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Selecting the right domain extension is like searching for the perfect neighborhood to live in.

Just as the right community can shape your lifestyle and connections, the domain extension you choose affects your website’s identity, reach and overall reputation.

Often, this decision is between the two most common domain extensions: .com vs .net.

When your business’ brand is tied to a domain name you choose forever, it’s essential to understand the difference between .com and .net — and which will suit your website better.

While 46% of all websites are .com and just 2.7% .net, popularity doesn’t tell the full story about which is best for your business.

So keep reading to find out.

What is a domain extension?

A domain extension (also known as a top-level domain or TLD) is the ending suffix of a website domain name after the dot. For example, in bluehost.com, “.com” is the domain extension. Other common extensions include .net, .org and country-specific domains like .ca or .uk.

Originally, certain TLDs represented specific entities — .com for commercial sites, .org for organizations and .net for networks. However, usage has expanded over time to the point where extensions often don’t limit the types of sites using them. Extensions still provide context, though — .com implies a commercial presence more than alternatives.

Domain extensions are included with domain name registrations required for hosting websites online. Domain name registrars like Bluehost supply domains bundled with web hosting plans, handling TLD registration with ICANN in the background when you purchase a domain.

Is .net reliable?

Yes, .net is as reliable as .com for online businesses regarding personal website uptime. The TLD itself does not influence a site’s backend stability. Rather, your choice of web host and server infrastructure determines actual performance.

However, .com domain extensions are more common, meaning your visitors will tend to trust a .com website more than a .net site based on familiarity alone. Still, a professional-looking website can override this instinctual bias regardless of extension.

For example, visitors arriving at a visually modern, lightning-fast .net site like HTML5UP may overlook the rare TLD once immersed in smooth user experience indicating advanced capabilities.

A screenshot of HTML5UP’s website.
Source

So, while a dated-looking .net site increases visitor skepticism, refreshed designs, optimized performance and demonstrated expertise help website visitors overcome the inherent unfamiliarity concerns associated with less prevalent extensions like .net.

In other words, solid web development principles outweigh TLD misgivings by proving competency through displayed hard work.

.com or .net: Which one is better?

When picking a domain, most folks go with a .com TLD out of habit. It feels like the standard for any business website. Visitors expect it by default when finding businesses or brands with an online presence.

Meanwhile, a smaller portion of sites use .net. These tend to specialize in internet-focused services — sites like web hosting, building websites, coding programs or apps. That’s the main difference between .com and .net.

Still, if you’re launching a typical online business, odds are .com suits your needs perfectly fine. It’s what the masses instinctively search for when seeking out companies on the web.

But for some builders of complex infrastructure solutions, having a .net address telegraphs niche technical capabilities upfront.

Advantages and disadvantages of .com

Here are the pros of a generic top-level domain:

  • Instant familiarity: Visitors instinctively search .com by default for any website, assuming it’s the standard and what your business has chosen.
  • Strong trust cues: The .com extension implies safe online commerce and business legitimacy through normalization and familiarity.
  • No niche constraints: The .com website address suits blogs, online stores and general commercial presences without labeling limitations.

But there are some cons to .com:

  • Limited availability: Trying to register common terms often results in most .com domain names being long taken. The same can be true even if you try to register your company name. So, you’ll have to get creative when choosing a new domain name.
  • Can be expensive: With higher competition and demand for .com domains, they’re often taken — and listed for more than their base prices.

By choosing the most common domain name, your site inherently earns automatic familiarity when people discover your brand. Essentially, .com signals “I run a website” thanks to its universal applicability.

However, it’s this popularity that allows prime .com digital real estate to be highly desirable. And with high demand, comes high prices. For instance, let’s say you want to start a gardening blog.

You decide that you want a .com domain, so you choose “gardening.com.” Then, you head over to a website where you can check the price of your chosen domain:

Screenshot of how much “gardening.com” costs.
Source

Buying gardening.com would cost $6,634. That’s a steep price even for veteran blog owners.

With a Bluehost shared hosting plan, you can get an unclaimed free domain name for your first year. While you may need to compromise on a perfect domain name when choosing a .com name, you’ll still be able to ensure that your website is easily accessible, familiar and trustworthy.

Advantages and disadvantages of .net

Here are the benefits of choosing a .net domain extension:

  • Higher availability: Since .net domain names are less common, you may have better luck with domain name availability compared to in-demand .com names.
  • Niche trust cues: While less common than .com, .net TLDs typically indicate a website works in the technology niche.
  • Specialization: The .net extension conveys more advanced internet-related solutions, making it a great fit if that’s what your website is about.

