One of the greatest strengths of the Internet is seen when a customer in one country engages with a brand in another. The Internet has enabled companies to grow in influence and reach customers far beyond national boundaries in ways that could not have been foreseen even a decade ago.
One of the few places where national boundaries are still apparent online though is in a brand's domain name. By using a domain name tied to a country, such as one ending in .uk, .ru, or another country code top-level domain (ccTLD), a brand can signal to the world its country of origin.
This is great for a company that only wants to engage with customers in their home country. However, for a person attempting to access content from abroad, a domain name ending in a ccTLD may be difficult to remember due to its unfamiliar syntax. Companies seeking to connect with a global audience can't afford to have the address for their digital storefronts be limiting in any way. For this reason, it is usually best to select a domain name extension that people are globally familiar with, like .com and .net.
Further, search engines often optimize their results using the domain name’s ccTLD as a variable. Google has advised that sites built on ccTLDs contain content relevant to that country. This is because both they and users will see that and assume the content is only relevant in that country.
Over the past year, there have been two particularly interesting cases of major brands leveraging the internationally recognized .com domain name as a major part of their strategy to go global. The Guardian, which had traditionally made its home at guardian.co.uk, announced on May 24 2013, that they would be switching to TheGuardian.com. With the UK only accounting for a third of their global traffic, they said it makes sense to move to the internationally recognized and trusted .com domain space.
Another example is My.com, an international foray by the Russian company Mail.ru. They know that expanding their services into the global marketplace will be more challenging if done using their .ru domain name. My.com offers them a brand that can be quickly shared and adopted across all borders.
These are two recent instances in which companies are making the switch to commonly recognized top-level domains like .com and .net to grow beyond the limitations of their ccTLD. Can you think of others? Let us know in the comments below!