So your business is on the verge of, or already has, broken out internationally. Now the time has come to localise your digital marketing strategyand website strategy. This is a dilemma we often face working with Enterprise Irelandclients who are availing of the Business Process Improvement Grant

There may be four international domain structure options available to you:

  • New top level domains e.g. my-ie-domain.com, my-uk-domain.com etc.
  • Sub-folders e.g. domain.com/ie, domain.com/uk etc. 
  • Sub-domains e.g. ie.domain.com, uk.domain.com etc.
  • URL Parameters e.g. domain.com?loc=ie, domain.com?loc=uk

One of the most important things to consider when moving to an international website strategy is the SEO implications and opportunities for each of the possible domain structures. This is a topic that comes up at Continuum time and time again so we’ve put together a guide of the most important SEO factors to consider when deciding on a domain structure for international websites.

 

Duplicate Content

One issue that arises from using a sub-directory or sub-domain is the duplication of content across the multiple sites. Unintentionally using the same content on multiple pages on sub-directories will cause a duplication of content for countries that use the same language e.g. en-US, en-GB, en-UK, en-AU, en-CA etc.  

Websites that provide content for different regions and in different languages sometimes create content that is the same or similar but available on different URLs. This is generally not a problem as long as the content is for different users in different countries. While we would always strongly recommend that you provide unique content for each different group of users, we understand that this might not always be possible. In this instance here’s what we recommend to tackle the duplicate content issue:

  • Implementing the rel=”alternate” hreflang =”x” link element correctly would help with search engines to provide the right source of content to users in different countries.
  • Create unique content for static pages of English speaking sites e.g. homepage, category-page and sub-category pages.
  • Continue to upload unique content to each sub-folder e.g. via the form of a blog
  • Create localised website headers and footers for English language sites to include local contact details i.e. address, telephone.
  • Separate link building and social media content sharing will increase the search engine reputation of content for each sub-folder

 

Hosting

Where the site is hosted is a ranking factor for search engines in determining if a site is relevant to a user in a specific country. Whenever possible, a site should be hosted in the target country. However, sub-folders are required to be hosted in the same location as the TLD (top level domain) so there is no opportunity to host the server for each site in the target country in this instance.

Localisation/Localization Content

Language should be written and/or proofed by native speakers to ensure correct usage of local language is implemented on-site. Give your translators the tools and permissions to adapt liberally when needed. This is important from a readability point of view for the user but also for search engines so they access the correct keywords on the website.

XML Sitemaps

It is very important that each subdirectory site utilises their own XML sitemaps and that they are submitted individually to the search engines via webmaster tools.

Google Geographic Target Tool

Google Webmaster Tools allows webmasters to submit separate sub-folder sites to local Google search engines via their Google Geographic Target Tool. For example a continuum.com/uk site submitted to the Google Geographic Target Tool would indicate to Google that Google.co.uk is the preferred search engine for showing search results for this site and help with the different geographic queries.

301 Redirect Strategy

A redirect strategy for transferring the page authority and link equity from any old URL’s to the new URL’s on the sub-directories will be vital for carrying over any authority built up on the current site. Redirects will also ensure users and search engines can find the new site from old links around the web and during the transition period while search engines update their indexes.

Internal Linking

Creating a menu visible within the header of the site that links to each geographical sub-folder is recommended for healthy internal linking in the eyes of a search engine but will also be helpful for website users wishing to manually move to another site version.

Automatic Geo-targeting Tools

Geo-targeting tools such as Max Mind can enable redirects to the correct country sub-folder based on a user’s geographical location. This is effective for users who access the main domain and are unable to shop on that site due to their geographical location, in this case the geo-targeting tool will automatically redirect users to the correct country site for them. 

Still confused about the pros and cons of the different methods of localisation for International Business online? This table gives a good snapshot overview or contact us today to find out more. 

 

ccTLDs
 (domain.com)

Pros (+)

  • Clear Geo-targeting
  • Server location is irrelevant
  • Easy separation of sites – strong indication to search engines for local visibility
  • Can use different site-maps
  • More familiar with users

Cons (-)

  • Expensive
  • Potential availability issues
  • More effort building links and strategy for each TLD
  • Potential issues with duplicate content

Subdomains with gTLDs  (de.domain.com)

Pros (+)

  • Easy to set up
  • Can be hosted separately in native countries
  • Can use Webmaster Tools Geo-targeting
  • Can use different site-maps
  • Allows different server locations
  • Easy separation of sites

Cons (-)

  • Requires more country specific link-building activity and building local reputation to the sub-domain.
  • Users might not recognize Geo-targeting from the URL alone (is “de” the language or the country?)
  • Potential issues with duplicate content

Subdirectories With gTLDs
 (domain.com/de/)

Pros (+)

  • Easy to set up
  • Can use Webmaster Tools Geo-targeting
  • Can use different site-maps
  • Low maintenance (same host)
  • They resolve the inbound links authority association issue. The main domain ‘example.com’ receives all the authority. This authority should then trickle down into individual subfolders giving them weight as well.

Cons (-)

  • Users might not recognize Geo-targeting from the URL alone
  • Searcher bias & Geo-targeting confusion: Similar to subdomains, subdirectories may confuse users of your intended site target. Is ‘example.com/fr’ for example displaying the targeted language or the regional location?
  • Single server location
  • Separation of sites is more difficult/less clear
  • Potential issues with duplicate content
  • Sub-folders can be seen as content subordinate to the top-level domain

URL Parameters
 (domain.com?loc=de)

Pros (+)

  • None (not recommended)
  • Segmentation based on the URL is difficult

  • users might not recognize Geo-targeting from the URL alone

  • Geo-targeting in Webmaster Tools is not possible
  • Potential issues with duplicate content

Cons (-)

 

 

About the Enterprise Ireland Marketing Improvement Assignment

The Internet Marketing Unit (IMU) of Enterprise Ireland is focused on helping export-focused clients across all sectors to exploit the internet as a route to market and to assist them in developing a digital strategy that will shape how they do business online.Under the Business Process Improvement Grant, client companies can apply for grant support to undertake an e-Marketing Improvements Assignment.

For more information on the Enterprise Ireland e-Marketing Improvement Grant, please contact the Internet Marketing Unit at Enterprise Ireland.