.com or .co.za?

[edit 26.10.2014: The information around this topic keeps changing all the time. The general ideas stay the same but there are nowadays many more ways to let the search engines know where you come from or stay international, check in the relevant webmaster tools for your website.]

com-or-cozaOne question I get every time I talk to business owners about setting up a website is the question of which domain end to go by. Any of the more global .com or .net ones or the local .co.za.

It is a good and interesting question – which one is better? In answering this question we have to go back and find out what does the ending actually mean and how come we have this question in the first place?

The main difference of course is the localisation. With a local domain (as the .co.za domain is) you are immediately identified as originating from that area. This could be good or not – depending on your particular business.

In the “old” days, i.e. only a handful years ago, when searching online was still in its infancy the only way to find local websites in your area was to add .co.za in the search box. I remember distinctly being very relieved when I found out about this little trick.

coza-search-box

Sometimes you don’t want to see any international sites, other times you do. And amongst the millions of sites there was no other way to find local ones. But the problem was that you sometimes missed locals, those that had a .com domain.

The search engines have caught up on this. They realized that as much as 40% (no source, I read it somewhere, it rings true) of all searches online are local searches, meaning people are looking for information around the block. It is thus no surprise that they have invested in making their algorithms better in serving up relevant local content. Google has local engines (google.co.za) and now has a link on the left navigation bar that lets you choose between local or international.

localisation-on-google-search

How do Goolge & Co know where in the world you are? By looking at your ISP’s IP address. That funny number looking something like 156.34.231.1. I’m sure you’ve seen it before. It tells them in which city you are accessing the net from (no worries, they can’t track where exactly you are!). (That is by the way also actually your domain name. Well it’s “the thing” that lies behind the pretty names like www.MyBizPerforms.com and that tell a computer where to find the server with that file, but I digress…)

That means without having to add a localised search string (for example adding .co.za or “Cape Town” or “South Africa” etc) you will get all sorts of results but many of them automatically will fall within your area. Which is really good news for business owners, because these days it really does not matter that much any more if you have a .com or a .co.za. for organic search – as long as you let Google (and search engines in general)  know that you are a local business. You do that by adding your address on pretty much every page of your website (the footer area is a good place), in your contact page, add opening hours, mention your localised keywords all over your website (if you’re based in Somerset West for example you want to mention that as much as you possibly can). And of course by setting up your Google Places listing and linking it back to your website.

So the main decision maker will be whether you want to stand out as being from South Africa or not.

If that’s not a main consideration and you’d prefer a .com or .net or similar domain you will find that these are much easier to get, easier to work with and easier to maintain, not to mention a whole lot cheaper. With a hosting company like Bluehost (who host this website) you’re set up as fast as you can type in your information and process your payment. Click, click. Done. US$ 6.95 per month is hard to beat, certainly compared to .co.za. Although in recent years with a service like Afrihost we’re able to compete globally and the rates have come down.

If you decided to go with SBI – Site Build It your domain and hosting is included in their package and will be a .com (they do not offer international domains, but you can transfer your existing domain name). By the way I simply love their model of building a web business, one of my other businesses is run on their platform and the results are astounding.

So what’s better, a global domain name like .com or international domain name like .co.za? It all depends…..

[table id=6 /]

Please share your thoughts on this question in the comments! How did you decide? Or what makes you decide? Is localisation in the domain important for you? Why, why not?

Generating leads with Social Media