What suits you?


When running a business globally, your website is one of the most powerful tools for reaching and communicating with your target audience.

If you do business offline in different countries, you already know how different the audience is from country to country.

Each country also has different trade policies and rules. With a website, you also need to consider these regulations and online regulations.

From an international SEO perspective, there are some critical aspects that site owners should always keep in mind, including geo-targeting, different search engines, and the differences between each local audience.

There are additional factors to consider when deciding whether to have a global site or separate local sites – one location for each country or language of targeting – including maintenance costs and the availability of local teams to maintain the sites.

In this article, I’ll explain four areas that greatly determine whether a global or local site is better for you.

Data and privacy laws and regulations

It is impossible to list all the laws and regulations for doing business in different countries around the world. But two of the most important sets of laws and regulations that website owners should pay attention to are:

As mentioned above, each region, country or state can define its own, and it can be a general policy, guidelines, law or any other type of regulation.

Some are applied to all websites, while others are applied to websites for specific domains, such as government and public sectors.

In the European Union (EU)

The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is probably the most talked about privacy and data protection regulation.

It regulates the processing by an individual, company or organization of personal data relating to individuals in the EU.

In California

The state of California has passed the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), and many companies expect other states to follow suit and enact similar privacy laws soon.

Some sites have already reacted by displaying the cookie consent message to everyone, regardless of access location.

In Japan

The Personal Information Protection Law was first implemented in 2005 in Japan, drastically amended in 2016, and has been in full effect since 2017. It requires Japanese websites to publish a privacy policy and other requirements.

E-commerce sites must also publish the information specified in the law on commercial transactions.

Even if the website is operated in the United States, your Japanese website must adhere to these regulations, especially if you have a physical presence in Japan.

Apple Inc. US website footer
Apple Inc. UK website footerApple Inc. UK website footer
Apple Inc. Japanese website footerApple Inc. Japanese website footer
Apple Inc. Chinese website footerScreenshot of Apple Inc. Chinese website footer, September 2022

The images above are taken from the footer of Apple’s websites in the US, UK, Japan and China.

In addition to a standard privacy policy, the UK site has a GDPR cookie use page.

The Chinese website shows the website registration number under the footer links, as required by Chinese regulations.

Accessibility laws and regulations

Last month, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) made headlines when a federal lawsuit against Taco Bell was filed. Although it is against the restaurant, it caught the attention of many website owners.

Currently, there are computer accessibility laws and policies for US federal agencies and several guidelines and standards to consider in general, including information and communication technology standards and guidelines.

The ADA applies to both public and private sectors, including websites. In terms of website accessibility, there are many points that will improve the overall user experience, not only for people with disabilities, but for all website users.

For many countries and regions, including Canada, China, the EU, Japan, and the UK, web content accessibility is often a mandatory policy.

The W3C has an excellent overview and country-specific information on web accessibility laws and policies.

Like data and privacy laws and regulations, each country has different accessibility requirements.

It’s an increasing task for website owners to keep up with these rapidly changing requirements, especially for global site owners. Not respecting them can be financially costly and have a negative impact on the brand image.

Local trends and competitors

I work closely with websites targeting the Asian market, so I can usually tell if the site is a local business site or the local site of a global business from the design and content.

The difference is not caused by design skills, but by their understanding of the local market and target audience.

The easiest way to show this difference is to compare the design of the website. The layout, color scheme, and images are also other telltale signs of where the site was created.

For e-commerce sites, the way people expect to pay for orders differs from country to country. The exchange and return policy is another difference between countries.

While these differences don’t affect the entire site, they can cause customers to abandon the cart.

Differences in local interests are also reflected in the content of the website. Often, the content of global sites is determined by the country of the headquarters, while local competitor websites have content designed to meet the specific interests of local audiences.

Failure to satisfy local searcher intent can result in a significant loss of business opportunities for the global website.

As Google improves algorithms to present the best content for each searcher, poorly localized content that is not particularly written for a local audience will not be competitive in search results.

Google US search results for mug cupScreenshot of Google US search results for [mug cup]September 2022
Google Japan search results for mug cupScreenshot of Google Japan search results for [mug cup]September 2022

(Product images reflecting local interests: Google search results “mug cup” in the United States and Japan)

One global website vs multiple local websites

If you have global sites under one domain using the same webpage templates for all national websites, create a list of regulatory points to be observed in all relevant countries and implement them regardless of the target country.

Although it seems like a huge task, if you have a smaller team or don’t have a team in every country, this is the best option to cover all the bases.

In this case, it would be helpful to have someone responsible for reviewing and monitoring laws and regulations, as these are updated from time to time.

You may consider creating a separate website for each target country if you have:

  • A good number of team members in each local country maintain the website.
  • A sufficient budget to support it.

Even if you separate sites by regions with similar laws and regulations or cultural or user trends, it will give you more flexibility, be more compliant, and be designed appropriately for local audiences.

For example, instead of creating multiple country and language sites within the EU under a single domain configured for the EU market, it is probably easier to manage the design and content of the website for a specific audience. in every EU country.

Countries in Central and South America can be another target market that works with a domain with multiple country sites.

Considering the multiple characteristics of the Chinese market – from Baidu’s capacity and algorithms to connection speed, website registration policy and cybersecurity law (aka “Great Firewall of China”), it It may be a good idea to create a separate Chinese website for many companies that consider China as one of their important markets.

When you have a particular website, you can host it in the country to improve the download speed.

It is easier to get a ccTLD with the website registered with the Chinese government and provide the content designed specifically for the Chinese audience.

Final Thoughts

Having a separate website for each target country provides many more options and the flexibility to comply with local laws and policies and to reflect local interests in website content and design.

These are also great for geo-targeting in SEO, which is one of the biggest concerns for many global website owners. However, this leads to increased overhead.

It is not impossible to comply with local laws and policies with a global domain website.

As Apple and other global companies do, you can provide unique local content even with different website designs.

Using the same domain does not mean having the same design or using the same CMS. It is possible to have the content localized on the same CMS and add local unique content only using a different CMS on the same domain site.

When deploying global or local sites, it is essential to comply with local regulations and consider the interests of local audiences.

Once you’ve configured the websites, track performance data for each site and local content and make adjustments as needed.

Suppose the data indicates that having a global site limits business potential due to differing local interests and requirements or that having local sites is too costly. In this case, you need to reconsider the options.

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Featured Image: AOME1812/Shutterstock


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