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Should I purchase a '.com' or a '.co.nz' domain name?

March 4, 2010

In this post we outline some of the key factors you should be thinking about when deciding whether to register a '.com' or a '.co.nz' domain name.

On the face of it choosing a domain name for your website would appear to be a fairly straightforward process; brainstorm and select a name that identifies your business or service offering, check to see if it’s available for purchase (i.e. not already taken by someone else), and pay the fee required to register the domain. In reality however, choosing the best domain name requires careful thought and consideration. Aside of the branding and search engine optimisation implications of choosing a memorable and keyword rich domain name (if possible), there are also various target audience and brand protection factors that you should carefully consider.

Before we get into detail about which version/s of a domain name you should register, let's first take a brief look at the components that make up a domain name.

Domain name construction
Generally speaking, a domain name consists of two or more words separated by a period (dot). The last word (e.g. '.com') is called the 'top-level domain' (TLD), while the first word or (combination of words) is referred to as the 'mid level domain'. For example, the website address www.examplecompany.com has a '.com' TLD, while the words 'examplecompany' form the 'mid level domain'. Taking this explanation a step further, you can also have country specific top level domains (referred to as ccTLDs) such as '.co.nz' or '.com.au'.

So now we've got the basics of domain name construction out of the way we're ready to take a look at two of the key things you need to consider when deciding which variation/s of your chosen domain name you should register.

What should I consider when choosing between registering a '.com' or a '.co.nz'?

    1. Target audience location

Search Engines use the top level domain of a website (among other things) to help identify the audience the website is attempting to reach. Therefore, if your business or website is targeting an audience predominantly located in New Zealand, then it makes good sense to register and use the '.co.nz' version of whatever domain name you choose. By using a country specific  top level domain (ccTLD) such as '.co.nz' you are sending a strong signal to the search engines that your business or website is based in New Zealand,  and therefore your website is more likely to appear in the search results when searched for by users located in New Zealand.

If on the other hand you wish to target several countries, then using a country code TLD is not the best option. Instead we suggest using a generic TLD such as '.com' or '.net' that does not have any specific country/region associated with it.

    1. Brand protection

Many companies overlook the importance of protecting their brand by failing to register the most popular TLD variations of their domain name. Once you’ve determined the domain name you wish to register it's worthwhile checking if other variations of the domain are also available for purchase. For example, if you choose to register www.example-company.co.nz it would also be wise to check the availability of www.example-company.com.  If it's available, the sensible approach would be to register it.  By registering multiple domain names you are taking practical steps toward protecting your brand and online identity from competitors who may choose to register similar to yours in an attempt to draw potential customers away from you.

Note also that just because you are purchasing alternative versions of your domain doesn’t mean that you actually have to use them - you can simply choose to redirect unused versions of the domain to your chosen domain. By doing so, anyone who enters an alternative version of your domain into their browser would automatically be redirected to your chosen domain name.

To conclude...
Based on the reasons outlined above we recommend that if you are targeting an audience in a specific country, then it pays to make use of the country code TLD (ccTLD) of the target country. This will go a long way toward helping you to achieve better rankings in your preferred geographic location. Furthermore, if you're at all concerned about protecting your brand online, we strongly suggest registering other TLD variations of your chosen domain – it's a small price to pay for peace of mind, security, and protection of your brand’s online and offline reputation.

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Filed under Digital Marketing

Written by

Mark is the Manager of Digital Marketing at Apex and has worked in the digital marketing industry since 2004. Prior to joining Apex he worked in a variety of traditional marketing roles in both the corporate and SME environment in NZ and abroad, but these days much prefers the tangible measurability and transparency of digital marketing.

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