Just like years ago .COM is still the most recognizable domain extension. Users still have a tendency to type .COM domain extension first, because they forget your website uses another domain extension. Organic traffic wise, more than 90% of traffic for all websites comes from a search engine, where users only type the website name without domain extension.
Fact is that over the last two decades significant resource has been poured into making .COM domain the most recognizable domain extension. Marketing agencies have worked hard to promote and improve .COM domain authority and visibility. This makes it somewhat difficult to avoid .COM domains, as some users may feel your website lacks authority, and some older internet users may not perceive well that your domain name is actually an internet address of a website.
This trend is changing and people are recognizing other domain extensions too. We have been witness to rise in popularity for .IO domain extension with startups, .AI domain extension with artificial intelligence and deep-learning companies, while the older gTLD like .NET and .ORG are nearly recognizable as .COM.
Easy to remember?
The main benefit of .COM domain is that it is easy to remember for a user – if your domain name is one, maybe two words long. However a .COM domain with three words may actually be very confusing and may lead to typing errors. But, .COM namespace is already very saturated and all relatively short and memorable domains are already registered and held by domain resellers. This means you are not likely to get a short and memorable .COM domain name at a cheap price, and it may actually be exorbitant. What to do then? The answer is simple, if you want a new domain that you can register, you can opt for a country-code or new generic top-level domain, but more on that later.
Does this mean that drawbacks of owning a domain extension other than .COM are now fewer or even non-existent?
From a technical point of view, there are no significant drawbacks to using any other domain extension when compared to .COM as all generic top-level domains have same search ranking strength. If you are a local business then using a ccTLD domain name may actually have benefited, because in a local search they are preferred, confirmed by Google.
ccTLD or ngTLD?
As I said, ccTLD is a very good option for a local business, or you can use it to target a certain region or language speaking audience. For example, if you want to target audience within the United Kingdom then .UK is your best choice, for Germany, you should choose .DE, for the whole region or Europe you can use .EU domain extension … etc.
What about a global business? A number of new generic top-level domains have been introduced in the last few years. Using a new generic domain extension such as .CASINO or .SHOP may well be the next best thing besides .COM because these domain extensions clearly represent what your website is about. Furthermore, your visitors will find it very memorable and your search ranking is still the same as .COM though you will need to work on your on-page and off-page SEO to surpass the competition (same as if you had a .COM domain).
Albeit you are using a .COM or another domain extension, when you are registering a domain name be sure that it is not a registered trademark for another company. If true, you may end up having a trademark infringement on your hands, and you will promptly lose domain name ownership – as soon as trademark owner contacts your domain registrar. Trademark infringement is taken very seriously particularly in western countries, so be sure to avoid such problems.
On the flip side, once you have started investing heavily into your website and you feel that the domain name has become an integral part of your business, or even sooner, you may want to register it as a trademark – to protect your company and business from aggressive domain resellers who would try to sell you a domain name that is very similar to the one you are using.
We can conclude that if suitable .COM domain name is out of your budget, by all means, you still can develop your website and business with another domain extension.