So search engine optimisation has now gone international?
Yes believe it or not, like all traditional marketing techniques, businesses and organisations competing in different geographical locations need to apply their SEO strategies with an international mindset. Like any global expansion, an international SEO initiative requires a higher degree of expertise and an influx of resources. Furthermore it is imperative to understand that a website that performs exceptionally well in one search engine (e.g. Google UK) may not optimally rank in search engines serving different markets (e.g Google France). Organisations that want to do business in ‘foreign’ markets need to develop an international SEO strategy that will serve multiple markets. This blog entry will discuss the different options available to an online organisation with international or global aspirations.
The best way to explain the different options associated with international SEO is through illustration. So let’s take a fictional fashion e-tailer (Asossy) operating in the UK as our international SEO candidate. The organisation has seen exponential growth in the domestic market and has decided to expand their eCommerce platform to other European countries (France, Germany and Ireland). The digital director and his team have been tasked with ensuring that the website optimally performs organically in the identified foreign search engines. The website is currently hosted on the .co.uk domain and is performing exceptionally well in Google UK for relevant search terms. So we need to figure out what is the best strategy to employ in order to replicate this search engine success in other markets.
Before addressing the different strategic international SEO options, it is important to give some background to the domain and URL structure. When it comes to domains there are two top level domain types:
- gTLDs – generic Top Level Domains (.com; .biz; .org; .net etc)
- cTLDs – country Top Level Domains (.co.uk; .ie; .fr; .cn etc)
We would always encourage organisations to buy up the vast majority of top level domains in order to future proof the business, from an expansion point of view, and to essentially protect the brand. The minimum top level domains an organisation must tie down is the .com domain and the country specific domain of their primary target market (e.g. .ie for an organisation targeting the Irish market). Now that we have clarified the TLDs, we can identify the international SEO options available to asossy.co.uk.
Separate Domain Websites
This involves setting up separate country top level domain (cTLD) websites to cater for individual geographical locations. If Asossy decided to opt for this solution, the organisation would have to invest in three new websites:
This means Asossy would be able to offer each market a unique experience and tailor the content and offerings to suit the audience. Furthermore Asossy would be able to host the websites in the relevant regions thus indicating a clear geo target to search engines. However this is a very expensive solution that requires a vast amount of resources in terms of separate SEO campaigns and separate web admin up keep.
Fleetmatics is an example of an organisation that adopted this international web strategy.
Separate Sub domains within website
This approach involves creating sub domains within a generic Top Level Domain (gTLD). If Asossy decided to go down the sub domain route, they would need to set up the primary website as asossy.com and create several sub domains within that route domain. For example the sub domains may be categorised by language:
This would give the web admin the ability to offer unique content to different regions and target markets. For example the de.asossy.com sub domain would offer German content and products and offerings available to the German market. However SEO authority does not spread from sub domains in fact dilutes the SEO authority of the route domain. This is because sub domains were created for major network websites like university websites with different faculties full of diverse and deep content. In fact WordPress is an example of a multi-domain or network as every blogger gets there own sub domain web address. Sub domains are not suited one track websites so to speak.
The final avenue that we would be recommending to Asossy, would be to create sub directories or sub folders within a generic Top Level Domain (gTLD). This would involve creating several sub directories to cater for different regions and languages. For example:
Again Asossy would be able to offer unique content to different market. For example, a user in France would be redirected to www.asossy.com/fr based on IP address recognition. The good thing about using sub directories is SEO authority or weight leaks or spreads throughout the different folders. Therefore one strong SEO campaign on the /en sub directory will have an indirect positive impact on the other sub directories active within the gTLD. However one domain means one server location. Basically this means the domain can only be hosted in one region (e.g. UK), therefore may be at a disadvantage against competitors hosted in France, Germany and Ireland in terms of local SEO.
International SEO Plan
Tune in soon to find out what recommendation we give Asossy…..