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  • Which Domain Internationalisation Strategy to Use?

    During the last few weeks website localisation and internationalisation seem to be a hot topic around the blogosphere.

    Domain management for multinational websites is a very important SEO factor to consider, this ensures you maximise the amount of referred local search traffic whilst applying the most effective strategy overall. There are several different approaches which can be taken to manage country-specific content, I’ve taken a look at how many big brands combat this issue below.

    Country Specific TLD – Amazon

    Amazon are a great example of how to manage domain internationalisation issues by using a country-specific top-level domain (TLD) for the UK website. This separates content for UK (www.amazon.co.uk) and US (www.amazon.com) audiences, while still maintaining excellent rankings across Google global and UK search engines. This is carefully structured to ensure that there are no major duplicate content issues which may harm Amazon’s rankings.

    Subdomain – Yahoo!

    Yahoo! take a different approach by using the subdomain uk.yahoo.com which is recognised as a UK website. Using a subdomain is a method which may be more suitable for smaller websites. This is because they may not be powerful enough to use multiple TLD’s, benefiting from consolidating all inbound links into a single domain strategy. This shouldn’t be an issue if you’re the size of Yahoo though! :D

    Subfolder – Microsoft

    Microsoft used to miss out on a large percentage of Google UK traffic due to their domain strategy, this is because they use a .com hosted in the US which meant they weren’t being indexed for UK filter queries. The hosting hasn’t actually changed but other factors seem to have been triggered which means they are now indexed for a pages from the UK Google search. A possible reason could be because www.microsoft.co.uk redirects to the /en/gb/ subfolder which may have triggered a locational filter in the algorithm, Microsoft may have also set themselves a UK geographical location for the subsite URL in Google Webmaster Central. While this method has worked well, for the average website I would recommend having at least one of either a UK server location or a .co.uk domain to ensure indexing in Google UK (UK filter search).

    .com TLD, Hosted in Target Country – Tesco

    Tesco are slightly different to the above sites, being that they are only targeting the UK as opposed to multiple countries. However, because they use a .com TLD Tesco need to ensure Google are aware this is a UK based website and this is achieved by having their web hosting geographically located in the UK. Tesco are also in a position where they could easily add additional locational sections of the website in the future by using a subdomain, subfolder or country-specific TLD.

    All of the Above! – IMDB

    IMDB seem to take several of these approaches, by using imdb.com for main website in addition to www.imdb.co.uk and the subdomain’s uk.imdb.com and us.imdb.com. This is an extreme over-usage of unnecessary extra subsites and also confuses the search engines by creating a duplicate content issue. The ideal approach here would be to scrap the subdomain’s entirely, either using the .co.uk containing content with a UK focus, or host the domain in the UK and manage all content underneath the same version on imdb.com.

    None of the Above – Apple

    As noticed by Duncan Morris, instead of applying an SEO strategy to target Google “pages from the UK” search traffic, Apple have instead ignored this and must spend thousands of pounds bidding for it’s brand and product keywords on Google AdWords instead. They’ve also let someone else pick-up apple.co.uk instead of paying the £2.99 registration fee!

    There is no “one-fits all” internationalisation strategy suitable for all websites, the selected approach will depend largely upon the main target audience. However, there are certain things you can look to avoid to ensure you’re not reducing the strength of your website with duplicate content or missing out on potential traffic in countries which are important to your business.


    10 Responses to “Which Domain Internationalisation Strategy to Use?”

    1. Sherwin says:

      Thanks man. i was looking for something like this to clear things up a little.

    2. williams says:

      I can confirm that Microsoft does indeed use Google’s Webmaster Tools to set the geographic target per subfolder, I am not sure if this, in combination with the redirect from the country-specific TLD, or just the Webmaster Tools alone is what is helping though.

    3. BG Mahesh says:

      One factor to keep note of is domain aging. Supposedly Google gives more weight to domains that are older and have a longer valid period (i.e. expiration date is way ahead)

      In India, dot-in domain was introduced few years ago and you can reserve for only 5 years (as against 10 years of dot-com). So I feel dot-in always looses out to dot-com :-( I have seen this happening for our domain http://www.oneindia.in


    4. Dan Nedelko says:

      Nice little article. Also keep in mind that a mirroring strategy in the internationalized regions in addition to pushing localized content throughout your sites will go a long way to ensuring the engines know that you’re creating relevant content for your targeted regions.


    5. Mark says:

      Why is there no mention of the option in Google Webmaster Tools? The Tesco example for insurance, whilst hosting the server in the UK will do the job, isn’t a necessity since if it was hosted in the US, you just go into Google webmaster tools and set your location there.

    6. Mark, Webmaster Central in many cases will be sufficient but I’ve seen quite a few websites where setting the geo-location is just not enough to rank or even get indexed for Google UK filter searches.

    7. Mark says:

      Thats cool, just wondered why it wasn’t mentioned at all – it seems to work in the majority of cases I’ve seen. I’d also add making sure links are coming from target countries (UK sites rather than US sites for example)

    8. [...] site may also benefit from improved international traffic with Google UK, Australia, Germany etc more likely to favour a .com as opposed to a .us domain. I [...]

    9. An fascinating concept this. I am a single of those folks whom tend to wait for things to mature prior to taking action but in this case I am mindful that inaction leads to only failures so I will heed your comments and begin to do anything about it.

    10. I would wonder what you be suggested to a site which wants to target Germany, Switzerland and Austria of whom all are German speaking. However, the ccTLDs are .de, .ch and .at. Is it OK if the site structure is the same, but with different (sometimes slight) differences in content?

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