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When thinking about all the things you need to build your best website, a TLD—or top-level domain—might not be the first thing that comes to mind. But we’re here to tell you: it should be.

In fact, being able to pick the right TLD for your website can have a big effect on your ability to reach your desired audience and customer base—along with other key benefits.

And because the whole gang here at CIRA cares deeply about your success, we’ll walk you through the whole TLD-choosing journey in this blog! But first: let’s get a couple quick definitions out of the way.

 

What is a top-level domain?

When looking at a domain name—like cira.ca—the “top-level” domain is everything to the right of the dot. So here, we’re looking at .CA.

Some TLDs are generic (.com., .net., .org, .biz., .info) while others have been created for specific countries (.CA for Canada, .uk for the United Kingdom, .it for Italy, etc.)

 

Is picking a TLD really that big of a deal?

In a word—yes! Your choice of TLD can help users immediately identify your website and business’ geography, overall purpose and ownership. To choose the right TLD, you need to have a solid understanding of your business. For starters:

  • Where do you expect to be doing business? Exclusively within Canada? Or is your business international?
  • What kind of audience or visitors are you trying to attract?

 

Now, for one of the biggest TLD-related questions: should I go with .com or .CA?

Yes, .com is the most popular TLD out there…but we could spend days extolling the many, very-real benefits of choosing .CA! Here’s the short version. You should register a .CA TLD if you’re:

  • Operating a Canadian business targeted to Canadian customers. That .CA TLD shows everyone near and far that you and your website are as Canadian as a canoe stuffed with Nanaimo bars and ketchup chips. Plus, strict Canadian Presence Requirements mean that only real Canadian people and organizations can access and register a .CA domain.

Having a .CA domain is especially appropriate if your business offers products and services confined to a specific geographic area—like a Calgary, AB-based restaurant, for example.

Another big advantage: Canadian consumers are pretty gosh-darn loyal to .CA. We’ve found that seven in 10 of them prefer to support Canadian online retailers, while 59 per cent say they purposefully made an online purchase from a Canadian retailer instead of an American or other international retailer over the past year.

And if you need a bit more inspiration from Canadian businesses that have fully let their Canuck flag fly with a .CA domain, there are plenty of success stories to be read!

  • Selling online and shipping to Canadians in Canadian currency. Canadian customers tend to gravitate towards businesses with .CA TLDs, as there’s peace-of-mind knowing they’re going to be charged in Canadian dollars for their goods. What’s more—customers like knowing you ship within Canada, so they’re not going to get dinged for additional cross-border duties and taxes.
  • Looking to soak up all those tasty Canadian SEO benefits. Having a .CA TLD tells search engines like Google that your website and/or business is Canadian. This is beneficial, as your site will get served up in search engine results pages (SERPs) when customers search for businesses like yours within Canada.

As a bonus: when someone uses Google.ca rather than Google.com, search results will tend to favour .CA websites.

  • Out of luck and your desired .com domain is already taken. When you go with .CA, there’s a better chance that your short, memorable domain name will be available. While .com is globally recognized, it’s also one of the oldest TLD options. The odds that your domain name is already in use are far greater.

 

Want to take an even deeper dive into the gloriousness of .CA? Start with these posts:

 

So, .CA or com?

What if we told you that maybe you didn’t have to choose between .CA or .com? *Intrigue deepens*.

Going with .CA can deliver truckloads of benefits and value to your site.

However—a .com domain can be helpful if you’re planning to market and sell to customers outside of Canada at some point. Because .com is considered a “generic” TLD, search engines like Google won’t associate it with any specific country. This can help your site rank better (if properly search-optimized) against other international results.

So, what if you choose both? As in—register your .CA domain and then keep a .com domain on standby?

Here’s the thing: domain names generally aren’t all that expensive. So, it’s never a bad idea to register .CA and .com domains—even just to protect your brand and prevent a competitor from scooping up the .com version of your .CA domain name. Think of it as cheap insurance.

If you’ve already committed to .com, seen the light and want to make the move to .CA, there are ways you can either migrate your site, or redirect to a newly-registered .CA domain!

To sum up: go ahead and plant that proud .CA flag if your ambitions are True North Strong. And if the scope of your site expands beyond our borders, it’s never a bad option to scoop up a .com domain too.