The domain name industry has undergone a seismic shift in the last few years with the arrival of over a thousand new generic top-level domains (gTLDs). These new domains – such as .xyz, .cloud and .site – augment the existing top-level domains we're all familiar with (like .com and .CA) that we take for granted as part of our everyday internet experience.
There was some early enthusiasm and hype, but the lack of public awareness of the new gTLDs, combined with limited adoption by the big brands, has led some commentators to suggest that the domain name itself may be outliving its usefulness.
To cite just one example, a recent article in The Atlantic suggests that the influence and importance of domain names is on the wane, going so far as to assert that advances in search engine technology are “obviating the need for cogent, catchy URLs—once a prerequisite for online success.”
As the article correctly notes, the evolution of search engine technology has reduced the need for users to remember and type URLs directly into their browsers. But the value of a good domain name (preferably one that's “catchy and cogent”) provides users and domain name owners alike with many more important benefits that go well beyond this minor limitation.
Domain names, of course, were originally developed to translate the string of digits that make up an IP address into words to make it simpler for internet users to access websites. This idea came to fruition in 1985 with the registration of the first .com domain name, and today, some 32 years later, domain names still provide us with this indispensable function.
As the steward of the .CA domain, we at CIRA are confident that domain names will continue to be the cornerstone of the internet user experience. They are an essential component of the way people across the globe engage with organizations online, and how those same organizations inform, educate, raise awareness, sell products and services, raise money for charities, and much, much more.
Despite the naysayers, the reality is that when it comes to domain names, rumours of their demise have been greatly exaggerated.
Here are some of the key reasons a strong domain name matters today and will continue to be a critical factor in your online success.
1) Security and credibility
As much as we rely on search engines to help us find what we're looking for online, the fact remains that we ultimately make the decision about which links to follow and which sites to visit based on our assessment of the credibility of the domain name displayed in the search results.
With malicious domains on the rise and the exponential growth of new and more destructive forms of malware, domain trust and credibility are more important than ever for businesses and individuals alike.
A trusted domain – such as a .CA domain – gives users peace of mind. When they click on a link to content that's hosted on a trusted domain, they're confident that it's safe to visit the page.
2) Improved SEO
While SEO experts continue to debate the relative importance of specific ranking factors used by Google and others, there's no question that a website's domain name is inextricably tied to its ranking.
Adding keywords to your domain, for example, has the potential to improve your site's ranking and can also boost your click-through rates. Domain names are prominently displayed in search results, so if a site ranks highly for a particular keyword, one of the first things the user sees in search results is the name of the domain associated with that keyword.
Google's algorithm also looks at the number of other sites that link to content on your site. It considers the authority of the websites linking to your site and uses this as a major factor to determine your site's authority – which it ultimately associates with your domain name.
In addition, for country code top-level domains like .CA, there's compelling evidence that they have a significant impact on SEO, indicating to search engines that the content is targeted at users in a specific country or region.
3) Brand and marketing
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, domain names are essential to your marketing success. Regardless of which marketing strategy and tactics you adopt– whether inbound, outbound, content, referral, growth hacking, events, social – all roads lead to your domain name.
It's used in your email address and in your social media profiles; it's used in every marketing campaign, every call to action, and at every event. It appears on every piece of collateral and every business card.
As such – despite what changes may come – your domain name will continue to be one of the most powerful marketing tools you have at your disposal to help you promote your brand.
Whether you have an existing website, or are looking to start working on one, one of the best first steps you can take is registering a domain name. You can search to see if your .CA is available below: