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International domain names

12:24 pm on Dec 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

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I'm working for a popular .com retail site in the UK. We're expanding in to Europe in the coming few months, having the website translated in to several languages.

I've been reading a lot in Google Webmaster Tools Help with regards the URL design. It's left me quite confused!

I see two clear options for our .com site:

a) Have the languages as sub folders .com/fr/ .com/de/ .com/es/ etc... and geo-target in Webmaster Tools

b) Use completely distinct URls for each langauge .fr .de .es

What are the benefits of each in terms of getting the site ranking and SEO?

Are there any benefits to keeping everything under the one .com domain? Does Google rank multilingual sites better in the home country?
Or is it better to start from scratch with a 'naturally' geo-targetted site such as .de?
1:13 pm on Dec 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Not an area that I have looked into in detail but the folder option assumes that one mega search engine will effectively provide all your traffic. Maybe true today but is it true for every target language and will it be true for them all in the future? Using ccTLDs should geotarget with little or no manual intervention but you have to be careful about restrictions on foreign registration.
2:44 pm on Dec 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Thanks for the feedback - I hadn't thought of it that way before.

At the present time it will only be France, Germany and Spain we launch in to.

My main concern is whether there are SEO benefits of growing the site with many languages and if they will be missed if we use a .fr .de or other domain.
9:13 pm on Dec 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Bear in mind that the #1 extension in Germany is .de, Germans expect to see a .de on a retail shopping site.

Are you actually a registered business in France? If not you will need an intermediary for contacts etc. I believe.

This question has arisen several times over the years in the Google search forum, in fact only last week there was the same discussion with the company having specific targetting problems:


I do not do retail, only international supply, and over the past 16 years or so have developed each country under its own specific extension and linked them all together through the navigation so that users can slide easily between one supply and another.

An example I often cite is to check out is the www .eu site of black and decker and see what they do. Ok, it is a big company with Europewide distribution however they decided to go local for every country except for Baltic for whatever reason.

Right my personal feelings?

Geo-targetting still seems to be the holy grail at the moment therefore using local extensions must make it easier for the SEs to target where your intended market is.

Just another thought if the worst came to the worst, it is much easier to close down a specific site rather than a section of a site.
1:00 pm on Dec 15, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Many thanks for your detailed response.

We actually have an agent to buy domains for us so no worries there.

Seems like ccTLD seems like the way to go!

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