However, .net domains also come with a few downsides:

  • Less memorable: Most consumers don’t instantly associate .net with commercial websites due to lower adoption, lessening out-of-the-box discovery.
  • Narrower applicability: The tech-centric perceptions of .net make it less suited for general blogging or ecommerce sites — simply because of branding.
  • Potential trust issues: Rare extensions like .net may require additional relationship-building to override visitor skepticism.

Essentially, .net TLDs trade the instant familiarity of .com for increased availability and built-in perceptions of technological competency among certain online sectors. While you may not be able to get a .com domain, .net domains are still common and provide ample trust.

Let’s say you wanted to buy the domain name “webdevelopers.com.”

Here’s an estimate of how much you’d have to pay:

How much “webdevelopers.com” costs.
Source

But if you wanted to use a .net domain instead, it’d be significantly less expensive to buy:

How much “webdevelopers.net” costs.
Source

So, if your website falls into the technology sector (e.g., software-as-a-service or SaaS), it makes sense to go with .net instead of .com. Although if you’re not in tech, the .net domain might still be a worthwhile investment — whether for eCommerce sites or blogs.

.com vs. .net: SEO rankings

When optimizing websites for search engine optimization (SEO), your selected domain name extension — whether .com or .net — does not directly influence rankings on search engines, according to Google.

Instead, core on-page content, site speed, secure infrastructure and internal links are the primary ranking factors to focus your website’s SEO efforts around.

For example, a recently launched gardening blog on a .net domain can match or even outrank a competing .com site — as long as you’re building helpful, unique content.

These SEO fundamentals are what ensure your website ranks high, not your domain:

  • Relevant topics and keywords
  • Unique, helpful and insightful content
  • Backlinks and authority
  • Security
  • Fast website speeds
The fundamentals of SEO for .com vs .net websites.

Just note that if you want people to find you locally, choosing a TLD based on your city or country code (such as co.uk) could help target users in that region. Domain extensions like .nyc or .london do boost domain authority by answering geo-targeted queries seeking results explicitly from those regions — like when someone searches for “pet products NYC.”

Lastly, choosing a lesser-known TLD could affect your direct search visibility. Say someone recommends your brand, AtHomeGardening, during book club. When they go to find your website, they’ll probably type “athomegardening.com” instead of .net.

The domain you choose plays a subtle role in search visibility — but if you have a high-quality website that follows SEO best practices, you don’t have to worry about any penalties or abnormalities.

.com vs. .net: Security and speed

Both .com and .net leverage the same secure socket layer (SSL), firewalls, backups and infrastructure-level security capabilities through your hosting provider to lock down sites. Extensions themselves hold no inherent risks.

And just as security defenses remain equal regardless of top-level domain selection, so do website loading speed and stability through quality hosts. In other words, a .net site on optimized servers will perform identically fast to an equivalent .com site assuming identical configurations.

Your Bluehost website will still be fast, ultra-secure and reliable regardless of your chosen domain extension. What will impact your website speed and security is the content on your website. For instance, faulty and outdated WordPress plugins with bugs could affect your site’s security.

Here’s how you can protect your website:

  • SSL certificate to enable HTTPS protocol
  • Firewall filters safeguarding key control points
  • Limited plugin installations vetting reputability
  • Automatic malware detection through scanning (free with Bluehost’s SiteLock)

Additionally, if you have lots of embedded videos and strenuous content, your website performance might dip.

Here’s how you can keep your website running fast:

  • Compress images that don’t need to be displayed at full resolutions
  • Eliminate unnecessary design elements or widgets
  • Test site performance and apply speed optimizations
  • Enable caching on WordPress

.com vs. .net: Pricing

If you’re launching your very first website, every cent and dollar matters when tallying startup costs. For small businesses on a budget, both .com and .net domains can be affordable, depending on the name you choose.

In 2024, domain extensions themselves carry marginal annual registration and renewal costs are fairly equal across common options like .com and .net. The pricing falls around just $20 per year, maintaining them through providers like Bluehost.

The price of domain names through Bluehost.
Source

But if you’re after coveted domain names that are short, quippy and commonly used, you might run into an availability problem. Domain flipping has become a large industry, driving up the prices of domains that aren’t websites yet.

Think of short, memorable domains like “conferences.com” or “coaching.com,” where buying the domain becomes an investment.

The process looks like this: Someone thinks of a niche that could be popular in the future, say AI. They purchase several domains with common catchphrases for the minimum prices of owning and registering.

