Reader Question: Owning .org But Not .com

From one of my readers:

“Elliot, whats your take on (made up name) and how badly the lack of .com will affect it? I am already established idea of what i want to do with that, it will be similar to your model of lowell, giving them basic [listings] for free but frills and reviews of business will come with price tag.
Basic premise of concept: Break down matchmakers by state, and maybe cities as sub category of states? I am thinking of putting everyone in for free with basic contact info (email) and just a name of company, and then notifying them that their page is up and about extra features they can get. So everyone gets a free page but after that comes extra features. While they can pay for frills of being reviewed, to add link to site, add write up about them self and what they do, background check. (due to .org directory, in public eyes reviews will seem more credible, even more then if it was .com or another category)
Whats your thoughts on monetization of it? How lack of .com will affect it or other extension affecting it?”

Depending on the industry you are in, owning the .org can sometimes be better than the .com. In the dating industry, I think the .com is much better and holds more credence, as people know it to be a for-profit industry. However, if you would form an organization of “matchmakers,” the .org wouldn’t necessarily be bad, but I think you would have to offer more than just a directory. You might have to sponsor events or offer tools to the match makers who would want to join the organization.
In terms of branding, I discussed something similar when the USPS nationally branded a .org and didn’t own the .com. People have short memories, and many will automatically assume it’s the .com – or they won’t even realize the .com and .org are different, so they just went to the .com. The USPS eventually bought the .com, but they probably got lucky because the name wasn’t what I would consider a premium generic name. I am sure they paid much more when the bought it after the fact, but the premium was only because they needed it due to traffic loss, and not name value.
With your example, the .com would already be considered a premium generic dating name (I know the actual name but refrained by request). Because of this, the .com already has inherent value, so if you brand the .org and lose traffic to the .com, it will only serve to increase the value of the already valuable .com. If you plan to grow the business and significantly fund it, I would advise buying the .com. If you plan to run it like an organization of “match makers,” where you are providing a valuable service, you may be ok with the .org, but you will still end up losing traffic to the .com.
The more you brand the .org, the more traffic you are probably sending to the .com, thus increasing the price to acquire it. My best advice would be to speak with the owner of the .com (knowing that its a parked page), and see if you can buy that. It will help you brand your business now, and will save you lots of money down the road. If he is unwilling to sell, I would also recommend making a lease to own offer, so you can hedge your bets if you decide to exit the business or rebrand. You will pay more, but at least the price of the .com won’t increase due to your branding efforts.
In your industry, there will always be “burn down value” for the .com, and much less for the .org. It can only enhance the value of your business if you have the .com, and it will prove that you own the market.

Elliot Silver
Elliot Silver
About The Author: Elliot Silver is an Internet entrepreneur and publisher of Elliot is also the founder and President of Top Notch Domains, LLC, a company that has closed eight figures in deals. Please read the Terms of Use page for additional information about the publisher, website comment policy, disclosures, and conflicts of interest. Reach out to Elliot: Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn
  1. Age old question…
    Frank Schilling would say always go for the dot com, but I tend to disagree.
    Having a generic – even if it is a .org adds credibility in the consumers mind and with potential advertisers. If I was going to sell advertising, I think having the domain or .org would be better than
    Will you lose traffic to the .com? Yes. Will some people get confused? Yes. At the end of the day however, if you are looking to get traffic from the search engines (which you probably are), then the extension doesn’t matter as much. And in the search results people love to click .org’s – looks very legit.
    Elliot knows about a name I bought last month on Snap for $500. It was a generic .org for a consumer product. The .com has been at auction recently for $100,000.
    I’m not going to ever pay that for the .com, and if I lose traffic so be it. The generic .org is great for a consumer review site I’ll be building, and people will listen on the phone when I tell them who I am with (though not as much as with the .com).
    If you can get the .com without too much pain, get it. But if you can’t, I’m a big fan of the .org.

  2. I’d say a .org is fine as long as it has a “public” element in it… I have one I will develop this year and will give a few percent of gross to a scholorship in the same industry.

