EDIT: I have since wrote a much more in depth post about choosing a domain name that talks about everything you will need to know, such as exact match domains, branding strategy, and the infamous TLD debate. Check it out here.
Since I’ve started taking an interest and consulting in the internet marketing and search engine optimization industry a common question I’m asked is whether to purchase a .ca or a .com domain name for a business.
No doubt that the choice you make with your domain name is important for marketing your business online. When it comes to choosing a TLD (Top Level Domain: .ca, .com, etc.) many people run into the issue of availability: mycompany.com is taken, should I register the .ca, or find another .com? What effects does this have in my search engine results?
As you may have noticed when you visit google.com it usually forwards you to google.ca. So you must know who your market is. Are you offering a product or service only to Canada? Only to the US? What if you want to market your product and service to both Canada and the US?
From my experience I’ve noticed three things that determine whether or not you are displayed in the country-specific google pages and how google weighs your site for each page.
Firstly, your TLD. Naturally, a .ca domain will appear in the google.ca search results, while a .co.uk will appear in the google.co.uk, and a .com/.net will appear in the google.com results.
Next, where your website is hosted plays a part as well. If your domain is hosted on a Canadian IP address, it will appear in the Canadian results, same goes for American hosted sites showing in google.com.
Finally, your company address listed on your website. If you have your company address listed on a contact page on your website this seems to play a part in where it gets displayed.
So, taking my site – www.websavers.ca – as an example. We can look at the keyword “shoutcast hosting” for 3 google search pages.
The Canadian (google.ca) page displays our result as #2 – given more weight because of its .ca and less competition for keyword in the google.ca search results. (Note #1 is a .com but lists a Canadian address in their contact info)
The American (google.com) page displays our result as #21 – given weight due to the fact that the site is hosted in the US, but with more keyword competition.
The UK (google.co.uk) page displays our result as #97 – weighted very low due to tld, no UK address and not being hosted in the UK.
As always, these are just my conclusions from experience, and an examples. Google is a mysterious being and you can’t guarantee much when it comes to search marketing.