When someone contacts them to purchase a domain, they can sell it to the buyer at a much higher price — ranging from three to four or five figures. Sometimes, they can cost more, with the most expensive domain purchase being “cars.com” for $847 million.

If you’re on a budget, you may want to consider alternatives if your domain is taken. Typically, the people who buy domains are commercial businesses, startups with venture capital or investors looking to flip domains.

How to find alternatives to .com

Say you’re gearing up to launch an eCommerce store for pets. So you go to set up your website and purchase a name through your domain registrar — only to find out that “petstore.com” has already been taken by another company.

Unfortunately, it’s most likely that the most popular domain name is taken.

Before switching your name, you should try other domain extension alternatives for eCommerce stores, such as:

  • .net
  • .store
  • .shop
  • .online
  • .site
Domain extension alternatives for eCommerce stores.

Depending on your website’s niche, you could also try these alternatives:

  • .org (for non-profit organizations)
  • .edu (for educational institutions)
  • .info (for info-based sites)
  • .ai (for AI-based platforms)
  • .io (typically for software)
  • .app (for mobile apps)
  • .tech (for software or tech sites)
  • .biz (for businesses)

But if you don’t like sacrificing the familiarity of a .com or .net domain, here’s how you can make it work:

Consider buying the domain

If your first choice is taken and isn’t already in use, try contacting owners about purchasing rights. Depending on their asking price, it might be worth it for your future business that you own the .com version.

Remember, you can always try to negotiate the domain price. So, if they ask for $2,500, try to make a lower offer to see if they take the deal. If not, you can try the next two options below.

Tweak your domain slightly

Get creative by subtly modifying your premium domain while retaining the essence of your brand. Insert small extra terms like “The” beforehand or combine core keywords from taken phrases to invent fresh alternatives conveying similar identities.

Let’s look at some examples:

  • “Petstore.com” to “thepetstore.com” or “worldwidepetstore.com”
  • “Techreviews.com” to “thetechreviewspot.com” or “innovativetechreview.com”
  • “Gardensupply.com” to “thegardensupplyhub.com” or “gardensupplyworld.com”

Just ensure that the domain name you choose doesn’t overlap with any existing companies with trademarks, as that could lead to copyright issues.

Try synonyms and spelling changes

In the name of getting creative, try exploring logical synonym switches or common spelling variances mixing up dominant keywords within your premium domain attempt still untaken.

These tweaks integrate very similar terminology still aligned to your offerings while opening up availability.

Here are some examples:

  • “Mindfulyoga.com” to “sereneyogahaven.com” or “tranquilyogaworld.com”
  • “Digitalmarketing.com” to “onlinebrandingsolutions.com” or “webpromotiontactics.com”
  • “Healthyeating.com” to “nutritiousmealsguide.com” or “wholesomefoodchoices.com”

While you may not end up with the original domain name you had in mind, it’s important to consider your budget and options. If you’re still unable to ideate some domain options, you can try an online generator that could help find available options.

Use an online tool to brainstorm

Online tools using AI and extensive databases can help you choose a domain. If you head over to a website like domainwheel.com, you can type in a keyword and see tens of available domain name options relevant to your selection.

Even in hyper-competitive spaces, these tools will still find domain names that are available.

For instance, let’s look at the keyword “gardening.”

A screenshot of domainwheel.com with the search “gardening.”
Source

Within seconds, you get multiple options based on your search. If you want better results, try putting in the original domain you had in mind, such as “athomegardening,” rather than a keyword.

Plus, you can still edit the options given to you by the generator. Try adding small words like “the,” “s” or “a” if you want a domain that isn’t taken. Or, try varying your search by using a synonym.

Final thoughts

Both .com and .net remain safe, reliable options for registering your website’s domain at affordable rates. However, differences in availability, inherent visitor perceptions and niche connotations that evolve over time can substantially impact discoverability and growth potential in the long term.

Whether you opt for the .com or .net TLD, you’ll still need to choose a web hosting provider that keeps your site lightning-fast and ultra-secure.

With Bluehost, you get best-in-class hosting and access to free domain registration for your first year — so if your domain isn’t taken, the initial ownership fees are on us.

We make website setup easy so you can focus on getting your brand out there.

Get started with our affordable hosting plans today.

  • Minal Agarwal

    Minal is the Director of Brand Marketing at Bluehost. With over 15 years of business experience in the technology industry, she strives to create solutions and content that fulfill a customer's needs. She is a dog mom and a stickler for calendaring.

    Education
    Masters in Marketing Management
    Previous Experience
    Strategic Partnerships, Customer Success, Events and Community
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