Online business owners often wonder should they have a .com or a .co.uk web site address. There is a whole plethora of – conflicting – advice on this subject. So, it’s probably best to go to the people who matter – your audience.

Internet users expect a .co.uk domain name to be about a UK business that is based in the UK. Equally, North American Internet users expect a US-based business to have a .com address. So, in order to decide what address you need, you first of all need to find out where your customers come from. If they are mostly American, you need a .com, for instance. If your customers come from Italy, you need a .it.

But that’s only half the story. What will search engines do with your web site, depending on it’s domain name? Well, again let’s ask the people who know – Google.

According to Google they make two decisions as to how to rank your site. Firstly, if the searcher is based in the UK they will deliver the .co.uk variant of a web site first. However, they also look at where your server is, based upon its “IP Address” – the Internet location identifier. So, if you have a .co.uk site aimed at UK visitors, but the server is in the USA or elsewhere, you won’t fare so well on Google.

This means you need to look at your hosting arrangements. If you have a .com address aimed at North American visitors the server is best based in the USA. If you have a .co.uk address aimed at British users, you could get a benefit from a server in the UK. If you have both addresses, you could find some value in splitting them between different servers.

This is only going to be a minor effect – Google says it only uses server IP addresses as a “hint”. But for highly competitive businesses it could be important.

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