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TLD? ccTLD? What are they, and why do they matter?

By Kira Taylor

What is a top-level domain?

If you’ve spent any amount of time browsing the web, you’ve probably seen that the endings—or suffixes—to web addresses can come in many forms and flavours.

For instance—there’s the classic “.com” suffix. Then, there are suffixes that refer to specific countries, like “.it” (Italy) and “.CA” (Canada). You might even see suffixes for certain kinds of products or businesses, such as “.shoes” or “.pizza.”

So, what are these suffixes called and why do they matter? Well, for starters—they’re known as TLDs (that’s top-level domains, thank you very much!).

TLDs are everything “to the right of the dot” (and before any slashes) when you’re looking at a URL. So, let’s take, for example. The “.CA” after “CIRA” would be the top-level domain. 

Why do TLDs matter?

TLDs can provide helpful information about a website’s purpose, industry, geographical location or even its owner. They can also inspire trust—or even skepticism—from visitors.

First, we have what are called generic top-level domains (gTLDs), which cover a wide variety of purposes.  A few of the most common examples are “.com” (for commercial websites but is open to be registered by anyone), “.edu” (for educational institutions) and “.net” (for network or internet service providers).

Fun fact: there are over 1,500 TLDs total to choose from—and that list is growing every year. Some of the more recent options include “.army” (aimed at military recruitment and army supply store-type sites), “.money” (for lenders and financial institutions) or “.dating” (for all your online matchmaking needs).

And like we mentioned right off the hop, there are TLDs that refer to countries or geographies. These are what’s known as country code top-level domains (ccTLDs). These essentially help users (and search engines) determine where a website (or business) is operating from.

Why do ccTLDs matter?

Country code top-level domains are the best way to tell customers and search engines alike where in the world your website (and business) is based.

Whenever a website uses a ccTLD as part of their web address, search engines like Google will take that information and assume that the site (and all its content) is relevant to the geography that the ccTLD references—i.e., Canada.

Surf (and shop) with confidence

Another benefit of ccTLDs is that they bring a sense of legitimacy, which can help increase customer confidence and trustworthiness.

Someone from Canada looking to purchase something from an online retailer with a .CA ccTLD will (logically) assume that the products are local. What’s more—they’ll feel assured that they can complete their purchase without any pesky currency exchange, shipping or customs issues.

Here’s another thing to keep in mind: we at CIRA don’t dole out .CA domains to just anyone. To successfully register a .CA, you need to meet  Canadian Presence Requirements, which includes proving you are indeed a Canadian citizen and/or permanent resident as well as a Canadian-based business. This helps ensure that .CA domains are far less likely to be used for spam or to host malware.

So now that you’re well-versed on the ins and outs of TLDs and ccTLDs, read the definitive guide to choosing .CA for your business!


About the author
Kira Taylor

Kira is the Marketing & Channel Specialist at CIRA. She focuses on content, digital marketing and channel strategies to help Canadian business owners make the right domain choice for their business website so they can find success online.