How to choose the best domain extension for your site

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Choosing the right domain extension is one of the first decisions you will be faced with – and affects your SEO and branding. Getting it right will pays dividends.

Here is how to choose the best domain extension for your website.

Country Extensions and General Extensions – what’s the difference?

Country Code Top Level Domains (ccTLD) for example .co.uk for the United Kingdom are domain extensions created specifically for websites targeting the corresponding country. They are the best way to show users and search engines where your site originates. All things being equal, yoursite.co.uk will rank higher in the UK than yoursite.com.

General Top Level Domains (gTLD) are not country specific. .com, .net, .co and .org are the most popular. All things being equal, yoursite.com and yoursite.net rank equally well worldwide – as is confirmed in Google’s guidelines.

Here’s the simple rule of thumb:

Use a general domain to rank well world wide. Use a country code domain to target and rank well in a specific country.

Now lets look at the different permutations of this.

How to choose the best domain extension for your site

1. When to choose a country level domain (e.g. .co.uk)

A country level domain is the best choice when your website is targeted to just one country. For example, a .it domain is best used for Italian websites targeting the Italian market.

Why? From a search engine point of view, a .it domain is ranked higher than a comparable general domain website in Italy.

2. When to choose a general domain (eg. .com)

A general domain is the ideal for business wanting good visibility around the world but without the budget and resources to invest in a language website for each country.

Why? From an SEO point of view, general domains are your solid all rounder that will perform reasonably well in every country.

Disadvantages – in a specific country, general domains do not rank as well as the country domain. So we do not recommend this approach for big business who want to target a specific country.

3. When to buy both country & general domains (but have only 1 website)

If you have international ambitions, purchase both your country level and general domain. If you only have 1 site, ask your developer to set up a redirect from one the country to the general level domain.

Why? Having both domains in the bag shows a strong sense of branding, and keeps your options open for international expansion at a later date. Anyone typing yoursite.it will be taken automatically to the yoursite.com and you will not lose clients. It also avoids businesses snapping up your yoursite.com and selling it back to you at hefty price.

Recommended for: small businesses without the resource to manage two separate websites.

4. When to buy both country & general domains and run separate language websites

Put your local language website on the country level domain e.g..it for Italian, and your English website on the general domain.

Why? You have the best chance to rank your language website in the country of origin, whilst the English language site on the general domain will rank well internationally.

Recommended for: medium sized business with resources and budget to maintain and market 2+ websites. As a rule of thumb, a business should have at least one person dedicated full time to each local language website.

5. Buy the general and country level domains for each target country

Global brands such as Apple, HSBC and Starbucks all have regional websites on the corresponding country level domains for each country they operate. They use the .com to direct customers to their country-level domain.

Why? This is the best solution to rank well in each country. It also allows customization of each website to local tastes.

Recommended for: multinational companies with the resources and budget to run and market a website in each country.

Get an expert opinion

Choosing the best domain extension is an important part of your SEO. Our experienced, international team will guide you to the right choices quickly and efficiently so you can get on with running your business.

About Mike Fitzpatrick

Mike is front end developer and consultant at Jeyjoo. He develops websites and web apps as well as advising small to medium sized business on their online marketing strategy.