What’s going on here? Are Apple, Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Overstock opening up offices in Colombia? No, the recent buzz about the .CO top-level domain isn’t because an awesome new business park in Bogotá. According to domain name registrars, .CO is going to be the next .COM. Dot-CO could stand for Commerce, Company or Corporation, according to eNom resellers. Which is precisely why you should register YourBusiness.co right now. Or so they say.
.CO certainly isn’t the first new top-level domain name to hit the scene. In the past years, we’ve seen the rise of .info, .mobi, .me, .us, .co.uk, .biz and scores of others. Yet, the only ones that have really stuck seem to be .org, .net and .com (.edu and .gov aren’t for sale). To a lesser extent, you see legitimate websites bearing the .us or .info top-level domain, but for the most part, the reign of the big three remains unchallenged by any serious contenders.
So why should .CO be any different? Is it all marketing hype? Or are we standing on the cusp of a major sea change? Only time will reveal the answers to those questions. But the decision whether to jump in the .CO game has to be made now. Dot-CO domain names just went on sale for the general public this week and the obvious one and two letter puns (ta.co, lo.co, e.co, fres.co, tobac.co) and other hot key phrases (pittsburgh.co, cars.co, realestate.co, mortgages.co) have already been scooped up.
There are two potential reasons why you might invest in a .CO domain name.
Typically, when you are registering a domain name or a website, it never hurts to grab .net and .org in addition to .com. It’s just a matter of protecting your brand name. At around $10 a year (less than one dollar a month), it’s no big deal. But most resellers are asking $30 for a yearlong .CO registration. That’s three times the going rate of most top-level domain extensions and if you have several domains, that can really add up.
With .CO, it makes the most sense to get it only if you already have .COM. Let’s say a prospective customer sees your URL on the side of a bus—AndersonWindows.co—or something. There’s a good chance that that person will mis-remember it as AndersonWindows.com by the time they get home—so you’d better hope that URL doesn’t point to a competitor.
To SEOs, a keyword in the domain name has historically been regarded as gold. Landing a.com, .org or .net domain name with a high value keyword included is the crux of many an affiliate marketer or AdSense warrior’s strategy. Building a website at a domain like "digitalcameras.com” or "puppytraining.net” can go a long ways towards guaranteeing you a top spot in the search engine rankings.
However, this tactic has been subject to its fair share of borderline abuse. Many of the pages that capitalize off strategic domain names are what Google might condemn as a "thin affiliate” site—that is, a site that doesn’t really add anything unique or useful to the Web and instead exists solely to redirect traffic elsewhere. Typically, these aren’t the kinds of pages that search engine users are looking for. They’d much rather see a professional website from an authoritative source—not derivative, repackaged content.
You can already see this devaluing of keywords in domain names in action. Type "SteamCleaners.net” into your browser and you’ll find a generic page consisting solely of ads. Now, Google "Steam Cleaners” and the top hit is from Consumer Search—a user-driven review aggregator that gives consumers useful, unbiased information on buying products. SteamCleaners.net doesn’t appear on the first page. Bottom-line
If you feel compelled to rush into a .CO domain name for speculative or SEO reasons, you may want to reconsider. But if you already own YourBusiness.com and YourBusiness.net and $30 a year doesn’t make much of a difference to you, go ahead and nab YourBusiness.co for at least one year. After 12 months, you can re-assess whether or not your investment was worth it.