Build on country-specific domain or use existing site?

Google’s John Mueller provided answers to the problem of whether to create international sections on an existing site or build brand new sites. I asked an international SEO for his opinion on this matter and he shares insight into what he thinks is the best approach for SEO.

Use ccTLD for international sites?

One person asked the question of the best way to expand internationally.

He explained that they have a strong search visibility in the US, but that they wanted to expand to other countries.

Because the main page is so strong, there is a perception that the page could give an edge to international versions built within the dot com version of the page, as these versions would not be created on an unestablished domain.

But there are many valid reasons to build new sites on domains that match the countries they are targeting.

These types of domains are like .uk, .de and .jp and are called Country Code Top Level Domains (ccTLD).

Google’s John Mueller discusses international SEO

Google's John Mueller discusses international SEOThe person asking the question told his situation:

“… we’re starting to expand in Canada and the UK. And we’re a bit at a crossroads today.

Should we go for ccTLDs or just keep it under dot com?

We are a real estate company, so our sites are quite site specific.

We will probably end up in about a dozen countries …

So maybe the thought process is to be able to take advantage of being able to target locally in the Search Console with the ccTLDs, where I can not do that with the global dot com.
… So I just thought, there is an advantage
to go one way or the other? Or is it easier for Google in one way or another? ”

More considerations for international business expansion

Google’s John Mueller responded without hesitation that there are several considerations and then listed those considerations.

Mueller replied:

‘I think there are several things that come into play.

One is probably also the aspect of having multiple sites compared to having a really strong website … If you’re talking about a dozen different sites, it might be less of an issue. Maybe it’s something that succeeds.

The other thing is with geotargeting, we use that when we recognize that people are looking for something local.

So whatever you go for, I will try to make sure we can figure out what geotargeting we need for the website.

And ccTLDs are super obvious. So that I think is a good approach.

  • Subdomains are an option.
  • Subfolders would be an option. “

URL parameters for specifying different international sections

John then discussed what not to do and encouraged the use of URL parameters to indicate which country a section is targeted at.

Mueller continued:

“What I would not do is just use URL parameters or something like that where it is, well, you have your main global site and you can search for an individual country. And then somewhere in the URL it is country also mentioned.

Because that would basically mean that we can not do geotargeting for the website at all. ”

International expansion can depend on marketing strategy

Mueller then suggested that one way to answer which way to go is to think about what the choice will mean for the consumer, how the business can be perceived by the locally targeted target audience.

The person asking the question mentions that the American site has 40 million pages and that the Canadian site would have about 500,000 pages. He also mentioned that because the content is so site specific, only 5% of the pages match the US and Canadian versions.

Mueller replied:

“… I think, from a technical point of view, they would all be roughly equivalent. It might be the kind from an SEO ranking point of view that you could have some benefits from building on your existing domain.

But I also think it depends a bit on what your marketing goals are.

If you really want to place these as similar, we are the real estate company for Canada, then you would like to have your own domain.

If you want to place it as similar, we are a global company and we do Canada too, so it may be okay to have it within your existing domain.

So I think from a technical point of view, just like all these options are open. Whichever path you take is almost like a strategic decision. “

SEO considerations to expand to new countries

I asked Michael Bonfil (LinkedIn profile), a highly regarded international SEO expert, what his thoughts are on the pros and cons of expanding internationally on an existing site or with ccTLDs. I asked Michael because he has extensive experience working in the Internet industry since the mid-90s.

Michael said building the site on a dot com is a viable approach, especially because of Google’s excellent ability to use the hreflang attribute to understand the language a web document is targeted at. But he also shared reasons why ccTLD might be preferable.

Michael shared the following insights:

“Technically, with a dot com and excellent hreflang setup vs a ccTLD, both are good and both will rank.

With the technical advances in Google’s algo, I would not be surprised if the dot com with a solid hreflang-attributed library structure is prioritized these days because of its mass global link flow. “

He ignored considerations related to Google and then moved on to considerations related to how consumers will react, which ultimately determines whether a strategy is successful or not.

Michael noted:

“But I tend to lean towards and advocate for a proper ccTLD.

A ccTLD often promotes consumer confidence, therefore engagement will be better.

For example, German consumers may be wary of buying anything non-German. This makes it difficult for companies with a non-German specific presence to compete.

Not only do you have to prove that you have better quality than a similar German company, you can not risk diminishing confidence signals by not getting a German ccTLD.

In the example of an expansion to the German market, you will be local as it may be, and as German as it may be.

Outside of these confidence signals, there is the link factor that needs to be considered. German sites that are considering linking to you from within Germany are a strong preference for links from outside Germany. “

International expansion and links

Michael then turned his attention to links. Links can be the foundation of a successful search presence and help launch a site to the top of the search results.

He advised:

“It’s much easier to earn links for the publisher using a ccTLD than a .com / germany /. Using ccTLD increases the likelihood of a link.

So technically, hreflang is easier, and technically you can still rank and compete.

But keep in mind the goals of conversions and usability, building trust in site visitors and gaining a foothold in an international market. “


Build separate websites as you expand internationally?

Watch at 20.20 in the video

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