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Monday, November 20, 2006

How having a .com address in the UK is bad not a good idea!

Article – How having a .com address in the UK is not a good idea!

I recently read a very interesting article which suggested that UK only searches on Google excluded UK businesses with a .com address. The writer went onto suggest that UK businesses with a .com URL registered the .co.uk equivalent as soon as possible to avoid being omitted from UK searches in the future.

At the time I didn’t give the report much credit. You may have a .com URL, but surely, your UK address in your keywords and the text on your site would confirm you were a UK company and as such deserved to be included in search results.

In the past, I’ve always used UK only searches to exclude foreign companies of any URL extension. I know we live in a global community but if I’m ordering a CD, I’d rather order it from a UK company (or Jersey at least).

So I didn’t give it much thought until now. Let’s back track a few weeks when I was approached at work by a double glazing company whose site we had designed and hosted. He wanted to be more visible on the front page of Google when people searched for double glazing in his town and surrounding areas.

With however many hundreds of thousands cajoling for the first pages I said it was unlikely unless he went Pay Per Click, however, I was embracing Google Site Maps and I was sure if we re-wrote his front page, his metatags and created a Google Site Map, we could improve his position.

So I began. Firstly, I removed all the old Titles and Metatags and completely re-wrote them specifically with those keywords and locations we’d discussed. I amended the body text to reflect these changes and re-worked his Site Map so that page descriptions were more in line with the keywords he was targeting.

Gone were the nice “Welcome to ..... Windows, a family business” as site titles and in their place... “Double Glazing in Berkshire” etc.

That was a couple of weeks ago when the last change was uploaded.

This morning, I typed a cursory search phrase of Double Glazing into Google and behold, there he was on the second page. Result!

I emailed our client immediately to tell him the good news. After all when you do get a success story in the SEO world, it pays to shout about it.

It wasn’t long before I received a very excited reply. Not only was he on the second page for Double Glazing, but if you added Berkshire after Glazing, then he was on the first page (out of 148,000 results).

Now here’s where it gets interesting. His domain is a .com url. I’d done a worldwide search but it occurred that he’d only come higher if I did a UK Only search? Right? Wrong! It seems that Google (and perhaps others) are omitting .com’s from UK only searches. At least for the first 20 pages. I gave up looking after that.

So on worldwide searches for Double Glazing Berkshire, he get listed on the first page, but if you search specifically for UK only, he doesn’t appear in the first 20 pages and it’s a fairly safe bet that a lot of his potential site visitors are specifying UK Only when they search for double glazing in their area.

If you’re a regular reader of web forums, you may have come across similar stories before, and perhaps like me, you probably put it down to another reason – bad links, bad body copy etc.

But you cannot ignore the indisputable fact in this particular true example. A UK company having a .com URL has been penalised when browsers search on UK results only.

So what’s the answer? Firstly, register a .co.uk URL. Of course this brings its own problems – the age of the URL counting against it as well as a 6 month spell in Google’s Sandbox most likely. Oh, and telling everyone your new address. A simple re-direct from the .com should be enough to start with.

I was discussing this article with a friend who is into Falconry supplies. He had just registered a .co.uk URL variant of his .com URL. Not specifically for the above reason, but because he felt there was a lot of extra mileage to be gained by promoting the fact that being a UK company promised world renowned British craftsmanship. His previous .com URL did not disguise the fact he was a UK company and his customers knew this anyway.

In summary, if you’re based in the UK, get a .co.uk domain. Your .com might appeal to worldwide searches but it would seem you’ll appear less and less in your own countries search results and that’s got to be bad for business.

Jonathan Crouch

About the Author: Jonathan is an I.T professional working in Derby, UK. In his spare time, he handles the I.T and web design for his partners online personalised photo jigsaw business – www.fabulousphotogifts.co.uk

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