International Domain SEO Basics

GoogleFranceCropFor companies that offer services internationally or ship products to different countries, the issue of multiple country-specific domains is one that often arises. These can be very complicated issues, depending on the scope of the enterprise.  Here, we will address issues and information specific to those sites that are just starting to expand their business overseas and for those that require various multi-lingual sites for multiple locations.Having multiple country code top level domains (ccTLD’s – such as .co.uk, .de, .fr, etc.) can often be confusing. Fortunately, we do not have to worry about duplicate content with each of these domains, as long as they are specifically targeted for different customers in different countries. So in theory, UK visitors will only see .co.uk content, while USA visitors will only see .com content, German visitors will only see .de and so on.

It is often tricky for websites just starting out in the international domain game to find the most ideal strategy for them. Since .com is an international domain, it will likely continue to rank highly in search rankings if that is the strongest TLD, regardless of whether there is a country-specific search engine such as www.google.co.uk. For this reason, it is a good idea to use a flag dropdown if you suspect that visitors are landing on the .com site, when you would prefer them to be visiting their own country’s site. The different links should not just change the language,but should also redirect the visitor to the appropriate site (ie: Union Jack to .co.uk and German flag to .de, etc).

Because the .com site is often significantly stronger for US based companies, it will still likely show up higher in the rankings to a local site, even on international search engines such as google.co.uk. Over time, as the new www.example.co.uk domain gets stronger (with the addition of links pointing to it especially from other .co.uk sites, unique content, and site authority) it should begin to out rank the .com domain.

One of the downsides to using different country-specific domains is that each site operates as a stand-alone site, so the success of one will not affect the other. Each site needs to be built up on its own merits within each country’s web ecosystem. However, you will see that over time, ccTLD’s (or the most common TLD in the country such as .com for the US) generally pull more weight within their respective countries.

In terms of SEO content on these sites, it is always best to have unique content, but it is not necessarily required. Though the language differences are subtle between US English and UK English, the .co.uk content should be unique and original, and preferably written by a British English speaker.

One other thing to keep in mind when developing a site with an international domain is that Google factors speed and IP address location into their rankings. Therefore, in order to give it a boast, it is important to make sure that each of your country domains are hosted locally. For example, if example.co.uk is hosted in the UK, Google will recognize the UK IP address, giving this site more credibility. Additionally, having the servers located closer to the visitors will increase the site speed, which is becoming more important in search rankings and is good for users.

We have covered a lot of information in this article, so if you can only takeaway a few suggestions, here are our recommendations:

– Having a flag dropdown is a good idea, and it should direct visitors to specific country sites.

– Unique content on each site is not necessary, but highly recommended

– Country-specific domains should work to get links from other sites in that country

– Country-specific domains should be hosted  in their respective countries

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