This post is about nationality and regional domain extensions. It shows all the new options available, if you're interested in specific geo targeting for your web address.
"Home is not a place. Home is a feeling"
This is the slogan of dotruhr's latest promo video. I think it nails, how some domain extensions have the ability to add something special to your online identity, which a .com domain is not capable of. A week ago I published a post about the 39 city domain extensions and seven reasons to use them instead of a .com or a country code domain name. However other alternative geo domain extensions exist. This is a post about them.
Geographic domain extensions have always been synonymous with country code domains such as .fr, .de, co.uk and com.au. However in 2004 .eu was launched, which marked a different way to look at geographic domain names. While technically considered a country code, it was the first domain extension, which covered a territory beyond national borders. Later that year .cat came out which was the first top level domain for a region inside a country (Catalunya in Spain). In 2008 we saw the launch of .asia. .Eu was very well received and has today 3.85M registrations making it the 11th most popular domain extensions of more than 800 domain extensions.
.Asia faired less well with 228K registrations today, while .cat domain name usage has been very high among Catalan websites with 88K registrations (Websites about cats not excluded!). Since 2014 new regional domain extensions such as .bayern and .alsace started to appear including nationality domains (e.g. .swiss, .kiwi and .irish). I asked some of the leading experts in the field of regional domain names to comment on who should use these new extensions.
My question to them was the following: When should you use a regional / nationality domain name instead of a .com or a country code extension?
I have divided their answers into six arguments when you should use this type of domain names. Here we go:
1. When you want a great generic domain name
If your business is new and unknown you might consider getting a web address, which states what you do, instead of who you are. Finding the perfect generic term as a .com domain is nearly impossible today, unless you are ready to spend a lot of money in the aftermarket. While there certainly are more options available when using a country code domain, it's still hard, since they have been around for the last 20-25 years. So if you're an accountant from Alsace starting out your business today, comptable.com and comptable.fr are long gone, but comptable.alsace is available.
Tobias Kaiser from dotSaarland says:
"This new TLD (Top Level Domain .saarland) enables registrants to get good generic domain names that aren't available under .de anymore. Especially in times where more and more small businesses get their own websites and website builders enable nearly everybody to create a website quick and easy an open and locally focused domain name room creates opportunities and the perfect fit for everyone."
2. When it tells customers, where your service is offered
The beauty of the new domain extensions is their ability to communicate on both sides of the dot. If you target customers in a specific geographic area, then the domain name can explain this to customers. As an example hochzeitdj.bayern is the website of a DJ in Bavaria, who plays at local events, birthdays and parties. The .Bayern domain name does a better job for him than .de would, as his business only targets local customers.
Philippe Du Bois the General Manager of DNS Belgium, the registry of .Vlaanderen says:
"It can be smart to choose a regional domain extension when you’re a local entrepreneur, when you’re offering region specific products or when your clients are mainly located in a certain region or city. It means choosing for local communication, which is easier to connect with a local audience.... A regional domain extension adds value to your (online) identity. For example: it can be a good choice to register hikingtrips.vlaanderen when I’m offering Flemish hiking trips, and I’m located in Flanders. It implies nearness, I’m approachable to my Flemish speaking customers."
Mohamed El Bashir from DotAfrica (One of the two bidders for the upcoming .africa top level domain):
"Regional TLDs provide an opportunity for branding and promotion of products, services, projects and initiatives on regional level targeting a wide customer and user base. It provides a channel to disseminate one united regional message in an easy way utilizing a registered regional domain name as the one stop shop. Local businesses and entrepreneurs could use it as well to expand their services and business to a regional level. For International brands and trademarks the regional TLD is an important vehicle to introduce regional wide marketing campaigns and provide a local message to their customer base."
Neil Dagger, the Senior Product Marketing Manager for .Wales and .Cymru at Nominet says:
".Cymru and .wales are a great choice for businesses who want to target the Welsh market or to show that they are part of Welsh community, and with two languages, they get twice the opportunity to reach customers. Individuals can use them to underline their Welsh heritage as they are a visible sign to anyone visiting their site."
Roger Castillo from the .LAT registry: "When you have a project or initiative intended for a specific region, it could be a region within a country, or city or even a continent, you could take advantage of the benefits of a regional TLD. It clearly identifies the intended audience, it provides direct recognition, even better than a generic or ccTLD." Caspar Von Veltheim from the registry managing .Bayern and .nrw points out how the Internet is turning local.
"The Internet becomes increasingly local. This alone can be seen by the high percentage of searches for local products and services. Also there is a clear trend for regionality in many aspects of daily life...Only regional TLDs have the ability to show spot on the whereabouts or origin of a website and its associated services or products. Especially for businesses who operate locally, like hotels or carpenters, lawyers or doctors, but also for larger organisations that wish to target their regional market."
3. When you want to build trust in your business
You can only register a .eu domain name, if you're located in The European Union. This requirement builds trust in the .eu brand compared to .com, which anyone can register. Angus Richardson from Dot Kiwi (Local New Zealanders call themselves Kiwis) comments: "In New Zealand, a generic TLD can be negatively perceived as being foreign, distant, and untrustworthy. Studies support that Kiwis prefer interacting with companies perceived as being local, because they can be held accountable if purchased goods or services do not end up being as advertised."
