.co (Eric Reis’ event series) — and tons of other case studies at: http://www.go.co/case-studies/.

Regarding O.co, while Overstock doesn’t use O.co as it’s main domain brand in the USA anymore, O.co IS the company’s primary URL elsewhere around the world — which is a critical thing to know since the company is heavily focused on international growth. You can get the details here: http://x.co/4IAOu

And it’s not just startups and tech companies using .CO, huge global corporations like http://aspen.co are building on .CO, and innovative tech companies like Google (g.co) and Twitter (t.co) are leveraging .CO domain names for social and mobile media to extend their existing online brands.

Now, I do confess, I’m may be a wee bit biased because I’m one of the co-founders of .CO Internet, which is the company behind the .CO domain. The thing is, I think if you’ll give .CO another look, you might just be persuaded to change your opinion!

Why?

.CO is more than just a domain. We offer our users all sorts of free cool perks and privileges to help them build and grow their businesses online — incredible things, like tickets to high priced conferences, opportunities to pitch their businesses to noted VCs, and access to fancy pants networking events. You can get all the details here: http://www.go.co/members/

And in case you are worried about SEO, you’ll be happy to learn that .CO domains are treated exactly like .com, .net and other legacy domain extensions for SEO purposes, according to Google search guru, Matt Cutts. You can learn more here: http://www.go.co/about/seo/

Most importantly, .CO has the most incredible community of innovators, entrepreneurs, movers and shakers who are building the future online. We love our community — and are committed to their success. And they feel the love every day!

But truly, you shouldn’t take my word for it. Do some new research. Check out our website at http://go.co. Listen in on our customers. Check out our twitter feed @dotco and just eavesdrop for a while.

While I’m not expecting you to run out and buy a .CO domain this minute — I do hope I have succeeded in persuading you to at least take another look — to suspend your disbelief and research the issue with “new eyes” — just long enough to re-evaluate based on the facts as they exist today — in 2014.

The Internet is on the eve of the launch of over 1000 new domain extensions. As you mentioned, .guru, .this and .that. It’s a brave new world out there — and all these new TLDs will help to let consumers know that there’s more to the world than .com. And for that, everyone should be very happy! The days of settling for left-over domain scraps are gone forever!

: )

Hi there Lori. Thanks for dropping a line here. I’ve read all your comments and really do appreciate them. Here are my quick thoughts:

1) I’m happy for you that .co is a fast-growing domain. That’s a great business. But I would still tell most people not to use it as a *primary* domain, for obvious reasons. If I have a company called “example group, inc” and http://www.examplegroupinc.com is already taken by a company that isn’t yours, it’s still a bad idea to use http://www.examplegroupinc.co as your primary domain because there’s too much opportunity for confusion. You’re just one keystroke away from the wrong business. And as I mention in the post, brand confusion equates to lost business.

2) Some large brands may have started using it, but the majority still don’t. Your example of Google using http://g.co is half-way there, but not quite, because just like they use http://goo.gl, it’s just a URL shortener, not their main branded URL http://www.google.com.

3) The benefits you offer for your users sound great, but they’re all incidental to your actual domain, I think. Meaning, your company would offer these even if your domain was .travel or .photo, because you run an awesome company. Which is great, but it doesn’t prove the point that .co is a strong domain.

4) I’m aware of the alleged lack of SEO dangers, but my concern hasn’t been about SEO reasons (though I’ve spent years working in the SEO realm); it’s been about brand confusion, which is distinctly different. Actually, in contrast, my main point is direct visits and not SEO traffic, though that is important too.

Having said all that, I applaud your business venture, and I do agree that the dot com monopoly needs to be busted. I just don’t think that the best way to do that is offer a confusing alternative that has only one character worth of difference.

I wish you the best in your business. Congrats on making it work. 🙂

Great article, If you’ve got certain resources (money,name/brand recognition) .co is just fine.

