|Best Strategy for Targeting Different Countries?|
I've been trying to determine the best strategy for targetting beyond the USA market through Google SERPs. I've read a few articles that tend to relay the suggestion that multiple domains, seperate hosting by country, relevant TLD's and IBL's from local websites are the way to go. However, most of these threads were a year or more old and I wanted to see if anything has changed.
For background: I am after English speaking markets only. My content is the same no matter where I target. The site ranks well in google.com for the terms I am after but what I want to achieve is better rankings in local markets.
Having multiple domains provides issues. Firstly, I won't be able to standardise the names for branding purposes as several ccTLD variants are registered. Plus, maintaining multiple sites sounds not only like a logistical nightmare, but also potentially leads to dupe content issues.
What I ideally want to achieve is centralisation so I am wondering if subdomains might be the answer? I know it is possible to set up a subdomain for each country and host it in that market (if indeed this is still an important aspect). So 3 questions arise: 1) can I remap subdomain URLs to the relevant pages on the www domain, 2) can I geo-target each subdomain in WMT to let Google know where I am aiming each subdomain and finally 3) would that lead to dupe content issues?
The other (potentially simpler) option, if it's effective, would be to attract inbound links from websites that are in the local markets I am targetting, but my gut tells me that longer term this would be dangerous to rely on exclusively.
Can anyone shed any light or opinions on the best strategy in the current climate?
|1) can I remap subdomain URLs to the relevant pages on the www domain |
If you mean a server mapping, then you have exactly duplicate content for each geographic target. It would not be localized in any way - currency, idioms, etc.
If that's the final result, I don't see that it's worth the effort. If you really intend to target a location, then I would suggest the trouble of learning to "speak like a native" of that area.
I once worked with an automotive site that was originally for the US but wanted to reach the UK. The vocabulary differences were quite extensive. I've also learned that in the UK, collective nouns or names of businesses take a plural verb, whereas in the US they take a singular verb form.
US: Google is...
UK: Google are...
So if you really want to reach the visitors, and not just rank in their search engine, some localization is needed.
|2) can I geo-target each subdomain in WMT to let Google know where I am aiming each subdomain and finally |
Yes - just set up and verify each subdomain as a "website".
|3) would that lead to dupe content issues? |
Dupe content is all about filtering out all but one version for any specific search. So that would happen, but it wouldn't be a problem or a penalty.
Thanks for the detailed reply Tedster.
So just to make sure I understand you, you're saying that yes, this approach would be OK in so much as it would not lead to duplicate content penalties and ranking problems, but to achieve good rankings on the subdomains it would be beneficial to localize (or 'localise' lol) the content as much as possible?
I just want to make sure I don't lose the rankings the main www domain has when I do this - that's my initial concern.
|If you mean a server mapping... |
I am not sure what that is, but I was thinking I'd use Rewrites in the htaccess to maintain the URL of the subdomain as the visible address while serving the content from the relevant www page. Initially anyway, but obviously as I localised content that would become superfluous over time (but probably quite a long time!).
PS. Sorry one other point: is hosting the subdomain in the targetted territory significantly advantageous, or does the WMT geo-targetting setting effectively take away the need? That would save a lot of money and hassle and I'm thinking maybe move the hosting later once traffic to the new subdomain is at a decent level.
I had always left my GWT - Site Configuration - Target User In: Unlisted.
But then I became concerned about all the traffic I was getting from India, the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, and Pakistan.
So, on Feb, 15, 2010, I set my Site Configuration to -
Target Users In: United States. I compared my visitors in January, to my visitors in the month of June.
Here are the results -
United States - minus 0.5%
India - plus 0.3%
Philippines - plus 0.5%
Singapore - plus 0.1%
Malaysia - plus 0.1%
Pakistan - no change
Conclusion: Setting the Target Country to United States has no positive effect, at all, whatsoever.
At least I finally tried it. So all that previous advice about "Don't specify anything" seems to be verified, at least for me, for the US. I think this is just a "show" or "ego" parameter, much like Google Toolbar Page Rank. IMHO.
I see the same - especially for the one target website. However, for reaching multiple targets with different URLs, especially in the Google's ccTLDs, I've seen good results from the WMT geo-targeting choices. It seems to help override some of the other, secondary signals such as hosting country.
|it would not lead to duplicate content penalties and ranking problems |
Google has a process to prevent the possibility of showing the same content from a number of different URLs. This process is complex, and there is potentially serious detrimental impact from getting caught up in that process by reproducing content in an uncontrolled way. In terms of real world experience, I have yet to see a positive side of producing identical copies of the same content at different URLs. Even spammers don't do it ;)
If you produce genuinely regionalised versions of your content, then you have the potential for a great expansion of your coverage in search results.
My experience of the GWT option - your mileage may vary ;)
|If you produce genuinely regionalised versions of your content, then you have the potential for a great expansion of your coverage in search results. |
The thing that strikes me with that is that the language will only vary fractionally in many instances. Perhaps a Z here, an S there, an IS here and a ARE there. The content doesn't relate to locales in any way and the language in the sector is pretty global. I would have thought such minimal changes would not be enough to distinguish content significantly?
|The thing that strikes me with that is that the language will only vary fractionally in many instances. Perhaps a Z here, an S there, an IS here and a ARE there. The content doesn't relate to locales in any way and the language in the sector is pretty global. I would have thought such minimal changes would not be enough to distinguish content significantly? |
It depends how you approach it, and how much effort you consider to be worthwhile for a localisation strategy. US English does not flow in the same way to a British English speaker, and you'll sell more by using a native speaker, regardless of if the underlying language is the same.
