The site structure you choose will have a huge impact on your international SEO strategy. Although targeting by country generally allows you to be more specific, this doesn’t mean it’s always the best option for you. It can be expensive, and if there’s not enough organic opportunity, it may not be a worthwhile investment. In this case, focusing on international language targeting instead can be a good start, while you’re working toward targeting by country.
Whichever way the research leads you, setting up your site structure is vital. For international websites, these two options can be useful.
The ccTLD Site Structure
Country Code Top-Level Domains – or ccTLDs – are often considered the best approach when targeting by country since they geo-target automatically. Examples of this include google.fr and amazon.de, both of which take you to country-specific website versions. This makes it easy to show the right information in the right language, improving the user experience.
Despite the advantages of this structure, ccTLDs can be quite expensive. Google treats each one as a discrete website. So you’ll need to invest more in growing the site’s popularity and reputation from scratch, which can take time. They can also be problematic if you’re expanding later on because subdirectory geo-targeting is typically less effective within ccTLDs. For example, garyreilly.ca/us would not work to target the US because it would continue to geo-target Canada automatically. The only workaround would be to purchase a new URL – like garyreilly.us and then apply relevant geo signals.
Pro tip: If you’re targeting purely by language, ccTLDs might not be the best option for you. But if you’d like the option to target by country in the future, it may be worth buying the ccTLDs now so you have them ready.
SUBDIRECTORIES with gTLD
The chief advantage of subdirectories with a gTLD (Generic Top-Level Domain) is that they can change with your business. They can be used to target by country, by language or by a combination of the two. Examples include spotify.com/fr or microsoft.com/en-gb.
If you’re using this approach, subdirectories will be able to leverage the existing domain authority of the gTLD, which gives it an advantage over ccTLDs when targeting by country. Your development teams will also be happy with this choice since it’s scalable to implement hreflang tags.
Deciding on a site structure can be difficult, but the most important thing is to be consistent. Take the time to consider what your current and long-term business goals are, and then stick to one site structure. This will ensure you have good search visibility and a better user experience. It will also save on time, effort and money in the long run.