While the average internet user might not give a ton of thought to the components of URLs and the differences between them, there are some implications of that oversight to website visitors. Being the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA), managers of the .CA domain, we would like to help you learn a bit more about domain names and show you when .CA is the optimal choice.
First: What is a top-level domain?
You've noticed that there are websites that end with a .CA, or .com, and you may have even started seeing new ones like .news or .club. A survey conducted by the Strategic Counsel shows that one-half of the respondents didn't know what to call the “suffix” in a website address. So, what are they called?
Domain names have two main components.
Everything to the “left of the dot” is referred to as the second-level domain. The section to the “right of the dot” is the top-level domain (TLD for short).
This post is meant to help you figure out if .CA is the right choice for your website. If you would like to learn some tips on choosing the perfect second-level domain, refer to our free guide, Bringing your business online: How to choose a domain name and more.
Types of TLDs: The difference between a ccTLD and gTLD
Top-level domains can be further broken down into two categories:
- country code top-level domains (ccTLDs) - those associated with a country, such as .CA for Canada or .se for Sweden
- generic top-level domains (gTLDs) such as .org or .com
New gTLDs like .news or .shop have been popping up for a few years now (they aren't so "new" anymore!). But with 1,000s of TLD options out there, it makes your domain decision more difficult!
Why choose .CA?
The truth is, choosing the right TLD depends on what you are trying to accomplish with your website. Which visitors are you trying to attract? There are many things that a .CA can convey to your website visitors that you just won't be able to accomplish with other TLDs.
Here are a few benefits of choosing .CA.
Only those with a Canadian connection can get a .CA
To register .CA domain names, there is a Canadian presence requirement. When a website has a .CA domain, it's a good indicator that you're visiting a website owned by a Canadian individual or business. These requirements help CIRA maintain a .CA registry that is a stable, secure and trusted public resource for all Canadians. Many other TLDs do not have such requirements, meaning anyone can register their domains.
Canadians prefer .CA websites
A survey conducted by the Strategic Counsel in 2019 showed that 83% of Canadian internet users prefer shopping on a site with a .CA domain name. Canadians most prefer .CA when it comes to banking, news and current events, and shopping.
.CA gives back
CIRA's Community Investment Program gives back by funding innovative community projects to build a stronger, safer and more accessible Internet for all Canadians. The funds from registering or renewing a .CA domain help support initiatives that grow Canada's capacity in media literacy, enable non-profits to deliver online services and academic researchers to address emerging digital issues.
Through this program, CIRA has supported 151 innovative projects across Canada to date, for a total of $6.47 million.
More availability of short and memorable domains
.com is the most common domain name extension, so it might be an attractive option for your website. But there are well over 100 million .com domain names currently registered compared to over 3 million .CAs, which means you might have better luck locking in your ideal domain name with a .CA. Test out to see what's available using our search tool:
Your personal domain name can be Canadian (just like you!)
Many Canadians are registering their personal domain names (firstnamelastname.ca) to build their personal brand online. Students, athletes, professionals, and politicians are some key examples of those who often choose to show their Canadian pride with a .CA. Find out more about personal domain names with our Digital Me ebook.
Another bonus for personal domain names: If you register a .CA domain name as an individual (that is, not for a business or corporation), information such as the name and email address of the administrative and technical contact are not displayed publicly in the .CA WHOIS. This is not the case with all domain registries, like with .com. When you register a .CA it means that your personal information remains private and you do not have to pay extra for privacy services from registrars to keep it hidden.
Build your domain portfolio and protect your brand
34% of Canadian small business owners with a website have registered their domain on more than one TLD. Why? Many companies get both their .CA and .com, and easily redirect one to the other. This way they have all of their bases covered and don't lose out on any direct web traffic.
So, .CA or .com? Or both?
Even if your Canadian business caters to the international market, registering both the .CA and .com (if it's available!) is a relatively small business expense that ensures you're covering your bases.
What types of businesses choose .CA?
A proudly local business
Many businesses such as Northern Biscuit pride themselves in sourcing local ingredients for their products. They make it clear on their website that their business is Canadian by explaining their story, posting a "Made in Canada" badge and by having a .CA domain name.
A business that offers products/services confined to a geographic area
Restaurants are the ultimate example for this category. If you're operating a restaurant in Canada, you can expect that all of your website visitors will be in your area, so a .CA domain is the best fit.
An ecommerce site that wants to sell products or services to the Canadian market and list their prices in Canadian dollars
Beth Tackaberry, Co-Founder of aprestenco.ca, based out of Kitchener says:
“When customers shop on our online clothing store, they know immediately it’s Canadian from the .CA domain name. No prices in USD and peace of mind that you won’t be hit with duties at the border. Our shop is made for Canadians, so a .CA domain just made sense."
A corporation or organization that operates in many countries, including Canada
A company can have a version of their website that is modified specifically for a Canadian audience, catering to the needs of their Canadian customers.
In a world where there are over 1,000 TLDs to choose from, only one TLD tells your website visitors that you are Canadian. Choose Canada. Choose .CA.