Joke Braeken from EURid (The .EU registry) comments:
"You show you are European and an international player open for business across the 28 EU Member States, the EEA countries and beyond. You signal quality and trustworthiness as a legal entity in the European Union."
Roger Castillo from the .LAT registry points out that application restrictions also helps build trust: "The registry could have some elegibility requirements like proof of a legal establishment in the region in order to register the domain."
4. When you want to rank higher in Google
I have discussed the value of SEO (Search engine optimization) of the new domain extensions in a couple of posts (Google reads coffee.club as coffee club! and Case studies: Will a new gtld rank you higher in Google?) . The verdict is still out, but early tests show promising results.
Benjamin Louis from the .Alsace registry points out that Google automatically understands that you're local when using a regional domain extension:
"with .alsace you do not need to do SEO efforts to localize your business, it’s in your domain (ex: holderbat.alsace a building company). there are a lot of opportunities with generic domains who are already registered in traditional TLDs, but still available in .alsace."
The Registry behind the .alsace domain names runs an exciting SEO competion at the moment. So if you're from Alsace and works with SEO, then check it out.
The spokesperson from the .Cat domain registry says:
"If your readers speak Catalan, the .cat domain is helpful in SEO positioning. In fact, search engines (such as Google or Yahoo) position better the Catalan-written websites with .cat domain that the Catalan-written websites with other Internet domains."
5. For local branding
We've already discussed the advantage of a memorable brand name and domain in the post Naming experts' 21 tips.... A great brand and domain name are highly relevant for local marketing.
Anja Elsing from dotruhr has the following to say about .ruhr domain names and local marketing:
"You should choose a regional TLD such as .ruhr, if you want to clearly highlight and communicate your region or if you identify with this and want to “fly the flag” for the Ruhr region. If you work in local marketing and want to use the benefits of a short, memorable and intuitive internet address."
Even offline they will work as Roger Castillo from the .LAT registry points out:
"They look great offline, like in billboards or other sort of urban ads and also on business cards and corporate stationary, and all printed materials and publications…. Even on radio and in tv spots." Here is an example of the use of a .saarland from a local painter (Source: Domains in the wild)
6. When you want to be affiliated with the local nationality
Especially in regions where there is a particular strong sense of being local, these extensions have the ability to communicate on an indirect level with your audience.
Josu Waliño the CEO at PuntuEUS, the registry of .EUS for the Basque country:
".EUS Domain is the top level domain for the Basque Language and Culture Community. The domain for those who speak like us or those who want to connect to our community. Websites as www.euskadi.eus which is the one from the Basque Government, www.eitb.eus from the Public Basque TV or www.berria.eus from the unique newspaper printed in Basque language reinforce their digital identity thanks to .EUS."
Desi is a person of Indian, Pakistani, or Bangladeshi birth or descent who lives abroad. Sid Ohri from the .desi registry explains, how a .desi can be used to be affiliated with a group without the restrictions of national borders:
"For the desi shopkeeper or restaurateur in Toronto or London, having a .desi website will make it easier to reach out and be seen by anyone who is a fan of South Asian cuisine or fashion. For the desi student in Washington or Sydney, the .desi online community will make it easier to connect to his or her roots."
Angus Richardson from Dot Kiwi comments: "The best TLD for your business is the one which sends the right message to your target market. Regional TLDs offer similar positive connotations as ccTLDs, as your brand will be perceived as local, familiar, and trusted...Kiwibank chose to use inner.kiwi to showcase media content they had developed for their customers. They chose to use .KIWI because it resonates with their customers, who are Kiwis, and communicates one of their core values which is that they are one of the few banks which is still truly Kiwi."
Benjamin Louis points out that with a .alsace domain name you can "Benefit from the image of Alsace and its lifestyle and show your pride in being Alsatian."
Anja Elsing from dotruhr: "With .ruhr, many individuals are already demonstrating their association with the region with local e-mail addresses. There are even new blogs and online portals e.g. www.living.ruhr about interiors in the Ruhr region. www.welcome.ruhr is also a new portal for skilled workers from abroad (see video below). www.kunstgebiet.ruhr is the first digital art guide of the Ruhr region which was also recently nominated for the Cultural Brands Award in the category “European Trend Brand of the Year”."
Roger Castillo from the .LAT registry explains: ".LAT is not intended to be regional. .LAT is not for Latinamerica, but for the Latinos. .LAT was created to easily identify Latino individuals, organizations, causes and projects on the Internet." 6. When you want visitors to find content easier on your website The regional domain extensions which also represent a local language can be used as a digital road sign. If you have a Basque country version of your website, then you can use the .eus domain to guide readers to this language version. The .cat registry gives the example of FC Barcelona : "If your website wants to address to speakers of different languages, we recommend the use of multiple domains. A good example is the website of FC. Barcelona. This soccer team uses multiple domains according to the different languages of their website, such us .cat (in Catalan), .jp (in Japanese), .es (in Spanish) or .co.id (in Indonesian)."