Why do so many startups use .io domain names?


The only reason I can see is that .com domains for the name you want are hard to come by. Apart from that reason, is there any other benefit to an .io domain? What are the Pros and Cons of using one for your startup? Would it have an effect on SEO?

SEO Branding Naming Domain Domain Names

asked May 13 '14 at 13:40
William Cunningham
14 points

2 Answers


It's a coolness factor and a signal that you're tech-related.

It won't have any effect on SEO. Google added .io to its list of 'generic' country-code top-level-domains (ccTLDs), so it doesn't signal relevance to a particular location. See Matt Cutts: Be Careful About How You Choose Your ccTLDs

The main pros are the branding opportunity and the domain availability. There are so many words that the .com is squatted on, redirecting, or used for an offline / boring / unknown business. Finding a word you can build a brand around with an available .io is much easier.

Domain availability is a real problem with .coms these days. Single-word .coms are almost all squatted if it's an at-all interesting word. I never get tired of plugging LeanDomainSearch, which lets you see available .coms with the word you want paired with other words. But for single-word domains, you more or less have to go with an alternative TLD to find something available.

If you're building a consumer startup, the main con is that traditional wisdom holds you'll need to buy the matching (likely squatted, expensive) .com as you scale to avoid confusion, mis-typings, and broken links at a larger scale. If you have enough success to need this, this is not a bad problem to have.

answered May 13 '14 at 16:35
Jay Neely
6,050 points
  • +1. Good point about consumer confusion and domain matching becoming a future need - trademark on its own doesn't protect if "in business since date" was established by someone else first. – Webbie 3 years ago
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It's clever - I/O stands for Input/Output and so it's a general purpose (unlike say .app) domain extension that is very easy to remember. It is a bit of a trend of course, and at the moment if I needed a domain for a new product I would go with .io over .net, .ly (I kinda dislike this one), or any other extension.

For SEO, more stablished domain extensions can be better, because the domain names themselves are likely to have been in existence longer (even if through multiple ownerships) and age of the domain is one of the factors in SERPs, and if you buy an expired domain it might have leftover PR juice and referral links.

EDIT: Clarified why older extensions might be better.

answered May 13 '14 at 16:03
2,825 points
  • .io *is* a top-level domain. And there's no evidence that content at non- .com domains ranks any better or worse than content at .com domains. Can you clarify what you mean, or edit that portion of your answer to avoid confusing / misinforming folks? – Jay Neely 3 years ago
  • You are right Jay, I didn't express myself clearly. I edited the answer to clarify what I meant. Plz remove downvote :-) – Webbie 3 years ago
  • Not my downvote to remove, and unfortunately I think there's further bad information in your answer. Age of a domain is an insignificant factor compared to inbound links and content quality. Prior links and content (not age) may make a difference, but a domain's history is as likely to be bad as it is good (poor content, spammy links, etc.). And either way, a couple of months after an ownership change (revealed by hosting change, WHOIS, totally different content on the site, etc.) or new registration, Google has totally reevaluated the site. See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-pnpg00FWJYJay Neely 3 years ago
  • Age of a domain is one of the factors, even if not as significant as backlinks and content. Since this question is about domain only and not other things, it was worth mentioning. It's also not impossible to buy an expired domain name with leftover PR juice and referral traffic thus "can be better" (not IS) - I see this pop as an advice on this site and many other SEO blogs/sites. I had done exactly that recently, so it's not a hypothetical advice. – Webbie 3 years ago
  • Age of domain: I've also seen this advice on many SEO blogs, unbacked by any research and written in 2008. If you can show me any case studies by an authoritative source, I'd love to see them. Research by Moz strongly suggests age of a domain has no impact: http://moz.com/blog/age-of-site-and-old-links-whiteboard-fridayJay Neely 3 years ago
  • As to leftover juice / traffic: if you're running the same kind of business as the prior owner, this could be good. If not, it's worthless; the links will be evaluated as irrelevant to the new site, traffic will bounce because the visitors are looking for something else. Particularly, *within the context of this question*, I think it's unhelpful to suggest to someone who knows little about domains and SEO that this has any amount of value to make it worth looking for an expired .com for your startup, rather than just finding the best domain *name* that you can. Nothing personal Lilia! =) – Jay Neely 3 years ago
  • Moz speculates like everyone else, even if using research. There are some 200 factors used to determine SERPs and most blogs/research focus on maybe top 50 (those with changing importance). When you start from 0, which is where you are when you shop for a domain, any small advantage is helpful. Also, typically when the tactic of buying expired domains is mentioned, it's based on meaningful keywords in the same niche, but I guess that might not be obvious to someone new to SEO. We are both sharing our opinions based on our experiences that differ, so OP needs to research more themselves. – Webbie 3 years ago
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