Why Your Top Level Domain is Important

Top Level Domains. I have a customer here in Hong Kong who is targeting incoming visitors, most of whom will come from the US, Europe or Australia.

So when he asked me to take over the management and maintenance of his site it presented a good opportunity to review his objectives for it.

Which is when I learned that he was targeting people from outside of Hong Kong.

As part of the initial discovery process I found that the site had 2 incoming links. True, it was a new domain (just over 6 months old at the time) and, true, it hadn’t been set up very well to start with.

But just 2 links.

So, given that there was little track record or ‘online reputation’ attached to the site, I suggested re-establishing it on a new Top Level Domain (TLD).

The main reason was because it was sitting on a .hk TLD.

Which would have been fine if he was targeting local visitors. But he wasn’t.

If you’re targeting visitors from outside your home territory you’re better off using the .com TLD.

For example, I’m based in Hong Kong but I’m targeting people in the US and UK. So my sites are all hosted in the US and my domains are all .com’s.

Alternatively, if you’re focusing on a particular territory other than your own (tax return services for people in Australia, for example) then you’re better off using a .com or the TLD of the country you’re targeting.

Using a .hk TLD when you’re targeting people from Europe and the US is limiting.

Firstly, many European and US ISP’s routinely block Asian TLDs, particularly those known to be home to spammers – like .cn, .tw, .ph, etc.

Secondly, Google is growing increasingly keen on producing search results for businesses near you (the searcher) – one of the reasons they introduced Maps to search results.

So when people in the US are searching for a supplier and Hong Kong companies are pitching for US clients, the websites of Hong Kong companies are likely to be nearer the top of the results for searchers in the US, if they’re using a .com TLD than they would be using a .hk TLD.

And before you take my head off, I know there are a gazillion other factors. But a .com TLD will definitely help in this situation.

Long story short, we migrated his site to the new .com domain name and now, 6 weeks later, it’s consistently appearing in the top 3 – 5 results for the site’s primary search term.

True, this is not solely due to the new TLD because I rebuilt the site, setting things up properly. So quite a lot of things were changed at the same time.

Which means it’s not possible to track the effect of each individual change.

But they have got new business through the site now (which wasn’t happening before). A definite plus.

So, when you’re choosing a TLD, it pays to give some consideration as to whether you’re targeting locally or internationally.

Update: 24th November, 2010

And in case you were interested, this article demostrates another reason to be careful about which TLD you use:

Hi-Tech Criminals Target Vietnam.


Martin Malden

What do you think?

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • marvin Nov 18, 2010 @ 5:10

    .ph, spammers? 🙂

    Using the right domain is a big plus for a website. Nope, I am not an expert blogger but that is something I learned from others (and a bit of mine too). There is this one person who wants an internet presence, but keeps on declining my recommendation to stop using firstnameinitial+lastnameinitial+nameofson.blogspot.com. He’s 100 times better writer than me, but he’s almost 0% on search engine referrals.

    I’m using a .com domain, however the domain itself is my name. Well, my blog is personal anyway.

    Nice tip.

    • Martin Nov 18, 2010 @ 11:49

      Hmm – sorry about the .ph comment..!!! 🙂

      But yes, you’re right – WRT the TLD, it’s really just a question of putting your business where your customers are.

      I mean, if you wanted to sell ice to the Eskimos you wouldn’t put your ice shop in Manila (or Hong Kong!), would you..!?



  • Stephan Smith Nov 20, 2010 @ 12:52

    Very good tip Martin. I agree with what you did.

    Me personally, if I encountered a website with an extension of .hk, I would hesitate visiting that site, if only for a moment.

    Mind you, nothing against Hong Kong, but I’m just not that familiar with the extension. I would question it the contents of the website before I got there. That’s just me knowing how dangerous the Internet can be.

    I believe what you did was the right thing. Good job!

    – Stephan Smith

    • Martin Nov 22, 2010 @ 11:10

      Hi Stephan,

      Thanks – and yes, I have the same feelings about any TLD where the spammers and scammers traditionally hang out – even if they’ve moved on by now.

      As unfair as it may seem, TLD’s like .ru, .vn, and .id are others that I’m wary of. When it comes to establishing trust online all these little things add up.



  • Jay Nov 23, 2010 @ 13:44

    Great tips on TLD’S . I agree with Stepehen if it has some weird extension on the end of the domain like HK for example I would be thinking twice also.

    We in the U.S are only used to .com, .info. org. .biz for the most part and a U.S extension is US.

    Good points and I also agree how you handled his domain that was only 6 months old with a whopping 2 backlinks.

    Good post!

    • Martin Nov 24, 2010 @ 9:52

      Thanks Jay,

      And yes, some of those little known TLDs can be off-putting, particularly (I guess) to people who are not familiar with working online and what countries they represent.

      For example, I imagine that TLDs like .co.uk works for people in the US..? Possibly .au, but probably not .vn or .id.