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Using Country specific domain names or a super site?

     
3:16 pm on Dec 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Hi peeps,
Please forgive me if this is in the wrong forum. I couldn't figure out where it would best fit.

I have an issue where I work in regards to our online marketing strategy.

We currently have one main website and a series of smaller, international websites such as .it, .fr, etc...

All these websites are identical but in different languages.

Our problem is that the specific branches of our business complain that their specific site does not rank as well as the .net despite all the marketing they do.

Now the reality is, they will never be as good as the .net and will always be pushed down the SERPs by it. However, what I have proposed is that we compile all the websites into just the .net to make it even better!

Rather than being averagely mid-page one for our results, our new bottlenecked traffic will put us somewhere near (if not the) top of page one for our desired keywords and phrases.

The new site will recognise the userís country and set their language. There will also be a manual override.

However, not everyone is a fan of this change.

Is it a bad idea?

Would international search spiders see the website in their relative language?

Could someone outline some potential pros and cons I may have missed here?

I would be massivly greatful.

Kind regards,
Tom.
7:40 pm on Dec 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Disclaimer: The search algorithms are constantly evolving. What is the best idea today may not be the best idea tomorrow.

Several years ago it was very helpful to have a .co.uk domain to rank in Google UK results. Recently Google has made it less important to have a country specific domain to rank in Google's international serps. Who knows if this trend will continue or reverse direction?

Then there is is the issue of link popularity. By having many different domains you are diffusing the link power and trust for your domains. Having one domain would concentrate that for you.

Let's not forget usability. Users in different countries seem to like to see domains from their country as opposed to generic .com domains. It is much more clear to a UK customer that you do business if you are using a .uk domain as opposed to .com.

Logistically it is also simpler to maintain one domain as opposed to 100s of country specific domains. Often these country specific domains have special requirements that you need to be careful to follow. Even when you do follow all the rules a country can take back your domain. Libya demonstrated this when they shut down some .ly domains because they didnt like how they were operating.

I think you can make a case either way. My personal preference is one super domain and if you have extra resources then build out mini sites for your top countries as you currently have.

If you go ahead and migrate all the country specific sites into your main site you should use a 301 redirect to preserve your link popularity. Just remember that 301 redirects are not perfect and they do evaporate some link power.
10:12 pm on Dec 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

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We currently have one main website and a series of smaller, international websites such as .it, .fr, etc...

All these websites are identical but in different languages.

Our problem is that the specific branches of our business complain that their specific site does not rank as well as the .net despite all the marketing they do.


Are they claiming, for example, that a generic search in French on google.fr still shows your English .net site above the .fr site? Or is it a simplistic search for the company brand name?

All their "marketing" is probably paid search, some media exposure, but not SEO in a concerted manner. So they might not have done enough. A good way to observe this challenge is to look at the big car companies that have overseas national websites. I haven't looked, but I suspect that they do relatively little SEO but they have garnered a lot of high-trust links from local sites, e.g. local dealers, car magazines, government, etc.

So if I search for Toyota, Hyundai etc in Australia, I don't get the .jp or .kr or even the .com sites in the first 100 results.

In multinational companies there is a tendency to duplicate content (for many good reasons from the corporate standpoint) but this works against SEO when it is in the same language. For your situation, I'd continue with the European ccTLDs and work hard to get local links. I would avoid a super corporate site with country subdirectories.
9:22 am on Dec 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Thanks for the prompt and comprehensive replies guys.

anallawalla - The sub-sites are exact replicas of the main site, only in their native language. Therefore, their level of on-page SEO is the same, only in their relative language. Your advice on getting good local links is something that I will ensure that gets actioned before we make any drastic changes.

goodroi - That's pretty much what I thought and what I wanted to hear, however, convincing the marketing team to do this is proving difficult, unfortunately.
12:57 pm on Dec 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

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All these websites are identical but in different languages.


How old are these sites?

Who is doing what and how?

Our problem is that the specific branches of our business complain that their specific site does not rank as well as the .net despite all the marketing they do.


Just how are they checking their supposed rankings etc?

Are the sites in their natural language or machine translated?

Are all the sites linked together...this is, IMHO, very important?

Who effectively controls the "foreign" language sites?

How competitive are your widgets? Marketing departments will always blame the web team and especially so when there is a lot of competition.

When you write "marketing", what do you mean? Online or offline promotion?
8:54 am on Dec 8, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Thanks for the reply... Here are some answers:

How old are these sites?

The sites ages are varied. The .net (main site) is the oldest at 9 years old. The youngest sites are less than a year old... I know this will contribute significantly to their SEO also...

Who is doing what and how? ... When you write "marketing", what do you mean? Online or offline promotion?

I don't really think they do much more than email shots, brochures and free presentational CDs. They don't do much in the way of link building, etc.

Just how are they checking their supposed rankings etc?

I use a toolbar to monitor their pagerank but they base their complaints around Google searches for certain widgets and when searching our business name. :/

Are the sites in their natural language or machine translated?

They're in their nateral language.

Are all the sites linked together...this is, IMHO, very important?

The sites aren't linked together at the moment. It's on a long list of improvements that I've yet to make.

Who effectively controls the "foreign" language sites?

We control all the websites and change the homepages on a monthly (approx) basis depending on their latest offers, etc.

How competitive are your widgets? Marketing departments will always blame the web team and especially so when there is a lot of competition.

