The right domain structure is an essential factor for the SEO success of an international website. Here are the most important questions you should think about before getting started. If you consider these factors, you will be able to develop a good international domain strategy.
How many domains do I really need?
It’s a pretty simple formula: The less domains one company has, the better! You will need a .com domain, there’s no way around that. So pick a good and simple .com domain name, like yourcompany.com. But do you really need tons of ccTLDs (country domains)? Here are some reasons why you might want a ccTLD like .de or .co.uk:
- You have a real office with real people in that country.
- You want to enter a market where Google is not the number one monopolist in the search engine sector. .ru and .cn domains can make sense if Russia or China are your target markets.
- You are in a highly competitive retail sector.
None of the above applies? Then don’t go for ccTLDs. You will save yourself from a lot of hassle and benefit from the advantages of having one powerful global .com domain.
How do I structure my language and country versions?
It is strongly advisable to structure your version by languages first, and then by countries, if you decide to have specific country versions at all. If you are operating internationally, you can generate a lot of reach with generic language versions that do not target any specific country. So, in any case, if you translate your content to a language, make sure you have one generic version for that language, before you create country-specific versions.
Here’s an example: Your target markets are France and the UK, so you obviously need your website in French and English. Consider creating generic versions for both languages to target French and English speaking users worldwide.
Now, if you really need country-specific versions for both countries, you can create two additional versions of your website:
Or, if you have decided to use ccTLDs, the two country-specific versions could look like this:
Note that for search engines, especially Google, ccTLDs will always automatically target a specific country. They are thus not suited for generic language versions.
How do I make sure Google, Bing and others understand my international domain structure?
If you have a website with more than one language or country version, it is absolutely necessary that you implement hreflang annotations. Currently, only Google and Yandex support hreflang annotations, but that is enough of a reason to use them (and use them correctly).
If your domain strategy includes directories that target groups of countries, like the EU or South America, this article might be interesting for you:
If Bing is an important traffic source for you, you should also include meta http-equiv tags on your page.
- Choose your TLDs wisely
- Structure your website versions correctly
- Use hreflang and meta http-equiv
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