If you’ve ever researched domain extensions and their influence over search engine rankings, you’ve likely seen a lot of contradictory information about whether or not they are an important factor.
In today’s post, we’ll be getting to the bottom of the .com vs .net SEO debate and providing our readers with the facts they need to make the best decision for their business.
But first, let’s cover the basics.
What is a Domain Extension?
When you type a website URL into a web browser like Google Chrome or Apple Safari, you are using a domain name.
“https://victoriousseo.com/” is the URL for the homepage of Victorious SEO. The domain name for our company website, however, is “victoriousseo.com”.
So, essentially, your domain name is part of your URL.
URLs contain more information than your domain name. They let your internet browser know if your website data is encrypted (HTTP vs HTTPS) and in some cases, uses query strings to bring your website visitors to their intended destination.
For Victorious, our domain extension is “.com”, as you can see in our above URL.
Thus, your domain extension is the insignia at the end of your web address.
What Does a Domain Extension Signify?
Before it can be confirmed or disputed that it is better for your website to end in .com vs other domains, the function of the domain extension must be better understood.
It’s not uncommon for internet users to be under the impression that all domains are equal and interchangeable, having no real elements of differentiation.
But this isn’t the case.
Extensions like .edu, .gov and .org, for example, are only used by specific entities— with the .edu extension representing an educational institute, .gov representing government agencies, and .org representing non-profit organizations.
Furthermore, domain extensions like .cn or .uk are used to indicate the location, with .cn referring to China and .uk referring to the United Kingdom.
If you are uncertain about the significance of a particular domain, it’s always best to do a little digging before making your selection.
The History of the .com VS .net SEO Debate
This is where things get interesting. To find the answer, we must first take a closer look at why people began to wonder “Is .com better than .net?”.
It all started when these domains were originally created.
The .net domain was developed by Microsoft in the 1990’s and was officially released to the public in the late 2000’s. The .net extension was intended for networking companies (hence the name) and was designed to support the rapid development of software and applications.
For this reason, the .net extension is primarily used by tech companies, internet providers, and database providers today.
The .com domain extension, however, stands for “commercial” and was intended for businesses, corporations and other commercial entities.
To be clear though, there are no actual rules in place that a website has to provide these specific types of services to use .net or .com. The distinctions have become the accepted best practice within the digital marketing industry, but you will still find plenty of networking websites that run with a .com domain extension, as well as non-traditional networking companies using .net.
So, Do .com Domains Rank Higher?
Overall, there is virtually no difference between .com vs .net SEO performance. Both extensions can be used to produce high-performing websites.
The .com domain extension is by far the most common, so from a branding perspective it is sometimes preferred because there is a sense of trust instilled when someone sees “.com”. But Google or other search engines are not using these extensions as ranking factors that boost or hurt your potential to pull in organic traffic.
Thus, websites using either of these extensions can employ a wide range of SEO best practices to influence their position in search engine results.
It’s important to note, this is true even beyond the .com/.net comparison. Domain extensions like .io, .info, .us, or .me are ALL capable of ranking for competitive keywords and have no built-in advantages or disadvantages from a pure SEO perspective.
But from a branding perspective, .com remains the smartest option for most businesses.
It’s important to remember that the majority of internet users will enter a .com address when guessing your company site, as it’s the most common URL format.
Additionally, while alternative domain extensions have gained popularity in recent years, .com addresses are the most trusted by consumers. They’re usually going to be the best option for B2C companies.
Is There Ever a Circumstance Where Domain Extensions Are a Ranking Factor?
Okay, you’ve got us. There is one exception to the rule, and it relates to SEO at a national level.
Let’s say you are a company that is based in Russia. If you use the .ru extension (the official country code top-level domain for that particular country) your website will be more likely to rank well within Russia.
Thus, if you are an American company looking to open an official Mexico branch where you will have dedicated products or services to customers across the country, you might want to consider the pros and cons of choosing a .mx domain.
Note, this is different than if you are an American company that is simply serving a version of your website in Spanish. In this case, you would use a subdirectory (like /es/) and have versions of your English content served in Spanish. You could then use hreflang tags to tell Google what language version should be served to users of which country, this is a quintessential element for international SEO.
As a best practice, we only recommend utilizing a ccTLD if you have a physical presence in the country you are targeting. If you do not have a mailing address within the country, it’s generally better to stick with language variants of your normal domain’s pages.
Still have questions about .com vs .net SEO or domain extensions in general? Contact Victorious today! Our team of highly-qualified SEO specialists would be happy to help.