What about .us domains? The domain I want is available only as .us and .co but I’m thinking of avoiding a .co domain for most of the reasons you specified, whereas .us seems to be fine.

Another thing is the domain I want is available as .co and the owner of the .com has not done anything with it, so I’m thinking if I go ahead and get my website out before him he is the one who will lose traffic to people stumbling on my website by accident?

I still think you should try to get a .com if you can, and even most large brands that have money, and name/brand recognition do just that.

Getting a .us domain is OK; it still doesn’t quite carry the weight that a.com domain dies, but I think it’s much better than.co domain. You’re still going to have the problem of people assuming that your domain ends in .com and end up at the wrong place though.

If I were you, I would try to make an offer on the .com domain that you want, try to get a variant of it like I mentioned in my post. (For example http://www.examplecompany.com instead of http://www.example.com).

Also, if the domain you want has keywords in it that you want to rank for, the odds are you’re going to out rank the guy who’s sitting on the .com domain anyway by the mere fact that you’re going to be *using* your domain, as opposed to him, who clearly isn’t using his. Good content on a website will always outrank a bare domain with nothing on it.

And by the way, I think that the chance that people will stumble on your .co domain while looking for his .com is MUCH lower than the chance that they will stumble on his .com domain looking for your .co domain.

Hi, if creating a website for “example company” and example.co is available, do you think it would be a viable option versus exampleco.com?

I don’t think that’s a good idea, unless you redirect one to the other. I personally prefer exampleco.com much more than example.co if you can’t get example.com for the reasons I outlined above.

If you were in that scenario, how would you redirect? exampleco.com –> example.co or the other way around?

Glad I found this article! Which option is the best for the company. “Two-Words.com” or “TwoWords.co” or “TwoWords.me”.

I checked for “TwoWords.com” since domain is not used, but trading company is asking $45K! For start-up company that is out of the question.

Great article, thanks for sharing your knowledge! As a starup, what would you recommend more:

TwoWords.co
TwoWords.me
Two-Words.com
TwoWordsCompany.com
Thank you

IMHO, I’d pick the last one. Remember, the whole point is to make sure people don’t end up at the wrong website by typing in the URL. So if your business is at example.com, but your competitor is at example.co, you’re just one letter away from losing business.

Hi Ron I really like the advice from someone working in the industry. I’m wondering what your feeling is towards using a .co for only email.

My father in law and I own a fence company in Oklahoma, and I built the website myself and chose the domain name with dashes in between (which is what the website builder was recommending as a good option many years ago).

Our website is: a-better-fence-construction.com, and when i have to give out my email its so long. johnnydoe @ a-better-fence-construction com.

We have a redirected second website domain name, for fence plaques: abetterfenceconstruction com. But, I don’t know if we even have access to that domain through the website builder.

I was strongly considering getting abfc.co for a shortened email only. And then today i considered abfcok com to include “ok” for oklahoma or abfok com.

What do you think? I’m fairly happy with the domain name for our business email except… I’m just a tad embarrassed and annoyed that its so long having to initially give it out verbally over the phone for example. But once it’s in the email program, its easy to use.

My father in law isn’t too keen on spending $25-30 each year just to make the email shorter, but he still likes using his personal email because its so short for business communications. I’d like to have a short convenient one that he/we could use for our business that still looks and sounds professional.

Hey Ron, I am an 18 soon to be business owner, therefore I have so much to learn. I am running a wholesale gelato company, most of our sales will directly go to restaurants, however we will also be producing pints for local grocery stores and delis along with catering services. Basically I need a great website that will pop up on google when people type in “gelato” and “Bakersfield”. I am glad I saw this post because our company website name is already taken in Ireland and I almost went through with a dot co or us. Is the dot us a terrible idea also? Considering the website name is already taken what do you think the best angle is? hopefully you see this!

