Usually most websites caters to a global audience but in case website owners plan to target an international audience for their products and services, then they need to address a few issues that are centred on the language of the website as well as SEO and brand choices and domains to be used for having an international presence.
ccTLD is recommended both for users and search engines
As per experts “Country Code Top Level Domain”, or in other words ccTLD is the recommended usage for both users and search engines as it ranks even higher than Geotargetting settings in Google’s Webmaster tolls and server location. Although some SEO experts are of the opinion that differences between choices of a subdirectory, sub-domain and ccTLD are important issues that need to be addressed, most agree that having a ccTLD as a domain extension is the best option.
HREFlang is not significant because HREFLang is only a way of showing which portion of the content should be prioritized by Google. The main hints to Google about location relevance and localization come from from ccTLD.
Another benefit of ccTLD is related to user experience because just by looking at the domain extension, users can make a determination whether the content of the website is useful and relevant for them or not. If there is .co.uk extension then a user knows that the content is for a UK audience. Users interested in purchasing a products or a service are keen to have customer support as well and therefore make purchases from a business that functions within their local time zone.
Therefore the CTR for a international website might be lower but the moment it switches to a ccTLD, then the CTR would be higher.
Disadvantages of ccTLD
Although it might sound surprising, ccTLD could turn out to be disadvantageous also especially when dealing with international ISPs as certain domain extensions are very expensive. Although generic domains are available under US$ 20 per year, country specific domains are very expensive and run into hundreds of dollars, especially for Puerto Rico where the price for registration of a .pr domain could be as high as US$ 1000. In certain countries such as Mexico website owners have a choice of two domain extensions. For example they can choose between .com.mx or just .mx
Which ccTLDs should be used?
This question can be addressed by website owners by visiting the web pages of Alexa’s top 500 domains or by looking at Alexa’s top domains by country report. Another alternative is to visit the website of the local telecoms, media or other well known brands of the country whose domains are being sought.
Copy the big names on the web
It is a good idea to piggyback on the big names in the web. Webmasters should have a look at major global brands that could be copied and used as guides in order to determine which TLDs to use as a primary domain and which to redirect.
Some useful insights
The resulting crawl is very useful:
- There are some TLDs that Google has not put up. For example google.co.bi in Bolivia
- ICANN has created some TLDs but they are not in use.
- Google missed names like Google.ly
- Some domains have 301redirect to a non- primary domain, others have a 302 and still others will redirect based on the location of the website.
- Amazon does not own Amazon.net
- Amazon uses only 302 redirects to other domains.
It is not a bad idea to have global TLDs like Google since it is beneficial to make users feel that yoiu have a local presence also.