We have an English .com web site. Besides US and UK, we want to be found by Germans, French and Italians who might search the web in their own language.
What is the best way to rank in SERPS in those countries? Is it better to register .de, .fr and .it domains with the same translated content or is it better just to translate the .com site and put it under the sub-domain de.mysite.com or in a new folder mysite.com/de etc? Or just do nothing because the .com site has the most inbound links...
Google reps have repeatedly told us in recent months that the ccTLD is the strongest signal for ranking in a given country - and from what I've seen that is true. Other important signals are the country where a site is hosted and the countries and languages where backlinks are hosted. No matter how you choose to go forward, those backlinks will need to develop for good rankings.
If you choose to stay with one top level domain, people have success with either using subdomains or directories. You can find other discussions about this issue under the heading
-- GEO-TARGETED SEARCH -- in the Hot Topics area [webmasterworld.com], which is always pinned to the top of this forum's index page.