Even recently in search engine optimization history, even considering a dot-net or dot-org domain was tantamount to brand suicide if you hoped to push organic search engine hits to your site. Aside from the three main TLDs, .com, .net, and .org, there are now dozens of potential options for branding your company in a different country’s TLD. The ultimate question is: is it okay to select a domain other than dot-com?
In a word, no, you should still focus your search on dot-com domains, even in 2012. It’s clearly still favored in the Google search rankings so if you intend to create the next bit.ly or del.icio.us, you might want to hedge your bets by buying the dot-com version of the name as well. While it’s completely possible to be successful on a strange TLD, the sites that do become popular tend to have either a very popular service offering (delicious) or backing from a major company like Twitter (bitly).
The exception to the rule comes if you are specifically trying to rank highly in a certain country’s search results. Google prefers .co.uk domains for citizens of the UK that search through Google.co.uk. If your product is particularly appealing to certain, or several, nationalities, you could try ranking high within individual countries using non dot-coms.
Google seems to have a strong preference against newer domains, like .info or .ws. With good reason: these are rarely sites that major brands use to carry their message to the Internet, something that Google likes to promote in the search results. Using a dot-info rather than a dot-com will make it almost impossible for you to claim the top spot above the dot-com. For now, it seems best to just stick with dot-com domains, even if they may cost a little more to buy from squatters.
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I'm the Director of Digital Services and Partner at Ballantine, a family-owned and operated direct mail & digital marketing company based in New Jersey. and started in 1966 by my great uncle!