.com vs. .ca: Which should you use?

“Should I use .com or .ca for my website extension?”

This is a question we often get from our Canadian clients. Before deciding on one or the other, register both so that nobody else can take the one you don’t use and start using it. By doing so, you protect your brand at a very affordable cost (around $15/year). However, you only want to use one of the two. If you have the same website under .com, and .ca, it will confuse visitors and it becomes twice as much work to maintain and optimize, without even considering duplicate content issues that it would create. To prevent any SEO issues, do a 301 redirect from one URL to the other. Make sure your webmaster doesn’t just set up a domain forward. Some people may be linking to the other domain and your primary URL wouldn’t benefit from these links as only 301 redirects pass link juice.

Having both .ca and .com is the ideal solution, so if you have a great idea for your URL but the .com is not available, I would strongly recommend trying to find a different one. Make sure that both the .com and .ca are available using a website such as namespro.ca.

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Once you have purchased both extensions, a decision must be made: which one should you use as your primary TLD (top level domain)?

Well, the answer is pretty simple and depends on two factors:target market and branding

1) Target Market

Where are you offering your products/services?

  • If you serve the Canadian market exclusively and don’t think you will expand past the Canadian border in the next few years, then using the .ca can provide some advantages for SEO and geotargeting. It also seems that Canadians like to click on .ca websites when looking for local products/services because it appears more relevant and make them feel they are supporting local economy.
  • If you serve the United States (or other countries) or have a customer base split between Canada and other countries, I would suggest using the .com as it reaches a wider audience and most people are less likely to click on a site with a different country’s TLD.
  • 2) Branding

    How do you want your company to be perceived? .com and .ca won’t be perceived the same way by users. If your company name is not well known to the broad public, having a .ca extension will give the impression of being a small local company. Bigger companies usually use a .com extension because they usually have a wider target market, which ties in with the first point made above.

    In summary, you should buy a .ca when:

    • You already have a .com website but want to offer services/products more targeted to the Canadian market. Example: www.bmw.com is BMW’s brand website and offers links to some national websites as well as generic information about the BMW group, whereas http://www.bmw.ca/en/ is their Canadian website with a link to their Canadian Facebook page, Canadian retailers and so on.
    • You plan on doing business locally and don’t plan on expanding outside of Canada.
    • You want to pretend your business is based in California. (This one is obviously a joke but the confusion happens quite often)
    • Using a .ca can also benefit your SEO strategy with geotargeting.

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