To Dot-CA or not to Dot-CA?
Many Canadian businesses are faced with a conundrum: do they set up their website on a .ca domain or on a .com domain. There are pros and cons for each, and some of those are related to SEO, to the rankings that the website can achieve in the search engines.
The first question a business should answer is whether a website is targeting just a Canadian audience or whether it is targeting a world audience (including Canada, but also the USA, Europe, Asia, etc.). This post will address only those businesses targeting primarily a Canadian audience.
I will say only that if your business is targeting a world audience, and you do choose to use a .ca domain, we have seen no evidence that it will hurt your rankings in New York or London. However, .ca does say “Canadian” and it is reasonable to expect change at any time – that Google and Bing might one day wake up and decide not serve up a .ca listing in results outside of Canada, or at least to reduce their rankings.
What we do know is that there are five ways to let the search engines know that your website is particularly relevant to Canadians:
- A .ca domain makes it very clear that the site is Canadian.
- A site hosted on a Canadian server is usually considered Canadian
- A site with a significantly disproportionate percentage of backlinks from .ca or Canadian-hosted domains is likely to be relevant specifically to Canadians
- A website with an address located in Canada, or the word Canada written all over it is also likely to be of particular interest to Canadians.
- In Google’s webmaster tools, you can associate a website with “Canada”, but that doesn’t help at Bing, Yahoo, Ask or other engines.
The order I listed the five methods above is purposeful; a .ca domain is generally believed to be the single most effective way to signal “Canadian” to the search engines. My own anecdotal experience confirms this, although I have not seen any statistically sound testing to confirm this.
How effective is a .ca domain? It can make a very big difference at Google.ca, making a website rank much higher than at it does at Google.com . Here are some sample rankings for the top 6 most important search phrases for a client of mine who is on a .ca domain —
As an example, one of my clients with a .ca domain is competing is a highly competitive niche. Here are a few sample rankings at Google.ca and Google.com:
Why this matters is because Google serves up Google.ca to all users whose IP address is designated Canadian. That is a majority of Canadian searchers. Having a .ca domain gives your business an advantage it does not have at Google.com .
That does not mean you should ignore Google.com . There are many applications, including the Google Toolbar and third party websites running Google searches, where geography is not factored in and Canadians are treated as if they were global nomads. A .ca domain won’t help you in these searches, but other signals will.
Canadians searching through applications that ignore geography are much more likely to refine their search geographically (adding “Canada” or the name of their city and clicking “search” again). This is just an assumption on my part; it would be interesting to see data, but I don’t believe there is any available.
Although right now a .ca domain does not give a business a natural advantage in Google.com searches from within Canada, there is no telling that it might not in the future. If at any time it does, I know a lot of .ca domain owners who will be smiling.
By the way, I put my money where my mouth is. Although my clients come from all over the world, I have a special interest in home base. So my main, international website is at www.seo-writer.com, but I have a website just to attract Canadian clients at www.seo-writer.ca .
David Leonhardt left the offline world of public relations and issues management to found The Happy Guy Marketing. SEO and SEM is really just part of the natural extension online of the old offline world of public relations…drop by for a look/see at this active Canadians site, eh!