International Domains

Why Use International Domains? 

Most people tend to build websites within their country of origin. This is usually where the business is registered and where the majority of their activities will take place.

Many businesses will use the standard top-level domains (TLD) when registering their business domain, with the most common being .com, .net, .org and in our case based in the UK .co.uk.

International domains that consist of other countries around the world are only used if the majority of the registrars business occurs in these countries or they wish to enter a new market to target new international consumers.

An international domain looks like newcompany.fr (France), where as a generic domain would look like newcompany.com (international).

Businesses with international domains are looking to focus on ranking within the specific country Google search engine. As Google will only show relevant results and therefore if a site has a specific domain structure for that particular country then Google will show that site in its region focused results.

There are however a number of ways to structure international domains and each method has its own pros and cons.

What are the Different Types of International Domain Structures? 

The structure of the international domain is the most important area and as explained there are a number of ways to create international domain sites for your business dependant on your business goals and target markets.


Sub Domain Structure 

This is the best structure for multilingual websites that have a multi-national focus and are able to offer their products/services worldwide.

This structure involves using one generic top-level domain (usually .com) and creating sub directories within the URL root structure to focus on creating specific country based variations.

Based on the above newcompany example, the structure for this domain would be:

  • Newcompany.com/en
  • Newcompany.com/de
  • Newcompany.com/se

By having this structure you are working on one domain and therefore any authority you build to that domain will naturally be distributed throughout the whole site.

The downside is that your server site is registered in one country and therefore from Google’s point of view the relevance is diluted.

Separate Country TLDs

The method for this structure involves creating split country domain registered sites based on the main website. This is the most common method when setting up an international domain for your business.

 With the above example, this would be observed as the following:

  • Newcompany.de
  • Newcompany.se
  • Newcompany.co.uk

This is done by registering these domains in their respective country and having them hosted within those countries to ensure that Google would see them as country specific sites.

If we are comparing against sub domains, though this method will incur a far more concerted SEO effort as you would have to build authority to each respective domain, rather than with the sub directory version, which would only require authority building to one site.

However, this structure is imperative for local SEO and ensures that your website ranks within Google in these countries.

Common Mistakes Made When Creating an International Domain

Site Is Only In One Language 

Many businesses believe if they create international versions of their website as it stands then it will just rank. This is a common misconception.

If you are building an international website you have to make sure that your website is professionally translated and optimised for that language otherwise you will not rank.

Not Focusing on International Keyword Research

Some keywords have a higher search volume in English rather than in international languages. Most people would just translate their website and hope that the rankings they were achieving in English would drive the same traffic as the international version.

However, certain terms are different in other countries. For example, in the UK we would search for “squash” as in the cordial for a water and fruit based drink, whereas in France and Germany they would search for Syrup/sirop.

Leaving On-Page Optimisation The Same

Once you have your international keywords you should create unique on-page optimisation for each country relevant website.

This should be done by structuring the correct, URL, page titles, Meta data, alt image tags, headers and on-page optimisation of content.

NB: Make sure you have the correct country relevant address, google maps account and phone number.

Build Citation International Links

Make sure that your website has links coming into the page from websites, directories and other platforms located within the website country of origin.

A site that has been developed to rank within the German market should have links from sites that have domains structured against the .de TLD. This increases relevancy and ensures that Google is aware of your site as a German owned and focused property.

Download the PDF version here: International Domains