Exploring New Options for Top-Level Domains: Could .guru or .me Be Right for You?

By Bruce Clay

Domain names are an important part of your SEO strategy. If you don’t yet have a website domain name registered, you may be surprised to learn that you have a lot of options open to you besides ending your website name with .com. First, a little lesson in domain name anatomy.

A URL is made up of several parts:

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You’re probably most familiar with the following top-level domains (TLDs): .com, .net, .edu, and .org. The .com domain is by far the most common, with more than 60 percent of sites using it. Many more options, however, are available to site owners — more than 1,000 options, in fact.

There are generic TLDs (gTLDs) and country-specific TLDs, known as country-code top-level domains (ccTLDs):

  • gTLD: With a few exceptions, generic top-level domains are open to anyone who wants to buy them.

  • ccTLD: Country-code top-level domains are governed by an associated country and are, for the most part, restricted to websites that are hosted on a server within that country. Again, there are some exceptions.

There are more than 700 gTLDs, including the usual suspects such as .com, .net, and .org. In the last few years, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN, for short) decided to open the gTLD system up to applications, and since 2014, thousands of less common gTLDs were made available to anyone who wants to use them.

These newly released gTLDs are beginning to be considered for their creative branding and business applications. Here are some popular websites that are using new gTLDs for great branding effect:

  • thedudes.club: A men’s lifestyle and entertainment blog

  • searchengines.guru: A Russian SEO forum

  • womenslife.today: A women’s issues and lifestyle blog

  • ultra.zone: A sports news site

Google has a domain registry service, called Google Domains, where you can register domains from a lengthy list of TLDs, such as .academy, .bike, .careers, .clothing, .industries, and many more. Check here for the full list and pricing of TLDs.

There are 301 ccTLDs that are governed by individual countries. Though the use of ccTLDs is typically restricted, some countries have opened the domains up for anyone in the world to use. For example, you can register domains from Libya’s .ly at http://register.ly and register domains from Montenegro’s .me at domain.me and from other registrars.

Which TLD do you choose?

Whichever TLD you choose, it’s important to remember that no SEO benefit is tied to using specific TLDs. Choosing .movie rather than .com, for example, provides no SEO effect. In 2012, Google’s former Head of Web Spam Matt Cutts said that “We’ve always wanted to return the best results we can to users . . . whether it’s on a .com or a .de or a .whatever, and we’ll try to return that to users.”

Choosing a TLD depends on your business and your goals. Although .com is always a great option (given that it’s the one people are most accustomed to using), a.com can often be unavailable or very expensive. In such cases, a less common gTLD can be a great alternative.