Hi Alex, I’m still biased towards dot com domains for the reasons outlined above. It sounds like you’re trying to get an exact match keyword domain though, which is something you don’t need to worry about at all. Meaning, you don’t need keywords in your domain to rank well in search for those keywords. Google and other search engines have made that association nearly irrelevant. Just worry about getting a domain that reflects your brand. For example: www_gelatobyalex_com or similar.

Nice article Ron.

A couple years ago I was using dmblog-dot-ca as the primary domain for my personal blog since it was nice and short. But then after seeing that Google was mostly only showing my site in search results to Canadians, I switched to dmblog-dot-com as the primary and redirected .ca to the .com instead. It has been much better using the .com over the .ca.

I’m in the process of revamping my blog (changing both content and design) and was wondering about also switching to dmblog-dot-co at the same time. Most of your advice (and comments) pertains to people that don’t own both the .co and the .com. Of course, I’m redirecting .ca and .co to the .com right now, but what do you think about doing it the other way around — making dmblog-dot-co the primary domain instead?

Thanks.

Hi Daniel, I have a few thoughts. First, you can tell Google where your website is focused in Google Webmaster Tools under “Search Traffic –>International Targeting.” If you set the default to “United States,” that should solve that problem… in theory. I wouldn’t bet money on it though. Second, yes, you seem to be the exception here because you also have the dot com for that domain. So good for you! However, I would still wonder why you’d want to redirect a .com to a .co. Seems counter intuitive to me. Not a big deal though.

Hi, Just wonder about domains with – like kurdistan-business dot com is it good enough as kurdistanbusiness dot com is taken or I have to choose another domain extension?

How is .co any different than the .co assigned to the country of Colombia?

Great question: it isn’t. My post is written to people mostly (but not entirely) in the USA who speak English. It makes perfect sense to us a .co domain if you’re in Colombia—which is exactly why that domain was created in the first place! 🙂

Very Good post Ron !!.. How about .in domains, does they influence local if target is within india ?..

Hi Ron , the problem is .com had been purchased through an agency and I can’t get it back , so .net was meant to replace the old website .com , since .com ‘s website had been built by him as well , I can ask him to do the redirecting to .net .

What did you do Kim? If your website is a key part of your business and brand, and if the .com is not registered to you, then you don’t have ultimate control of your online branding. Perhaps you can make an offer to buy the domain, and if possible and necessary, create an administrative account (GoDaddy offer this) for this person to manage the domain.

Ron, you make some very useful points, except that you may be overlooking one thing here. Although Goodgle have been clamping down on EMDs (Exact Match Domains), they are still a factor even today (July 2015) in ranking well for websites with good content. Why would someone forego the opportunity to rank well in the SERPs in favor of a .com domain name with few or no searches on the domain name keyword phrase?

Good day Ron,

What a great article to stumble across at a perfect time for me. My partner and I have purchased the domains of businessname.io, businessname.net, businessname.info, businessname.biz, businessname.co, businessname.us because the .com is for sale for almost $3000 and we don’t have those funds yet. There is a company with businessname.ca although they are not a well known company (they show up first in a Google search but there is a warning that the site right be hacked). Our business is intending to serve tech start ups so we are leaning towards .io as we are sure they will be able to find the website.

In reading the information here, it seems that you would recommend businessnameinc.com or something like that. I am concerned because the business name is already 13 letters in length (two words) so adding another 3 letters would be rather long. My partner is intent on having the business name in the web address so we need to either go with one of the domains we purchased or add inc on the end of the business name (the location won’t really work because we hope to serve multiple locations). Hopefully once the business is established we can purchase the dot com but in the interim that’s not feasible. I was thinking that we would just make sure that we show up first in search engines then the extension won’t matter.

What advice do you have? Excited to hear your response.

