|Same Language but different Countries|
|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. |
One of my clients is targeting several countries in Africa.
The people there are usually using English rather than their local language.
So, one English site is enough but the countries we are targeting vary about ccTLD.
In this case what solution is the best for geo-targeting?
It would be treated as a duplicate content if we put the same contents on different domains.
Is it possible to geo-target sub directories under gTLD?
e.g. example.com/countryA => South Africa, example.com/countryB => Ghana
We could create a few country-specific pages on the same domain.
If the site uses a generic Top Level Domain name (.com, .net, .org, .info, etc.) then you can set a different Geographic Target for subdirectories in the Google Webmaster Tools console. But, you're correct that if you have identical content in these subdirectories, Google and the other search engines will only allow one version of each page to be included in the index. So you'd have to customize the content in each subdirectory in order to be successful with this method.
What I've seen is that more than one page definitely can be in the index, and Google will then filter out all but one for the search results. Which url gets shown will vary according to to country where the searcher is located.
Matt Cutts did a video interview about using different languages ( TLD versus subdomain or subdirectories: [mattcutts.com...]
Different TLD seems the best, but in your case you target the same language....
Having different TLD with the same content you risk duplicate content.
I would use just one site: I will try to get "trust" links from alle the different countries pointing to your main site.
There are certainly advantages in getting a country TLD - marketing advantages, as well as SE advantages; while it will vary with niche, in many cases, the 'local' feel can be of significant value.
Duplicate content is the big issue, but you can minimise risk by localizing your page template, and as much local - or locally focussed - content as possible.
As Tedster suggests, the 'similar' pages may get included in the index (most likely, unless there are other issues), and local searchers will most likely get the local version.
This could probably all be achieved with localized subdomains of a .com, but a local TLD does have advantages.
A former Googler, Vanessa Fox has written a very informative article about this topic on her blog.