One of the first decisions you have to make when starting your online business in Canada, is whether or not to use a .ca domain name. Even if you’re not ready to go live with a website, your own domain name can be used for secure, custom eMail, redirecting to your social media or other profile, and protecting your brand.
Selecting a domain name can be an intimidating process. Some considerations include:
- Choosing between your business name or keywords.
- If you decide on keywords, you’ll have to research the popularity of relevant search terms and phrases, while finding that perfect medium between popularity and saturation.
- If you use a company name, you’ll have to determine if it will be misspelled often enough to justify additional domain name registrations.
- The URL should be short, yet descriptive.
- If the name you want isn’t available, you may consider the use of hyphens.
If that isn’t maddening enough, Canadians also agonize over using .com, .ca, or any of the other domain extensions. A .ca domain offers many benefits to the right business, but it’s also a choice you may regret in the future.
Following are a few factors to consider before deciding to register a .ca domain name for your Canadian business.
Is your target market Canadian or local? Country code top level domains (ccTLDs) like .ca are extensions that correspond to the name of a country. The .ca domain tells people instantly that they’ll be ordering from a Canadian company. Nobody outside of Canada can use it. That alone may result in your link being clicked more often in search engine results.
Additionally, search engines use the .ca domain as an indicator of a Canadian website when Canadians are searching for businesses in this country. That means you’ll rank higher in their search results by default. Google has the option of setting your target market country, however, so you don’t necessarily have to use .ca. If you intend to target markets outside of Canada you may want to go with a .com domain, so you’re available to searchers world-wide.
You’re also free to register .com or other domains in addition to .ca. That will allow you to forward one domain to the other or keep them separate to serve each location individually.
Sixty-five percent of Canadian internet users prefer a .ca domain, especially for:
- News/current events
- Product research
- Travel research
- School/work related research
- Government services
- Getting involved in community organizations
French characters and ligatures (é, ë, ê, è, â, à, æ, ô, œ, ù, û, ü, ç, î, ï, ÿ) are permitted by the The Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA). Not all registrars accommodate it, however, so it’s important to check before registering. The French characters option is usually found under “Advanced Services” during the registration process, but you can always send an eMail to multiple registrars before you choose one.
When typing in a URL from memory, .com is often assumed. To ensure that you get all traffic from either a .com or .ca guess, register your domain name with both extensions. You can easily forward one domain to the other.
You can also help people remember it by making the .ca extension part of your online brand if your company name is in the URL. Whenever you mention your brand online, include the “.ca”. For example, instead of referring to your brand as Canadian Business Supplies, you can use CanadianBusinessSupplies.ca.
Since .ca domains are reserved for Canadians, it’s more likely the domain name you want will be available with the .ca extension than with a .com extension.
Even if you do go with a .com or other domain extension as your primary URL, you may want to register the .ca variation to protect your trademark/brand. That said, you will also have to ensure you’re not stomping on another trademark. In the days of the wild web, you could choose any available domain name. Many people made a lot of money buying up famous trademark URL’s and then selling the domain back to the trademark owner. These days, the law is on the trademark holder’s side when it comes to URL’s, but it can be as tricky to prove as any other trademark infringement.
Red Tape Factor
Domain registrations with the .ca extension are managed by CIRA. To register a .ca domain name, you must meet all of their terms and conditions. The red tape isn’t insurmountable, apparently, because currently there are almost 2.7 million .ca domain names registered. The biggest issue with CIRA’s terms is they don’t allow ID protection, so you may have more problems with unsolicited contact.
CIRA does some important digital work in Canadian communities. So far, over 3 million dollars has gone to support Canadian communities through education, research and non-profit initiatives.
“A portion of the proceeds of each .CA registered goes toward funding digital literacy, online community investment and Canada’s ongoing stewardship of global Internet governance,” CIRA promises.
Where to Register your .ca Domain Name
Most domain registrars/hosts now include the .ca option, but here are a few popular companies that we are certain offer .ca domains. They also offer website hosting if you’re in the market for it. We’ve identified those that are Canadian-owned for those who like to support local businesses.
For more information about finding a Canadian-friendly website host (through which you can also register your domain), we encourage you to use our Checklist: Choosing a Website Host for your Canadian Business.
Do you have a .ca domain name? Please feel free to share it and comment on your experience with obtaining it or discuss this and other online business topics in the Online Business Canada Facebook group!
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Melody McKinnon's formal education is in business management, which she enhanced with more than 60 certifications revolving around business, marketing, health, general sciences and writing. In 25 years of working online, she has owned or managed both educational and ecommerce websites. Her book, 7 Recession Proof Online Businesses to Start From Home, is available on Amazon.
Melody has worked with many businesses & brands in a multitude of capacities. She can often be found on CanadiansInternet.com, CanadianFamily.net and AllNaturalPetCare.com, as well as other quality digital publications. Her content has earned reference links from highly-respected websites, magazines and university textbooks.