One of the most common and most longstanding questions about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) web marketing in Canada is whether it’s more or less effective to use ‘.CA’ instead of ‘.COM’ to attract maximum search and usage.
It’s an important question, certainly. And while it’s certainly ideal that a business have their domain names on both .CA and .COM platforms, with both automatically forwarded to your home page (e.g. Google, the Toronto Star)...but it’s also true that unless your business has a very unique name, you’ll often find that your .COM name has already been taken.
In actuality, your choice of domain extension(s) won’t matter very much if you’re targeting an international audience. It’s when you’re aiming for a strictly Canadian audience that the domain extension really becomes a major factor.
First of all, bear in mind that the priorities of how search engines work could feasibly change at any time. ‘.CA’ makes it very clear from the get-go that you’re dealing with a Canadian site, and there may very well come a time when Google, for instance, decides to push down .CA rankings in their searches, or even ignore them altogether when someone outside of Canada does a search. The web is a mercurial beast.
Also, consider that Google’s webmaster does allow a site to be strictly tied and associated with Canada, but with the tools of many other search engines - e.g. Yahoo or Bing - it doesn’t particularly help. The Google Toolbar tends to treat Canadian users as if they exist in any random country. So, it won’t hurt...but it won’t help.
If you’re Canadian yourself, you might’ve noticed that your search engine automatically brings you to google.CA even when you type in a .COM extension. If your IP address is registered as Canadian, Google will do this.
You also might have no choice but to assume that users searching Canadian businesses from outside Canada will narrow their searches down themselves, i.e. specifying ‘Canada’ or ‘Canadian’ somewhere in their search. Unfortunately, without the possession of a crystal ball or mind-control powers, this is impossible to fully predict.
The bottom line, though is that at this point in time, having a .CA domain extension does give your business certain advantages that the standard .COM extension doesn’t. The issue, of course, is where your prospective clientele lie. Simply put, Canadian users will benefit greatly - first and foremost, in fact - from a .CA extension.