Which domain extensions to use for international SEO

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Most websites have a global audience, even if they focus on a single country. However, depending on your product, you might want to go a step further and target international users. The decision to focus your site on an international audience is a big step forward and there are many complexities to overcome.

There are, of course, issues to deal with around the language, but there are also great SEO and branding choices to make, including exactly which domains to use for your international presence.

ccTLD recommended for users and search engines

Any authoritative international SEO guide will detail the differences between the country code subdirectory, subdomain, and top level domain (ccTLD) options. One of the most recommended suggestions is that a site opt to use a ccTLD (eg domain.co.uk) as the domain extension. On Google’s list of what they use to determine country targeting, the ccTLD ranks even higher than the location targeting settings in webmaster tools and server location.

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For the curious, HREFlang doesn’t even appear on this page at all. This is because HREFLang is a way to show which piece of content Google should prioritize once it has made the decision to rank a domain for a specific location. CcTLDs and other location indices tell Google that there is location relevance.

Besides the benefit of documented research, the other reason for ccTLD recommendation is user experience. A human user would know, even without clicking on a site, that a site that ends in .co.uk is targeting a user looking for UK content. You might be surprised at how important localization is, even for web-only products.

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An international user may not have an international credit card or be interested in dealing with a company that does not have customer service in their time zone. Therefore, even if your current domain is already ranked for competitive queries in search engines around the world, you might still see a lower CTR from users looking for a local brand. Switching to a ccTLD would negate any click avoidance applied by these users.

Disadvantages of the ccTLD

However, what a lot of these guides don’t spend a lot of time discussing is how incredibly expensive it can be to buy and keep thousands of global domain names. While most popular generic domains can be purchased for less than $ 20 per year, a country-specific domain can cost hundreds of dollars before you even add extras like local company registration and necessity. a local presence. A Puerto Rican domain (.PR) can cost over $ 1000 each year to register! Expense can be one of the main reasons many companies decide not to adopt a ccTLD strategy, but in the grand scheme of things based on the benefits of the TLD, it could be a small cost to pay.

If you’ve decided that the TLD strategy is right for your business, you want to make sure you purchase the TLD that will give you the best visibility to local users. Most countries will have TLDs for organizations, government, education, but many will also have more than one generic TLD.

For example, in Mexico there is a .com.mx and an .mx. While it’s probably a good idea to record both, how do you determine which one is your primary and which to redirect?

Which ccTLDs to use?

One way is to research what all the major websites in a country are doing. You can use Alexa’s top domains by country or you can just visit the websites for local telecommunications, media, and other well-known brands locally. If you are short on time, you can just copy what the big global brands have chosen. Surprisingly, there are very few top brands on Alexa’s Top 500 Domains list that have chosen to use a ccTLD strategy.

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It’s safe to say that most of the top 500 domains have a brand that probably transcends borders. For example, LinkedIn and Facebook both use subdomains to locate beyond the United States, but given the size of their brands, they’re unlikely to even see a boost if they absorb the additional cost of using TLDs. Likewise, Twitter and Apple use subdirectories for languages ​​or countries and these companies would likely see no benefit in using ccTLDs.

Copy the big ones

However, there are still a few big global brands to copy and you can use them as guides in determining which TLDs to use as your primary domain and which to redirect. Rather than visiting each domain manually, I took a list of all the ccTLDs in the world and concatenated it with the words “Google” and “Amazon”. I then added https: // www Where http: // www if necessary to create full URLs. Finally, I uploaded these URLs as a list in ScreamingFrog.

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Knowledge

The resulting crawl is very revealing and contains a lot of information:

  • Some Google TLDs have not bothered to set up a page or a redirect (example: http://www.google.co.bi/ in Bolivia)
  • Some TLDs were created by ICANN but are not in use
  • Google missed out on what might seem like big names like Google.ly
  • Some domains have a 301 redirect to a non-primary domain, some have a 302 redirect, and still others will be redirected based on your location. Check out http://www.google.tv to see where it sends you.
  • Amazon does not own Amazon.net
  • Amazon only uses 302 redirects to other domains

Copying other businesses should never be a primary business strategy; However, when it comes to appearing local to users and search engines, you probably can’t go wrong by copying Google.

Even though Google made the wrong choice when setting up its global domains, you can bet that having Google on a particular TLD is a strong vote of confidence for that extension. To give you a head start, I’ve put the list of all global TLDs along with the crawl results for Google and Amazon in a public Google sheet. Feel free to make a copy and good luck!

Image credits

Featured Image: All That Is Possible / Shutterstock.com
Photo posted: Janaka Dharmasena / Shutterstock.com

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