Ugandans often get torn between using a Uganda domain ( .ug ) Vs a generic domain e.g .com.
In this article, I will help you determine which domain extension will give you an edge from a marketing vantage point.
Uganda domains are the ones that use the internet country code top-level domain ccTLD for Uganda examples include domains that end in .ug, .ac.ug, co.ug
While Generic domains are ones maintained by Internet Assigned Number Authority (IANNA). e.g .com, .net. .org
Uganda's local domain costs about UGX 100,000 which is 2 times more expensive than the generic domains with the most popular one .com going for about UGX 55,000 as of this article's publish date.
Several local companies including some International companies like google choose to use the more expensive .ug for local presence and you may be wondering if it's worth it.
Well, let's dive right into it.
When should you use a Uganda domain
A Ugandan domain extension which I will refer to as a Ugandan TLD (Top Level Domain) for purposes of being accurate is best suited for local businesses.
Search Engines especially Google use local TLD's as an indicator for Geo-targeting. To explain, search results in Google are different for different countries.
A search for hotels while you are in Kenya will return results for Kenyan hotels while the same search for hotels in Uganda will be biased towards Ugandan hotels. This goes to show that Google filters search results to present those most relevant to your country and even the city where you carry out the search.
Can you use a Generic domain to target Uganda local search?
Yes, and this actually negates the argument of using a local TLD domain purely for geographical targeting.
Back in 2005, geotargeting was a big issue in the search engine space. It was required that a website have a local TLD and host its pages in the local country for accurate geotargeting.
Search Engine Experts had to find ways of linking their URLs to the country they intended to rank well for in local listings resulting in such a messy architecture.
In 2007, Google came up with the Set Geographic Target tools to allow webmasters to indicate to the search engines which region they are creating content for. This opened up the local listings space to all TLDs.
Google old web master tools console showing geo-targeting
All that is history now. In 2011, google come up with a nifty clever way webmasters could indicate what region the content is for using the hreflang attribute. No need to set Geotargeting when you can even target down to the language.
How to Geotarget Uganda sites using the hreflang attribute
<link rel="alternate" hreflang="en-UG" href="http://www.example.com/" />
The code above will offer you the same geotargeting as a local .ug domain. Be sure to replace example.com with your generic domain.
Does a .ug domain give you a ranking edge for Ugandan search results?
The answer is yes and no. I will explain the no part now, and the yes part in the final paragraph.
Generally, domain name extensions have little or no effect on search results and ranking. What Google really cares about is the relevance of your content to the User.
If a generic domain website has more relevant content towards a local subject, it's likely to get ahead of websites with less quality content using local TLDs.
Also as explained in the previous paragraph, there are methods generic domain site owners can use to compete favorably with local TLDs in local listings.
Does having the keyword "Uganda" in my domain make it rank better in Uganda SERP
This is a little off-topic, but I figured since we talking Uganda domains and SEO relevance, you might probably be thinking about this.
This also has marginal or no benefits. I will explain the marginal benefits in the last paragraph as well. For now, we'll focus on Google's official stand.
Prior to 2012, it was easy to rank for keywords by adding them to your domain name. Somone with the domain "shoesUganda.com" would rank incredibly well for searches that contained "Shoes Uganda" as this was considered an exact match.
This was exploited by black hat SEO specialists who created domains purely for advertising purposes. You might remember a period when high ranking results contained links of parked domains with ads!
Google came on strong against such practices in 2012. It made an update to its algorithms to demote exact match domains with poor quality content.
The key here is the quality of content. Having a spammy domain name will not get you penalized, however, it won't count if you have low-quality content.
Heat maps studies show that little attention is given to the URL in Search Engine Results (SERP)
What are the benefits of using a Uganda domain over a generic one
The advantages of using a .ug domain are mainly psychological. The others are due to the convenience it offers.
Higher Click-Through Rate
It's argued that users are more likely to click on results using a local domain extension specific to their region than a generic one.
