When it comes to choosing a domain name that people will remember, you’ll have two choices to make: what comes before the dot and what comes after. The part after the dot is called the domain extension and you may decide to go with either a country code top-level domain (ccTLD), a generic top-level domain (gTLD) or one of the hundreds of newer domain extensions. But which one is right for you?
In this post we’ll explain the different purposes and benefits of each and which one is best for your website.
What’s the difference between a TLD and a ccTLD?
Before picking a TLD (the part to the right of the dot), it’s important to understand your options and what each one means. Below, we’ll break down the two TLD categories in fuller detail.
Country code top-level domains
These are associated with a country and are always two letters. Some examples are .ca for Canada, .mx for Mexico or .au for Australia. Some ccTLDs require you to prove that you have a connection to that country to be able to register a domain with that ccTLD.
Generic top-level domains
In all, there are hundreds of TLD options out there, but the question is which one is the best for your website?
Go with a ccTLD for region-specific audiences
Using a ccTLD is the ideal choice when you expect most (or all) of your web visitors to be from one country. That is, when your website is predominately relevant to people in a certain country, province, town or neighbourhood within that country.
With one glance, your audience will understand you have a connection to Canada. As a result, your website gets an SEO boost from local Canadian searches.
One other bonus is that the .ca domain registry is managed by CIRA, which is a not-for-profit organization that uses the funds from .ca registrations to improve the internet in Canada.
Here are some types of websites that would be a great fit for a ccTLD:
- eCommerce sites that list prices in local currency or ship to a specific country
- Personal finance, real estate or professional services – anything where regulations vary depending on location
- Services with a local focus — such as flower shops, photography businesses or hair salons
- Community blogs
- Personal websites for Canadian athletes, politicians, artists, etc.
- National brands
- Large multinational companies with many versions of their website catering to each local market
As mentioned above, some ccTLDs have residency requirements and .ca is one of them. To register a domain name with .ca, you must be a Canadian citizen, permanent resident or a corporation. If you check these boxes, getting online with a .ca website or redirecting your current site to a .ca domain is the next move you want to consider.
Use a .com TLD for a global website
A .com domain extension is a good choice if you’re launching a business website that isn’t region-specific. The “com” here stands for “commercial” and is a good choice if you’re looking to:
- Sell and ship globally
- Create a widely recognized and trusted web address
- Attract mobile users (most mobile keyboards have .com shortcuts)
With .com being the most popular TLD on the internet, the catch is that you may have a harder time finding the one you want available.This is another reason why a ccTLD is a better choice for country-specific and local businesses — it may give you more options.
You may be able to purchase a .com domain that is already registered — learn what to do if your first choice is taken here.
How do I search domain name availability?
Remember, you’re making two important decisions: what do you want to the left of the dot, and what do you want to the right?
The right of the dot is typically the same as your business name, or a portion of it.
If you need some ideas, try GoDaddy’s free domain name generator to help give you an idea of what TLDs are available.
See if the domain you want is available now
Don’t get stuck in the .com vs .ca quandary
If you are lucky enough to find both the .com and .ca versions of your desired web address available, register them both.
Many Canadian businesses secure both the .ca and .com TLDS to have all of their bases covered. This keeps “squatters” from buying domains with their business or brand names in them and then offering to sell them for a price.
When deciding on a domain extension, first check if the domain name you want is available with any of them. Then determine which web address best represents your brand.
If your website is intended for a local audience, no doubt a ccTLD is a great choice. But, again, if the .com is available, it can be a smart long-term strategy to get both.