A while ago, I received an email from a friend asking if he should get a .CO domain for his website. I thought for a while, and gave him my answer. “No.” He responded, thanking me, and then asked me why not. I thought for a longer while, then gave him several reasons why, in my opinion, businesses should NOT go out and get a .co domain to use as their primary website domain. After looking over my notes, I figured the reasons were worth sharing. So here they are.

[ Note: for those of you who don’t know what I’m referring to—there’s now a new option for a TLD (top-level domain). It’s called .co. Meaning, instead of your website ending in .com, .org, .net, or .biz, you can now have a website that ends in .co. That’s what this post is all about—why you should not get a .co domain. ]

Why NOT To Use A .CO Domain

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A .co domain is simply confusing. The web culture for so long has focused solely on the .com, almost to the utter exclusion of every other TLD (top level domain). So most people who are going to visit your website will expect to type in “.com” at the end of it. It’s just habit. Actually, it’s an old, longstanding tradition—the .com has been the primary TLD since the very first domain, www.symbolics.com, was registered in 1985. Don’t think that you can change 26 years of history. You can’t. Maybe Amazon, Google and Facebook can, eventually, but you can’t. And you shouldn’t try.

If you tell people to visit your “dot co” website, they’ll either assume you meant “dot com,” or that they misheard you. And if people read “.co” on a printed page, business card or brochure, they’ll assume it’s a mistake or typo and just change it to .com. Either way, you’ve lost that web traffic and a potential sale. Confusion is bad for business.

Having a .co domain when a .com domain is already taken is even more confusing. Domain registrars such as Godaddy sell domains. That’s their job. So they like to say that if www.yourcompany.com has already been registered by someone else, registering www.yourcompany.co is the next best choice for you. But they’re wrong. That’s a terrible idea. If the url for your online dog treats store is www.example.co when www.example.com is the URL for a barber shop in Memphis, you are going to send MASSIVE amounts of traffic to the wrong website. And a ton of your potential customers are going to wonder why on earth they’re seeing haircut specials on your website instead of an order form for buying dog treats online. Guess what? They won’t end up being your customers. Again, confusion is bad for business. You’re losing customers, all because of a missing letter “m.”

As of today, .co domains aren’t being used as a primary domain by any major websites. Right now, the .co domain is only used by über-geeky people who use url shorteners like twitter’s http://t.co and godaddy’s http://x.co, etc. Most of your customers, I’ll bet, don’t even know what a URL shortener is. And they don’t care. But they would like to do business with you, if you would make the process simple.

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For now, just embrace the fact that the world is behind the times and it still stuck on the .com domain. If your business is called “Craig’s Burritos,” do everything you can to get a domain name that’s close to www.craigsburritos.com. Don’t try to be clever with www.craigsburri.to or www.burritos.co. That’s not clever—it’s obscure and confusing. All that really matters in the end is what’s best for your customers. If people can’t find your website = you lose.

A better way to use a .co domain, if you absolutely must have one, is to register your regular .com domain, such as www.example.com, then ALSO get www.example.org, www.example.net and www.example.biz, and now, also get www.example.co. But have them all redirect to your main website. That takes advantage of the new “domain name real estate” that’s available, and avoids confusion.

Although the web has grown up a bit, and it’s not nearly as gangly and awkward as it was in the 1990s, it still has some major growing pains it’s working through. Don’t let your business become a casualty of those growing pains—make your business shine by looking as professional and easy to find as possible.