Making the move to .CA—what does it involve?
We know we talk a lot about choosing .CA for your website. It’s kind of our thing. But what if you initially went with a different domain, like *shudder* .com, but then saw the light and wanted to make the move to .CA?
Or, maybe you want to use “.CA” as part of your branding, or really want to demonstrate the glorious Canadian-ness of your business? Whatever your reasons, we’re here to help you get started on your path to .CA redemption—no judgement at all!
From a technical standpoint, switching your domain to .CA is what’s known as a “top-level” domain change— and it is much more common than you might think. Often, this type of change happens if a business or organization wants to go international with their website and makes the move from a country code top level domain (ccTLD)—like .CA or .UK—to a generic top-level domain, or gTLD—like .com. The reverse also happens when a company or organization wants to switch from .com to a country code domain (like .CA).
So, how do you go about moving to .CA? For starters, it’s not as simple as pushing a button. First things first: you’ll need to register a new .CA domain. Fortunately, this is something we can help with! Start by searching to see if your .CA domain name—say, canuckpizzanirvana.ca, is up for grabs. If your domain is available—then huzzah!
Now you’ll choose a registrar, or company that sells domain names, to register the domain through. Pay special attention to pricing, features and functionality so you choose the registrar that best meets your needs. Registrars may offer bundles or packages—like free web hosting—or other services, like a web builder tool to help you on your way. Just keep in mind that sometimes the rock-bottom cheapest registrar isn’t always necessarily the best.
Them’s the .CA (Canadian Presence) rules…
Now—we get to the rules. After all—with great .CA power, comes great responsibility!
To successfully register your .CA domain, you need to meet the Canadian Presence Requirements set out by us, the Canadian Internet Registration Authority. These requirements help ensure .CA domains are actually being used by true-blue (or red) Canadians and Canadian organizations.
After registering your .CA domain, you’ll get an email from us, your pals at CIRA, asking for proof that you are indeed a Canadian citizen or permanent resident with an actual, you know, presence in Canada.
This proof can be a scan of your passport or permanent resident card.
If everything checks out—and once your domain transfer is complete—you’ll then get an email from us confirming your switch to .CA. This email contains several items, including your new domain host, the host’s contact information and the domain admin’s contact information.
Two ways to make the move to .CA
With the ground rules covered, let’s get into the technical stuff! Like we said earlier, there’s an easy way and a harder way to make the move to .CA.
1. Forwarding to the new .CA domain
First—the easy way. If you’re super pressed for time, you can simply have your new .CA domain direct users to your existing .com web site—and it only takes minutes.
Go to your domain registrar and look for either the DNS settings or a “forwarding option.” From there, you should be able to copy and paste your new .CA domain. If you have the option, select a “301 Redirect,” as this will make your forwarding permanent. Within a few minutes—or a couple hours—you should be in business!
2. Migrating to a new .CA domain
Now, if you’re looking to do a complete website migration to your new .CA domain…well, that’s an entirely different kettle of fish. This can get quite technical—especially if your website has a ton of content on many different pages.
That said, planning a site migration is a great opportunity to clean up and purge old content that’s out of date and no longer performing well, or to address any lingering technical issues.
Just be sure you have the time and budget to commit to a migration. Otherwise—if time (or money) is too tight, you may find yourself cutting corners and could compromise the success of your migration.
Also consider if you’re moving to a new web host provider. Depending on who you go with, they may even offer website migration services to make moving to a .CA domain that much easier.
If you decide to do the migration on your own, our enlightened friends at Moz have put together this ultra-thorough website migration guide to help you along the way.
Once your migration is complete, it’s time to take care of a few other housekeeping items:
- Make sure any key customers or stakeholders are aware of the change to .CA.
- Update any branded email addresses associated with your site. Every email provider is slightly different, so you’ll need to do a bit of legwork to find out the exact process.
- Aim for an SEO-friendly migration! Once again, our friends at Moz have put together a great guide— this time on how you can move domains while ensuring you don’t put a dent in SEO and lose out on precious traffic.
Just remember: switching your website domain to .CA is a journey—a glorious one—but a journey nonetheless. Keep calm, stay focused and soon enough your site will be basking in Canadian credibility.
So…what do you do with your .com or other non-.CA domain?
But wait—there’s more!
Chances are, your old .com domain is still registered, alive and kicking. Should you pretend it doesn’t exist or get rid of it all together? The short answer: no.
As pro-.CA as we might be, we’re also practical, reasonable people here at CIRA.
For one thing, more than 34 per cent of Canadian small business owners have their domains registered on more than one TLD. Why? A couple of big reasons, really. One is that—while you’re a Canadian company—you might also be doing business or selling products to customers outside of Canada.
The other big reason for registering the .CA and .com versions of your domain name is that it’s a way to help protect and control your brand. This helps canuckpizzanirvana.com, for example, from getting registered by a competitor.
Plus—as we discussed earlier—you can easily forward either of your .CA or .com names to your main website. The kicker? Domain names generally aren’t that expensive to register. So, think of having BOTH .CA and .com domains under your belt as cheap insurance for your business and brand.
Quick questions and answers
Can I just switch to .CA by adjusting a setting?
No, unfortunately not. You’ll need to register a new .CA domain and either redirect from your existing domain or migrate your website over.
Can anyone use a .CA domain?
Nope! There are a few rules and requirements in place. Namely, you need to prove that you, your organization, or business has an actual presence in Canada.
What are my two options for switching to .CA?
You can either redirect your old site to the new domain or undergo a full migration to the new domain.
Should I register .CA AND .com domains?
Yes—domain registrations aren’t super-expensive and having more than one domain under your control helps ensure your brand and business are protected from competition.