Thoughts on International Domains and Usability

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I responded to a question on Linked about the use of domains. Here is the original question:

I am about to start an internet marketing campaign in Canada for a product that I am importing from the USA. Their website (example) is http://www.CoolProduct.com, my question is: do I promote http://www.CoolProduct.ca, or http://www.CoolProductCanada.com, in my marketing? I have both registered, and one will have a redirect to the main site I end up using.

Here are my thoughts:

The focus of domain selection process should always be on usability. So, you may want to do some research on the most common used domain (whether it is .com or .ca). If .com is the most common domain, you will find that many users will mistakenly recall the CoolProducts part of the domain, and automatically assume it is a .com domain. If this is the case, I would suggest using CoolProductsCanada.com.

If, on the other hand, it is common and popular to use .ca domains in Canada, and other similar or industry brands are using a .ca domain, then the more “expected” domain would be a .ca and I would recommend going with the CoolProduct.ca domain.

The key is user memory retention — which one are they most likely to recall–and ease of use (easy to spell).

Another approach is to do some benchmark research or competitive analysis. If your competitors are using one or the other, that is an indicator. Also, look across industries or product lines to see what other retailers/marketers are doing.

The final thing would be to see if there is any research available on internet usage in Canada (or your particular country). This would give you the most factual data.

The LinkedIn user followed up via email with this thought: “If I get coolproduct.com to link to me for my Canadian customers, I think I am better off using coolproduct.ca as it is shorter and easier to remember.”

I would agree with his thinking in general there. Another key thing is he would have the need to brand the regional nature of your market (Canada only), so the .ca may do that best.

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