The companies aren't too competitive as they tend to all work locally.
9:53 am on Dec 8, 2010 (gmt 0)

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You should comment on this:
Are they claiming, for example, that a generic search in French on google.fr still shows your English .net site above the .fr site? Or is it a simplistic search for the company brand name?


Otherwise there is no problem for translated sites on a ccTLD. They just need their own SEO efforts, including links from the same country.
10:00 am on Dec 17, 2010 (gmt 0)

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System: The following message was spliced on to this thread from: http://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4243512.htm [webmasterworld.com] by goodroi - 6:26 am on Dec 17, 2010 (utc -5)


Where I work we face an ongoing dhilemma of what to do with our online marketing strategy.

We have branches all around the world and the widgets we supply are so essential that time is everything. The longer the client waits, the more it costs them.

Therefore, when people search for our widgets they are more likely to click our .de over our .com.

However, the .de, .es, etc, don't rank too well in comparison to the .com and are pushed down the SERPS, defeating the point.

Therefore, we had the idea of bottlenecking all of our traffic to the .com to build our PR, etc.

Our idea was to have widgets.com/gb, etc...

What we were wondering - does anyone have any sort of insight as whether people would click that over a ccTLD?

Also - are there any massive issues regarding local SEO that this may cause?

Thanks in advance,
Tom.
10:16 am on Dec 20, 2010 (gmt 0)

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The new site will recognise the userís country and set their language. There will also be a manual override.

Auto language detection isn't an approach I like. You describe one of the reasons in this question...

Would international search spiders see the website in their relative language?

With the setup you describe, if I understand you correctly, no they won't. Google will see an English language version based on a Mountain View, California IP, and localization will then be accomplished via iframes or redirection. The .net version will show up as an English language version in the serps, so I'm not sure exactly what you gain.

See the Official Google Webmaster Central Blog discussion on this....

Working with multilingual websites
http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2010/03/working-with-multilingual-websites.html [googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com]

Google says...
If youíre going to localize, make it easy for Googlebot to crawl all language versions of your site....

...To make all of your site's content more crawlable, avoid automatic redirections based on the user's perceived language. These redirections could prevent users (and search engines) from viewing all the versions of your site.


Two discussions (of many) I'd look at on WebmasterWorld are....

header redirect based on language
http://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4161195.htm [webmasterworld.com]

And, not involving language-based delivery, but covering some of the spidering and IP-based indexing issues...

Local directories showing different homepage based on IP? Googlebot issue?
http://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4201741.htm [webmasterworld.com]

You also say, and this is important...
We have branches all around the world and the widgets we supply are so essential that time is everything.

If you truly have branches all around the world, then you need to emphasize that brick and mortar presence. As I see Google's algo progressing, local presence is being rewarded. That means you will need local TLDs, local promotion, local links, onsite content reflecting the actual location, and Place Pages for each location.

Apart from whether you go large site with language-specific folders, or whether you go multiple TLDs, I'd say that either of these choices is preferable to automatic language selection and IP delivery of language-based content.
10:59 am on Dec 20, 2010 (gmt 0)

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PS - Regarding efforts to rank onpage content (as opposed to just brand name) on those local TLDs, it's clear that without local linking, they've essentially had no SEO follow-through.

I certainly wouldn't scrap those sites until I'd actually made some realistic link building efforts.

Also, do not rely on interlinking as a substitute for link building from independent local sources. In fact, I suggest you defer a lot of interlinking until you've gotten some good quality local inbounds.

For now, a set of flags on the home page of each site should do.
11:20 am on Dec 20, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Pretty comprehensive stuff, I'd agree 100% with what @Robert Charlton says.
1:50 pm on Dec 20, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Robert, I really REALLY appreciate that reply! I've had a thorough look through the resources you linked there I think moving to a .com/en, etc...

I'll be sure to remove the automatic content changes and 301 all content where applicable.

Do you think having Google Local for the specific premsis will boost their SEO? In our industry it's unlikely the customer will visit the premesis...
3:18 am on Dec 21, 2010 (gmt 0)

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In our industry it's unlikely the customer will visit the premesis...

You are correct in thinking that local listings are generally given to companies that are likely to have b-to-c contact. That said, I'm not understanding the second set of concerns you posted, on Dec 17. Your original post seemed to be all about language, but your Dec 17 post seems to be much more about direct business-to-customer contact and proximity for shipping. Possibly I'm just reading my own interpretation into what you said....

We have branches all around the world and the widgets we supply are so essential that time is everything. The longer the client waits, the more it costs them.

Therefore, when people search for our widgets they are more likely to click our .de over our .com....
9:27 am on Dec 21, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Thanks for the prompt reply, we provide repairs services to the automation enineering industry. Therefore, our customers need to send parts to us and get them back ASAP. They don't visit the building.

Therefore, it's kind've both. They need to know were here but will never visit.

Do you think Google Local will help us?
10:31 am on Dec 21, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Can't say. I'd try doing searches in the US for your keywords and similar terms and see if they're returning Place Pages.

Which phrases return Place Pages is likely to evolve over time, partially based on user demand. Also, from what I can see, English-speaking countries currently seem to be ahead of most other countries on implementation of this... but I could well be wrong. You need to check your own word space, and to assume it will evolve.
3:19 pm on Dec 21, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Okay, agian.... Thanks Robert, I can't say enough how much I appreciate the time you've spent on this with me.