It's important to note that this would be one of many influencing factors that get a person to click on a result in SERP. There are several other factors that influence the click-through rate
Some digital marketers believe that using a local domain could have the overall effect of a reducing cost per click in Google AdWords.
It's a known fact that Google uses the quality score of a website to determine its cost per click of ads. This is to make sure that websites using AdWords only create ads relevant to the searcher.
Though the research above doesn't have substantial data to back up its claims, their little experiment suggests that google considers local domains as one of the relevant quality signals for local targeting ads.
One other significant benefit of using Uganda's local TLD is that its easy to get a brand name domain.
The ".com", ".net" and ".org" generic domains hit saturation for English words. Getting an exact match domain for your company name is almost impossible. You need steel bending mind power to come up with a .com domain name that is short and easy to remember.
If you intend to use mainstream channels like TV or radio for marketing, then you need a domain that people will remember easily.
How do people actually perceive Ugandan domains Vs Generic domains?
The psychological significance of a local domain Vs a generic one changes with regions. In countries like Germany, Chris Liversidge's research showed that a German searching from Germany using Google.de is more likely to click on a .de TLD listing than otherwise.
As for Uganda, we conducted research to find out the impact of a local TLD in the search results. In this search, we wanted to know the following about the Ugandan audience
- Are Ugandans generally aware that general TLD's exist ?
- Are they able to associate different domains to different countries?
- Do Ugandans notice and make choices based on Country Code TLD's?
- Are Ugandans more likely to click on a result with a Ugandan TLD over one with a generic TLD if the generic TLD search result was one position higher in the search result than the former?
- Do they perceive local TLD's as having more reliable information than generic ones?
- Which Ugandan second level TLD is most trusted.
- For eCommerce, all factors constant, which TLD do they feel safer buying from?
See full research details and outcomes here
We found that while a large portion of Ugandans are blind to domain names, for e-commerce, they are generally more comfortable buying from local TLDs
Should you transfer to a local Uganda domain
This depends on a couple of factors.
If you have a hard to remember domain name, and you are offering goods and services for only the Ugandan market. Then you should consider doing a migration to a local branded name.
Will you lose your SEO or google rankings when you do a transfer? If done right, you may retain most of your SEO juice. Here is an article that will help you through the technicalities of changing your domain without losing SEO ranking. Alternatively, you can contact us and we do it for you.
Which Uganda's second-level domain is right for you
In this section, I list the available .ug second-level TLDs and shed a little light on what each should be used for.
- ".co.ug" The "co" is an acronym for "company". Naturally, this is a good choice for companies.
- ".ac.ug" The "ac" is an acronym for academia which makes this second level TLD suited for academic institutions.
- ".sc.ug" Ths "sc" is an acronym for school which makes it great for Primary and Secondary schools.
- ".go.ug" The "go" is an acronym for "government" which makes it suited for government organizations.
- ".ne.ug" The "ne" is an acronym for "network" making this best suited for organizations dealing in networks.
- ".or.ug" The "or" represents "organization". This would be the local equivalent of the .org domain. This is relevant to non-government institutions.
- ".org.ug" This is similar to or.ug also suited for non-government institutions.
- ".ngo.ug" The "ngo" in the TLD represents non-government. Its best suited for Uganda's non-government organizations.
- ".com.ug" The "com" part is an acronym for "commercial". Best suited for commercial entities.
- ".ltd.ug" The "ltd" part is an acronym for "limited". This is also relevant to companies that limit the personal liability of the corporation's shareholders.
- ".inc.ug" The "inc" part is an acronym for "incorporated". This is also suited for companies that are a separate legal entity from the person or people forming it
- ".med.ug" The "med" part of the extension is an acronym for medical. This extension is great for medical and health institutions.
- ".law.ug" This is great for Law firms and legal entities.
Much as Google claims that it doesn't consider the TLD as a signal for ranking, experiments show otherwise!
Ayebare is the Chief Digital Strategists and co-founder Campaign.
He has more than 10 years of experience in the digital field.
He has worked with several fortune 500 companies worldwide in various Engineering and Website strategy disciplines.