If pure organic search is the target, then you need to make enough change for the content to be considered unique. Don't ask me for a percentage ;)
Thanks Andy. Will have to think about this one. But the conclusion I guess is that language localisation is a key aspect to targetting different regions where the content is essentially the same.
Oh heck...Do you realise the complexity of what you are asking?
If I were to answer this in full it would take so much time that I have learned over the past xx years it would cost a small fortune!
|but what I want to achieve is better rankings in local markets. |
In my experience, YMMV, forget WMT tools, the only sure way I have found is to have a site under a ccTLD with LOCAL contacts etc or a regional TLD such as .asia
One thing I will give you for free is these other ccTLD/TLDs can take a long time to rank in US Google.com BUT can easily be #1 in their own Google.ccTLD...right, you probably now understand I am writing about geo-targetting on a local/national level.
The one good thing about all this is that Google does not seem to mind if one has all these different sites on the same sever IP serving these different countries, mine are all UK hosted without, seemingly, any problem.
I have one CAVEAT with my advice.
I have been doing this since BEFORE Google even started and DURING all their algo/geo advances/changes...I have no idea how much my sites are considered by them as good/bad/acceptable and also bear in mind that when I launch a site it very rarely gets changed/updated very often since the information is evergreen.
|In my experience, YMMV, forget WMT tools, the only sure way I have found is to have a site under a ccTLD with LOCAL contacts etc or a regional TLD such as .asia |
Problem is I'd have to sacrifice domain branding to achieve that. Swings and roundabouts I guess.
It doesn't seem very logical to me that Google would insist on this for a company to do global business. It would disregard one of the fundamental advantages of the Internet. I guess it's down to translation: does a .co.uk extension indicate the company is based in the UK, or does it mean that they want to do business in the UK. For me (and most laypersons I suspect) it should be the former.
Surely if I set up a subdomain australia.widgets.com that should be enough for Google to recognise where my target market is? Perhaps I am over-simplifying things but that would be a pretty neat - and prety clear - standard and would also provide those businesses that can't get all their local ccTLD's with a simple solution.
Anyway, it's early days for Search so maybe with ccTLD's it's just a question of making do until algo's can find a better way.
|It doesn't seem very logical to me that Google would insist on this for a company to do global business. |
No one has said Google is logical! It says it's trying to organise the world's information..."as it sees it", my words.
I'll tell you now that in the UK unless you know how to force Google.com US results all you will get are .co.uk results or a smattering of UK hosted .com sites. Very, very few US results are shown here from a standard search, you have to work for them.
|does a .co.uk extension indicate the company is based in the UK, or does it mean that they want to do business in the UK. For me (and most laypersons I suspect) it should be the former. |
And therein lies the problem. What does a .com/net/org indicate? A global business/charity or a US-only business/charity.
|Surely if I set up a subdomain australia.widgets.com that should be enough for Google to recognise where my target market is? |
For you it may seem obvious but would it to their algo? Would it mean a supply FROM or a supply TO that specific market. For instance I supply my widgets globally from various countries and the directory structure for all sites go as follows:
Some of these widgets are identical but processed in those different countries and before I decided to use different TLDs Google used to have a big problem understanding my .com site obviously "believing" these were just duplicate pages.
Whether the algo will ever be able to differentiate between where one is actually located and the actual market one wants to sell to PLUS include those details in the local Google SERPs...I wouldn't hold your breath just yet no matter what anyone from Google says.
I know of well-known non-US exporting companies using .coms for 10+ years that are only recognised under their own Google.tld searches and can't get into the US Google.com
|Surely if I set up a subdomain australia.widgets.com that should be enough for Google to recognise where my target market is? |
In addition to HuskyPup's examples this could just indicate content about Australia - it isn't a safe assumption that it indicates targeting.
Similar things apply to country codes: tv.example.com - country targeting or videos? us.example.com - America, or people coming together? The only reliable solution is a local TLD in the same way that Google itself approaches this.
Yes, I see what both you guys are saying, but if Google chose to set a standard - for example the subdomain set as a country would indicate that the company is targetting that market - it would leave companies with a relatively simple solution for geo-targetting to a specific market. I'm not saying it has to be exactly that (you could introduce variations on the actual subdomain names as indicators), but at least it would provide a clear framework.
The problem at the moment is that it is unclear as to how a company targets a market successfully through organic search. We're effectively best-guessing - as in fact is Google. That in itself means that the users are not necessarily seeing the most suitable content and that surely is of as much of a detriment to Google and it's users as it is to webmasters.
|at least it would provide a clear framework. |
Other than the slightly barrier of buying a domain rather than setting up a subdomain, surely there's a clear framework already - use a regional domain name?
I think Google would also argue that they've provided this facility already via the Webmaster Tools option. If that doesn't work as well as perhaps it should, then there is the need for specialist advice. But then, that's the case with most Google ranking issues. You can only get so far by following Google's published advice and using their tools.
|Other than the slightly barrier of buying a domain rather than setting up a subdomain, surely there's a clear framework already. |
That's a big barrier - indeed prohibitive -for many businesses, especially newer ones. Most domains names are taken or squatted. A business has full control over a subdomain.
The WMT option would work well - if it definitely works but there seem to be conflicting opinions on that, even in this thread. But even then it's unique to Google afaik where a standard could apply across the board.