Why Your Top Level Domain is Important

by Martin Malden

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.

Cheers,

Martin Malden

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