When you’re selling to a global audience, the language you use and the content that you market must be organized and optimized in such a manner that your sales pitch cuts through linguistic and cultural barriers. You work doubly hard to ensure that your message doesn’t get lost in translation.
You’ll see people in some countries speaking a common national language (for example, China/Chinese). In other instances, people professing a common nationality use a variety of languages (for example, India/22 languages).
International SEO can’t adopt a “one-size-fits-all” approach and needs unique customizable solutions to address globally different audiences.
If you have one or more international websites targeting different nationalities, your immediate priority is to decide your domain architecture.
But before we unravel the technical differences in domain architecture, let’s understand what International SEO is all about.
What You Should Know About International SEO
The Local SEO that you optimize for SMEs targets customers pinging you from different parts of the nation. And, it’s possible for you to respond by filtering searches by states, counties, cities, and towns.
Imagine doing this on a global scale with multiple communities speaking different languages and following different cultures, and you get an idea of how complex and challenging International SEO becomes.
International SEO charts a route map for search engines that seamlessly channels your content to targeted audiences in the language that they can understand, using a sales pitch that is localized to global communities.
International SEO is nothing but standard SEO with a booster dose of geo-targeting and marketing localization.
Why Are Domain Names so Crucial to International SEO?
Choosing a domain name is the crucial baby step in kick-starting any global SEO campaign, and it all boils down to selecting a Top-level Domain name (TLD). Two TLDs vie for your attention – the Country Code Top Level Domain, or ccTLD and the Generic Top Level Domain or gTLD. The domain name (whatever its character) becomes instrumental in geo-targeting your content to specific countries, locations, or communities.
It is not unusual for international websites to create different versions of web content targeting specific countries that source their most significant chunk of organic and paid searches.
The ccTLD uses a two-letter component that zeroes in on a specific country code; .us targets the United States; .au targets Australia; .jp is meant for Japan, and so on. It’s a way of conveying to customers in the targeted countries that they have reached the localized version of a top website.
Companies using the two-letter country-code geotargeting route get an opportunity to rank higher in local search results by providing the right content fulfilling the needs of searchers hailing from specific countries.
If a ccTLD is a domain name specific to a country, a gTLD is designed for a particular purpose. As the name indicates, gTLD is the generic way of telling people what the site is intended for.
In generic naming, a .com symbolizes a commercial purpose, .org could be a non-profit information aggregator or industry, .gov represents a government-controlled agency, and .edu tells you that you’re dealing with an educational institution, and so on.
The whole purpose of domain naming is to ensure that Google doesn’t tie itself in knots trying to differentiate between different versions of your site. Believe us, you don’t want Google to relegate you to the darkest depths of search engine listings which happens if you end up confusing the search engine.
3 Major Reasons Why ccTLDs Are Preferred Over gTLDs
1. ccTLDs Give You Heightened Visibility in Country-Specific Local Searches
When you’re using a .com domain (Amazon.com for example), you don’t display affiliation to any specific country, and you’re open to web traffic sourced from any part of the globe. The moment you use a ccTLD version (Amazon.in, for example) you rise up the rankings in India-specific organic searches.
Customers are happy because their intent is more likely to be satisfied by a ccTLD domain than the .com domain.
For example, an Indian consumer searching for cooking sauce would be more responsive to listings of local sauces and spices in Amazon.in rather than the unfamiliar international brands he sees in Amazon.com.
2. The ccTLD Appeals Directly to the Consumer’s Sense of Brand Loyalty and Trust in Local Products
The glamour and quality associated with international brands may attract a limited following because of affordability issues, but large swathes of the local population may prefer companies and products nearer home base.
The ccTLD brings people into a familiar and convenient milieu where they feel more patriotic buying local stuff. Consumers trust you more as they think you are sharing their language and upselling their unique cultural preferences.
3. With the ccTLD, You May Not Be Local, but You Are Deemed to Be Localized
Even if your country of origin is different, by merely moving a ccTLD registration you’ve created an umbilical connection that encourages local businesses to build and sustain life-long relationships with you.
Without physically being in a country, you get around to listing and associating popular products that attract massive local searches. In short, you may be somewhere else, but you become an integral part of the local scenery.
The three advantages of ccTLDs showcase the fact that you can create better brand awareness, offer improved customer value, and aggregate more customer loyalty in a way that provides a better user experience to local communities.
The Billion-Dollar Question: Should You Opt for a Single gTLD Instead of Multiple ccTLDs?
For ccTLDs, the Drawbacks Appear to Be Outweighing the Benefits
Using a ccTLD is a challenging and time-consuming proposition mainly because you’d be spending considerable resources setting up and maintaining each extension as a separate entity, and that means you need a strong IT backbone to coordinate multiple site installs and modifications.
Certain countries like China and Australia authorize only its citizens to own ccTLDs, and that means you’ll be partnering with local owners to rent a ccTLD which adds to the costs, besides delaying domain acquisition.
The third major disadvantage is that the strong backlinks that you’ve aggregated benefit the targeted page and probably the site as a whole, but you won’t see the same benefits passed on to ccTLD extensions. You’ll need backlinking SEO specifically targeting ccTLD extensions.
Meanwhile, the gTLD Is Consolidating Its Presence
According to Statista, as of November 2018, 136.4 million domains worldwide were listed under a .com domain making .com the ruling star of the Solar system. Second in the list was .cn (China) orbiting distant Pluto with 20.85 million domains.
How Do You Account for the Massive Popularity of gTLDs?
When you consider .com’s popularity, you realize that it has a lot to do with how SEO aspects are leveraged. Being widespread in usage, gTLDs gained the unbreakable trust of major search engines. Using the .com suffix is a surefire way of improving search rankings. But all generics don’t carry the .com’s weight; you’ll find search engines lowering rankings of generics like .info, .biz that are best avoided.
A global footprint is what the generic TLD assures because of the massive popularity of .com sites, besides the trust factor associated by customers with these sites. Audiences are attracted to you because of your international appeal and because you’re not affiliated to specific communities.
A decade back, Google was particular about doing SEO ranking for ccTLDs separately because these sites were seen to be fulfilling specific needs of local communities, but SEO benefits could not be shared by associated (parent) generic websites. But that changed and Google is now clear that the generic TLDs will reap all SEO benefits as long as the content is adequately geo-localized.
Which Is Your Best TLD Strategy Moving Forward? Should You Opt for gTLD or ccTLDs?
Vigorously pursue the gTLD spectrum of choices, especially the .com and .org variety that enjoy tremendous traction with both users and search engines. With a generic domain, you structure a gateway that attracts visitors from all corners of the globe. In the same breath, avoid generics such as .biz and .info which do not inspire the same level of customer trust and search engine visibility as the .coms.
Don’t abandon the ccTLD option altogether; instead, use local TLDs sparingly to target countries that source you maximum customer traffic. Leverage the local version to establish your name and presence in communities that show potential for expanding the business, and to get a leg up on competitors poaching your territory.
Conceptualize and implement International SEO strategies that are tailor-made for generic and country code domains so that you benefit from both domain types.
You see the internet bursting with a staggering array of top-level domains, and registered domains have now crossed the billion mark with .coms leading the wolf pack.
Myriad TLD options make it dizzyingly confusing when you’re deciding which domain is suited for your needs. Some of the best names with strategic keywords are either owned by private entities or seem to be above and beyond the SME budget.
Whichever way you lean (gTLD or ccTLD), a top-level domain with advanced International SEO helps you customize your presence in cyberspace. You may feel inspired to create your own TLD, very much like the company logo that positions you strategically in the deepest recesses of consumer consciousness.