In their desire to show the most relevant results for any given search, one very important factor that search engines consider is location – both of the searcher and of the businesses whose sites are shown in the results. After all, when somebody in Ponsonby searches for a plumber, they probably won’t be very happy if they get directed to the website of the world’s greatest plumber who happens to be in London.
There are a number of things you can do to help the search engines understand where your business is located, and where your target customers are located.
- One of these (and the main subject of this post) is the ccTLD (Country Code Top Level Domain) of your domain (e.g. .co.nz, .com.au, .com, etc)
- Include your physical address in the footer of every page of your website, or at the very least on the contact/about us page.
- Google Webmaster Tools allows you to specify the geographic target of your website.
- Register the physical locations of your business in Google Maps and Google Local Business Center.
- Choose a physical web server location (IP) in the country where the majority of your customers are located
The main focus of the rest of this post is on choosing the best ccTLD for your website in the context of three different scenarios.
New Zealand Business Targeting Customers in NZ
If you are a New Zealand based business and the vast majority of your customers reside in New Zealand, then the choice is pretty obvious: You should utilise a .co.nz domain name. This will provide a local relevancy boost when potential customers in New Zealand search for your keywords. A .co.nz search result is also likely to achieve a better click through rate from New Zealand searchers compared to a .com or other “international” results.
New Zealand Business Targeting Customers in NZ and AU
New Zealand businesses that target customers residing in New Zealand as well as a small number of other specific countries (e.g. Australia), have several options as outlined below.
One option is to use both a .co.nz site and a .com.au site. The advantage of this is that each respective local site will get a local relevancy boost. The disadvantage is that you now have two entirely separate sites that both need to be maintained, and both need their own SEO efforts. The efforts you put into building links to http://yoursite.co.nz won’t benefit http://yoursite.com.au
Another option is to have an international .com domain with separate sections for each target county. There are two main ways to do this:
The subdomains version suffers from a similar problems as having entirely separate domains. Although search engines understand that subdomains are part of the same parent domain, they are treated almost as if they were separate, so the links you build to http://nz.yoursite.com won’t provide much benefit to http://au.yoursite.com
In contrast, the sub-directory version has the major advantage of being treated as one bigger website rather than two smaller sites. But the disadvantage here though is that it may not appear to be as locally relevant in either country. This, however, can be compensated for by making sure you do all the other things you can to communicate your location, as described above.
New Zealand Business Targeting Customers Worldwide
Kiwi businesses trying to reach a worldwide audience will probably not be served very well by a .co.nz domain name, as this is unlikely to get a high position in the search results of potential customers based overseas. Better results can be achieved with the more internationally recognised .com variation.
General Recommendations for Choosing a Domain Name Extension
Regardless of which of the above scenarios best describes your current situation, it would be smart to purchase the other relevant domain extensions to ensure:
- They don’t get hijacked by someone else.
- You can use them in the future if your circumstances change.
- While they are not being used, you can setup 301 redirects to the primary domain.