By Eli Schwartz
Many ecommerce or content websites with mass appeal have a global audience, even if they are intending to focus on just one country. However, depending on your product or content you might want to go the extra step and intentionally target international users. The decision to focus your site on an international audience is a big leap forward and there are many logistic and technical complexities to work through.
In addition to issues around language choices and translations, there are also some big SEO and brand requirements, including exactly what domain to use for your international presence.
ccTLD Recommended for Users and Search Engines
Any authoritative international SEO guide will elaborate on the differences between the options of subdirectory, subdomain, and country-code top-level domain (ccTLD). One of the most recommended suggestions is for a site to opt to use a ccTLD (e.g. domain.co.uk) as the domain extension. On Google’s list of what they use to determine the country targeting, the ccTLD ranks even higher than Geotargeting settings in Webmaster Tools and server location.
For the curious, HREFlang only appears in the closing paragraph in their guide. This is because HREFLang is a way of showing which piece of content Google should prioritize once they have made the decision to rank a domain for a specific location. ccTLD and other localization hints are what tells Google that there is any location relevance.
Aside from the documented search benefit, the other reason for the ccTLD recommendation is user experience. A human user would know, even without clicking into a site, that a site that ends with .co.uk is targeting a user looking for UK content. You may be surprised at how much localization matters even for web only products.
An international user might not have a global credit card or be interested in dealing with a company that does not have customer support in their time zone. As a result, even if your current domain already ranks for competitive queries in search engines around the world, you might still be seeing a lower CTR (click-thru-rate) on the search results page from users who are looking for a local brand. Switching to a ccTLD would negate any click avoidance applied by these users.
Downsides to ccTLD
However, what many of these guides don’t spend a lot of time discussing is how incredibly expensive it can be to purchase and hold thousands of global domain names. While most of the popular generic domains can be purchased for under $20 per year, a country specific domain could cost in the hundreds of dollars before even adding on extras like local corporation registration and the need for a local presence. A Puerto Rican (.PR) domain could cost more than $1000 each year for the registration! Expense might be one of the big reasons many companies decide against a ccTLD strategy, but in the grand scheme of things depending on the benefit from the TLD this might be a small cost to pay.
If you have decided the TLD strategy is the right one Go to the full article.
Source:: Business 2 Community