Ron, thanks so much for your thoughts on .CO. Very interesting, and something I’ve been debating for a long time whether to use, as someone has the FirstLast.com I want.
Curious about two things:
1) What’s your opinion of how FirstLast.NET compares to FirstLast.ME, in terms of branding & SEO? I know you alluded to .ORG and .BIZ below.
2) Any advice on whether to simply switch to FirstMiddleinitialLast.com, so instead of JohnSmith.com, JohnPSmith for example. You know, kind of like JosABanks?

Thanks!

Hi Joseph, my original concern is not even so that a .net or .me is good or bad… it’s mainly that if your domain is firstlast.co and your competitor is firstlast.com, that’s what should be avoided. Having said that, I’d say get the domain that’s least likely to confuse people. If I were you, I’d do firstmiddleinitiallast.com or similar.

I don’t think it’s that big a deal. I’ve run many tests myself on this topic, and Moz even shared a report back in 2013 that showed that “keyword present in root domain name” is only marginally less effective for this purpose than having “keyword is exact match domain” (5.19 vs 5.96 on a scale from 1-10). So it underscores my point that keywordinc{dot}com is nearly as good as keyword{dot}com, especially if it prevents brand confusion. I haven’t advocated against using keywords at all in your domain; just that having keywords in a dot com domain is better than a dot co domain if you can swing it. 🙂

Hi Michelle, lots of info in your question. If you can make it smaller, that would probably be better. But if you’re insistent on having the brand name in the domain, perhaps try getting a shorter domain that redirects to the larger one. For example, I had a client here: http://coloradodermatologyinstitute.com and they decided to just brand themselves with this domain: http://coderm.com, and it redirects to the larger one. It’s very simple, short, and to the point, and nobody gets confused about it.

another reason now it seems is that .co addresses are getting associated with nefarious switch and bait or year round “april fools” sites like say USAtoday.com.co which is a site hiding lies behind the guise of “satire” if I get a .co address it will only be to ensure someone is not trying to fool people with a site, that it is my site and make clients angry or something.

I know this is kind of old but there are many large sites beginning to use .co the biggest probably being Twitter. However I do agree that if the “.com” is already taken, then you might end up sending people to the wrong place

Twitter doesn’t use a .co domain as a public-facing domain that people visit. If you go to twitter {dot} co it redirects to twitter {dot} com, and if you’re referring to their URL shortening service t {dot} co, you can’t use it directly either—it tells you to go to twitter {dot} com and log in to use it. 🙂

One other possible reason not to use .co that I haven’t seen mentioned yet (although I haven’t quite read all of the comments so far) is that .co is also a website country code for columbia (i.e.: .au for Austrailia & .jp for Japan). It doesn’t seem to have caught on yet with nefarius types to setup bogus columbian mirror sites and other possiblities… But if the .co phenomenon gets popular enough, I’m sure it will…

I actually agree, apart from the .com. In the UK I always recommend clients use .co.uk, or the new .uk, but yes, we do just type in the suffix without thinking and .co, Columbia, not really sure I’d want to go down that route

I’d say it’s the same as a dot co domain: if one of your competitors has the .com version and you don’t, you’re still asking for trouble. If, however, there’s no brand confusion, give it a shot.

Very good points made here in this article. I’m really glad that I came across it because I was contemplating on getting a new .co site. I agree that by pure habit people will subconsciously type in .com, and that will obviously be a problem because it will be a ton of traffic NOT going to your site. You saved me a headache, thanks lol.

Ha! Good point, I’m moving away from .co! How annoying that my .com is taken, they want 2000 USD for it. Not worth the price for a start up, so I’ll have to think of something else, but thanks for sharing. Highly appreciated.

What if the .com is available but it is too expensive for me right now, and the .net and .co are also available? What do you recommend?

That’s a tough one Victor… I’d try to find a variant of the one you want, in a dot com. The problem with starting with a sub-optimal domain like a dot co or dot net and then trying to grab the dot com is two-fold: 1) there’s still too much brand confusion if people try to find you via the dot com and find a blank page instead, and 2) people who own domains are probably more willing to sell you a domain if they think you’re a small startup with no money rather than after you become a big established brand… because they’ll know you have the pockets for it and are more desperate for it.