  3. When it comes to dot-org, my brother and I have a saying, “Unless your company is a non-profit, don’t do it unless you want to make the owner of the dot-com version very happy.”
    We’ve known this for quite some time. Case in point: there was a woman who was once the CEO of a certain city’s Visitors Bureau. When we launched our site, she went ballistic when we wouldn’t sell her the name and began spreading lies so vicious I couldn’t believe it (I was an ex-porn star, my brother was a ex-heroin addict, etc). She was very wealthy and powerful, and had a reputation for getting away with type of behavior. Even in the music business, I had rarely met someone so nasty.
    So, my brother and I decided to teach her a lesson.
    The Visitors Bureau’s web site was very well financed and promoted. It was in countless magazines and on billboards. But, it was dot-org. We discovered the dot-com version was for sale and bought it on-line for only $1800.
    And then we pointed it to our site.
    Within a week rumors were flying that the Castello Brothers had either bought or hijacked the Visitors Bureau’s web site. Why? Because many people will default to dot-com. That’s right, after all of the millions of dollars they’d spent on promotion people in their own city were still punching up dot-com. There was no site on the dot-com version before we bought it, so people before would immediately realize they made a mistake and go to the dot-org. But after we pointed the dot-com version to our, they assumed our site was the new Visitor’s Bureau site because ours also contained extensive info about the city.
    Needless to say, there was a happy ending. Some of the hotels we’d signed as advertisers were also on the Board of Directors of the Visitors Bureau. They called me up and I explained what this woman had done to us. They weren’t surprised and invited me to speak before the Board about our site. They signed an advertising agreement (guess who was the one vote against us) and we also agreed to sell them the dot-com version (for cost) under a gentleman’s agreement that they tell this woman to stop her behavior. She didn’t take any of this well and eventually resigned.

  4. David,

    I was under the impression that Michael was the porn star and that you were the ex-heroin addict…thank you for clearing that up.

    Anyway, I personally would not build on the .net or .org. My feeling is that after you put a tremendous amount of time and energy into it you will only realize that traffic is going to the .com. I would rather build a than a or


    The dilemma that is faced is that if this doesn’t become his primary business, he could spend mid- $xx,xxx for the name, when he might not have that kind of money right now. If this is going to be the primary business, it is worth leasing the .com and possibly financing it if necessary. It really depends on the business model.

  5. Everyone here is “right on” at some level and this is a great discussion. In the end, it does come down to various factors…
    For a primary business (Ex: vs the only difference in total start-up costs is the cost of the domain so if you have $1,000,000 in start-up costs and are doing a mass, long-term buildout, paying $500,000 for the .com versus the $10,000 .org is the right move. It will help you convert to a fee + performance revenue model.
    If you are a niche operator with smaller, non-mass media type plans and SEO and PPC link-type traffic aggregation with some sort of Direct response objective, I agree that or .org is better than Most likely your monetization is via performance on this model anyway. Fee will be difficult unless you dominate search.
    Yet Davis is dead on as well, in fact, I always tell people if you own the .com of an ultrapremium, Ex, it may actually be better to not own the .net or .org especially if someone else develops those names as their traffic will go to you.
    The biggest risk with .net and .org is loss of traffic due to repeat visit, word-of-mouth, or .com default generated from some non-web media.

  6. Excellent points across this board here.
    I agree with David (great story by the way) that if you are going to spend money on marketing and branding then the .org is a big liability. But if you are going to do what I plan to do, which is to create a consumer guide to product x – with 90% of the traffic coming through SEO then I’m happier with the .org over the long .com

  7. J: TMZ was waiting for us outside the Renaissance Hotel after we won the Domainers Choice Awards. Michael and I steadfastly refused to answer any questions about Jenna Jameson’s “acting” abilities or if China White gave you a better high than Blue Magic.
    Greg: I agree with your analysis. Especially if the dot-com version is doing a ton of pre-development Direct Navigation traffic.
    Gordon: Yes, in your situation I would actually opt for dot-org.

  8. David – thanks for adding the “pre-development Direct Navigation traffic.” I omitted the most critical point on a mass-scale project.

  9. I sold a “industry” .org last month and just saw the comapny that bought it advertise in a trade magazine their new service…they have a seminar series and certification service coming…I assume the .org will be the site for those classes…not a bad idea.

  10. Interesting discussion… But I think its important to separate two issues- which many have alluded to here, namely: brand protection and channel of delivery.
    Brand protection
    Put aside the .org or .com question for a moment. For brand protection it is best to select a domain name that is unique and available on the primary global TLDs. For example, you may choose “thebestmatch” as your domain name, register it on .org and .com to protect your brand. It is the base name that represents your brand and you should protect it across several domain extensions. BTW, this is pretty establish practice for name brands.
    Best channel of delivery
    The domain name extension – .org, .com, etc. should be considered next as your “channel” of delivery. .ORG is an unrivaled channel where people turn to find credible information, get involved, fund causes and support advocacy. Is this purpose consistent with your company’s mission? Or would a .com (i.e. commercial enterprise) be more appropriate? So you may believe .org is the channel to use, then set your website name as and have the .com and other registered names point to it. That is fine too, and in fact as many comments to the original blog (as well as our own research attest) end-users seek out and trust .org sites more than any other TLDs.
    So there is no hard and fast rule; its best to take a look at what you are hoping to achieve and determine your branding and distribution needs as a result.
    Alexa Raad, CEO of .ORG Registry

  11. Alexa:
    I’m reading your post and as I’m scrolling down I’m thinking to myself, “Hmmm…this is quite good. I’ve rarely read such a good, practical definition of the proper usage of dot-org. Alexa Raad. Hmmm…name sounds familiar. Isn’t she the…”

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