For years, the choices of Internet domains have been limited to a few such as .com or .net for businesses, .org for non-profits, .gov for government sites. But just a couple of years ago, this all changed. Running out of room, the Internet expanded to include hundreds of new domains--from .apartments and .bingo to .training, .tips. .systems and the list goes on. How can businesses take advantage of these new names?

I asked Maris Callahan, Director of Public Relations at Donuts, Inc. to share her thoughts. Donuts is an Internet domain name registry that administers hundreds of the newest and most creative online naming options available today.

Q: How long have not-coms been around?

"Not-com" domain name choices first launched to the general public in early 2014 and are steadily becoming available to brands, businesses and individuals looking for creative ways to stand out online.

Q: How popular are not-coms? Are they growing in popularity?

The "not-com" space is quickly growing in popularity. To give the "not-com" movement scale, registrations recently surged past 15 million -- growing by 1 million during a 5-day period alone, triple the fastest growth rate ever achieved by "not-coms." There are approximately 200,000 "not-com" domain names registered daily, which is one every 10 seconds.

Q: Given the flexibility and branding benefits of a "not-com" why do you think many companies are apprehensive?

We wouldn't say that they're apprehensive at all. Rather, what we're seeing is a normal, if not fast, adoption of a new technology. For 30 years, naming options online were extremely limited, so most people are used to seeing .com, .org, .net. Now there is a ton of variety where there used to be scarcity.

As big brands like BMW (.bmw), Marriott (.marriott) and Barclay's (.barclays) are paving the way by using their branded domain name, it's becoming perfectly normal and routine to go to a site that ends in something besides .com.

Q: Why should a business with an existing .com consider a not-com?

There are three main reasons why a company with an existing .com domain name would consider a "not-com."

First, some domain names are lengthy and cumbersome because the first choice name was already taken.

Others might want to increase SEO by buying around your .com name; for example if you're a clothing brand and you own your .com, you might also purchase .clothing, .shoes, and .boutique to drive more traffic.

And finally, brands can use "not-com" names to create microsites or promotional sites to complement their primary website.

Q: Is SEO affected? Why or why not?

A domain name does not inherently affect a website's SEO. What does affect a website's SEO is the quality of the content on the website. While the name is a factor in your SEO ranking, keywords do still matter and the quality of your site is equally, if not more, important.

Google mentioned in a recent blog post that new domain name endings are not treated any differently than traditional domain name endings like .com or .org. Domain names with new endings are shown in search just like any other domain name.
Q: Isn't a 'not-com' name more confusing to a customer...requiring explanation, etc.?

We think it's just the opposite -- "not-coms" are inherently simple. Some alternatives to .com have been around for many years, like .net, .org, .biz, .info and even country code domains. This is just a natural evolution that allows you to extremely specific about who you are and what business you're in -- .photography, .catering, .marketing.

One example that we like is Fathom.Clothing - they are extremely creative to the left of the dot and extremely specific to the right of the dot, so there is no question that they are a clothing company. A few great examples are Driftaway.Coffee and Amici.Catering. When compared with traditional, .com options, these URLs leave little question as to what those businesses do. That's a real branding advantage, because with "not-com" domain names, you can combine creativity to the left of the dot, with specificity to the right.

Q: Where do you see the future of not-coms?

"Not-coms" are quickly becoming the new normal.

Evidence of this is that 60% of Donuts registered names have the corresponding .com address available. While there is an obvious availability problem for good .com names, this shows us that many businesses and consumers actually prefer "not-com" addresses.

Thanks!

Now it's your turn. Have you ever considered a "not com" for your business? Let me know in the comments section below.