Ron, what if my idea is an app? .com was taken, as was app.com, but I managed to buy .co and .me . Should I go with them or figure out a new name? The .com was way too expensive to buy.

Hi Roland, you could, but again, my question would be what is at myapp dot com? If it’s a competitor, then that’s a really bad idea. Otherwise, it might not be so bad, but I’d still try to do with what other app developers do like getmyappdotcom or appgamedotcom or something else that’s a dot com but is more descriptive.

Hi Steve, thanks for the question. Unfortunately, I think the problem has only gotten worse, not better. I’m still waiting to see someone break the stranglehold that dot com has on the domain market, but it hasn’t happened yet. Alexa’s ranking of the top 500 websites on the Internet still only has dot coms or dot orgs in the top 50, except for country-specific domains like google.ca, etc. Even ones some people are familiar with like t.co are still only used in a secondary, incidental fashion (i.e. nobody goes to http://www.t.co—it‘s just used for URL shortening with Twitter, which of course uses a dot com).

I’d still suggest getting creative and getting a dot com if you can. There are some good examples of big brands that have done this: square.com started out as squareup.com, basecamp.com started out as basecamphq.com, meethue.com, getbootstrap.com, etc. Again, my advice would be to get several of them, and redirect them all to the main .com domain you want to use.

I’d like to make a couple of points about non .com top-level domains in general:

Firstly, while I acknowledge that .co and .com are easily confused, I find the idea that all users expect use of the .com TLD to be a particularly US-centric view of the Internet. I agree that .co should not necessarily be used as a tool to circumvent the saturation of the .com namespace, but there is a bigger picture here regarding TLDs other than .com.

There are billions of users outside of the US who are very used to noting and remembering a domain’s TLD. Here in Switzerland it is a fact of life that we frequently deal with domestic (.ch), German (.de), UK (.co.uk) and international sites (.com, .co, .io, .info etc. etc.). The same goes for the rest of Europe too. I suspect that extremely few users outside of the US expect the .com TLD.

Secondly, research has shown that the vast majority of users navigate to sites using Google. They type in the name of the company/org they are looking for and go from there. Page rank (i.e. SEO) is MUCH more significant in driving and capturing traffic than the TLD. Very, very few people are typing URLs into their browser’s address bars.

Thirdly, regarding .co being the TLD for Columbia: This may be technically correct, but since 2010 the .co has been actively marketed as standing for “company” and not “Columbia” with the blessing of the Columbian Ministry of Communication. The association can therefore be regarded as historical.

Fourth, several posts in this thread propose domain name differentiation based on the inclusion syntactic sugar such as dashes and the use of prefixes such as “get” or “madeby”. I would submit that the distinction between “mycompany.com” and “my-company.com” is just as confusing, and will lead to just as much traffic leakage as “mycompany.com” and “mycompany.co”. In fact I would go so far as to say that keeping domain names shorter by utilising gTLDs will serve to make them MORE memorable: web users understand that the TLD is distinct from the second-level domain. It’s therefore easier to remember “myagency.design” than “my-agency-design.com” or “designedbymyagency.com” as this syntactic sugar is often absent from the company’s brand identity.

Fifthly, the suggestion I’ve read here in these comments that non-US companies are probably best off going with their country’s own TLD is pretty short-sighted. Just because I’m based in Switzerland doesn’t mean that the .ch TLD is the best option when I’m trying to reach a global market.

Finally, TLDs other than .com are a fact of life in 2020, with gTLDs such as .info, .dev, .io now commonplace. I think web developers and administrators would do well to acknowledge that 2020’s Web users are sophisticated enough to differentiate between TLDs beyond the traditional US-centric .com, .gov, .edu, .net, .org and .mil.

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