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Video: Take on the World with these International Domain Strategies

Is this the year you take your website international? There are different options, each with pros and cons, for how to expand your global reach. RKG Technical Director Jody O'Donnell describes three of those options in the video below.


Jody O'Donnell: Hi, and welcome back to the RKG Blog. In a previous post, we talked about how to use hreflang signals for international SEO. Today, we're going to follow up with how to do international domain strategies.

Technically, there are really only three types of domain strategies that you can use: ccTLDs or Country Code Top-Level Domains, subfolders, or subdomains. We're going to walk through each one of these and hopefully show the advantages and disadvantages of each. You're going to want to make sure that you do your own evaluation on which one is going to be best for you.

ccTLD, or Country Code Top-Level Domain, is really the only true geo targeting signal from a domain standpoint that you can get. They also have a higher click-through rate and conversion rate when using them.

There are some disadvantages to ccTLDs. One, it can be difficult to get all of your domain name with all of the different country code extensions that you're going to need afterwards. It can be difficult logistically, and it can cost a lot if other people already have those domains in some of the other countries. The last disadvantage with ccTLDs is that the link equity that you acquire through one ccTLD doesn't carry over to another. So, if you have example.fr and example.es, the link equity between those don't share at all like they do with the subdomain or a subfolder.

With subfolders, you get a really easy and low-cost implementation that most development teams can do usually within a day. You also garner all of the link equity that's normally coming from that domain as it is. So, if you have 1,000 links coming intowww.example.com/fr, the 'fr' folder gets all of that link equity.

Lastly, with subdomains, you get the same low, easy-cost installation that you do with subfolders. One major difference is, though, you do not get the link equity that comes in from one subdomain to another. There's a certain amount of it that you're going to inherit from the root domain as it is, but it's not a 100% transfer from subdomain to subdomain like it is subfolders. Also, with folders and subdomains, you do not get any type of geo targeting signal from an international standpoint.

In the past, SEOs have been pretty limited in what type of international signaling that they can do. Thankfully, Google and Bing both offer webmaster tools that allow for very specific geo targeting past ccTLDs and country-specific IP addresses.

Within Google Webmaster Tools, once you've verified either your domain or subdomain, you can go into each one of those settings, go to the geo targeting section, and then target that to a very specific country. You can also see within Google Webmaster Tools whether or not your hreflang signals are being picked up correctly.

Within Bing Webmaster Tools, you can verify not only at the subdomain and the domain level, but you can geo target at the subfolder and subpage level, which is a little bit more granular than what Google allows you to do.

This geo targeting within the webmaster tools sections for the major search engines is what really allows us to expand beyond just a normal ccTLD recommendation. With subdomain and subfolders now being in the mix, it allows for smaller sites with less money and less resources to be able to go international.

ccTLDs are the only way to get true geo targeting from a domain standpoint. If you're unable to get these, then we suggest doing subfolders. Mixed in with Google Webmaster Tools and Bing Webmaster Tools geo targeting, this is just as viable an option as the ccTLDs. On top of that, the subfolders garner all the link equity that they do from either the www or the root domain. Lastly, pick a domain strategy and be consistent.

Thanks for watching, and we look forward to the comments down below.