Google’s John Mueller provided answers to the problem of whether to create international sections within an existing site or to build entirely new sites. I asked an international SEO his opinion on this matter and he shares insights on what he feels is the best course of action for SEO.
Use ccTLD for International Sites?
A person asked the question about the best way to expand internationally.
He explained that they have a strong search visibility presence in the United States but that they wanted to expand to other countries.
Because the main site is so strong there is a perception that the site could give a head start to international versions built within the dot com version of the site, since those versions would not be created on a non-established domain.
But there are many valid reasons for building new sites on domains that match the countries they are targeted toward.
These kinds of domains are like the .uk, .de and .jp and are called Country Code Top Level Domains (ccTLD).
Google’s John Mueller Discussing International SEO
The person asking the question related his situation:
“…we are starting to build out into Canada and UK. And we are kind of at a crossroads today.
Should we go ccTLDs or keep it under just the dot com?
We are a real estate company so our pages are pretty location-specific.
We’re probably going to end up in about a dozen countries…
So may thought process is being able to take advantage of being able to target locally in Search Console with the ccTLDs, where I can’t do that with the global dot com.
…So I was just wondering, is there an advantage
of going one way or the other? Or is it easier for Google one way or the other?”
Multiple Considerations for International Business Expansion
Google’s John Mueller answered with no hesitation that there are multiple considerations and then listed those considerations.
“I think there are multiple things that come into play.
One is probably also the aspect of having multiple sites versus having one really strong website… If you’re talking about a dozen different locations, maybe that’s less of an issue. Maybe that’s something that works out.
The other thing is with geotargeting, we do use that when we recognize that people are looking for something local.
So either way that you go, I would try to make sure that we can figure out what geotargeting to use for the website.
And ccTLDs is super obvious. So that’s I think a good approach.
- Subdomains is an option.
- Subdirectories would be an option.”
URL Parameters for Indicating Different International Sections
John next discussed what not to do, calling out the use of URL parameters to indicate the country a section is targeted towards.
“What I wouldn’t do is just kind of use URL parameters or something like that where it’s like, well you have your main global website and you can search for an individual country. And then somewhere in the URL that country is also mentioned.
Because that would essentially mean that we can’t do geotargeting at all for the website.”
International Expansion May Depend on Marketing Strategy
Mueller next suggested that a way to answer which way to go is to think about what the choice will mean for the consumer, how the company may be perceived by the locally targeted audience.
The person asking the question mentions that the US site 40 million pages and that the Canadian site would have about 500,000 pages. He also mentioned that because the content is so location-specific, only 5% of pages have a one to one match between the U.S. and Canadian versions.
“…I think from a technical point of view, they would all be kind of equivalent. It might be that kind of from an SEO ranking point of view you could have some advantages by kind of building on your existing domain.
But I think it also depends on a little bit on what your marketing goals are.
If you want to really position these as like, we’re the real estate company for Canada, then you kind of want to have your own domain.
If you want to position it as like, we’re a global company and we also do Canada, then having that within your existing domain might be okay.
So I think from a technical point of view, like all of these options are open. Which way you go is kind of almost like a strategic decision.”
SEO Considerations for Expanding to New Countries
I asked Michael Bonfils (LinkedIn profile), a highly regarded International SEO expert, what his thoughts are about the pros and cons of expanding internationally on an existing site or with ccTLDs. I asked Michael because he has extensive experience working within the Internet industry since the mid-90’s.
Michael said that building the site on a dot com is a viable approach, especially because of Google’s excellent ability to use the hreflang attribute to understand language a web document is targeting. But he also shared reasons why the ccTLD might be preferable.
Michael shared the following insights:
“Technically, with a dot com and excellent hreflang setup vs a ccTLD, both are good and both will rank.
With the technical advancement of Google’s algo, I wouldn’t be surprised if priority is given these days to the dot com with a the solid hreflang attributed directory structure because of its mass global link flow.”
He set aside considerations related to Google and next moved on to considerations related to how consumers will react, which ultimately decides whether a strategy is successful or not.
“However, I tend to lean toward and advocate for a proper ccTLD.
A ccTLD often promotes consumer trust, therefore engagement will improve.
For example, German consumers can be wary of buying anything non-German. This makes it difficult for companies with a non-German specific presence to compete.
Not only do you have to prove you have better quality than an equivalent German company, you can’t risk diminishing trust signals by not getting a German ccTLD.
In the example of an expansion into the German market, you want to be local as can be and as German as can be.
International Expansion and Links
“It’s much easier to earn links for the publisher using a ccTLD than a .com/germany/. Using the ccTLD increases the likelihood of a link.
So technically, its easier with hreflang and technically, you can still rank and compete.
But keep in mind the goals of conversions and usability, building trust in the site visitors and gaining traction in an international market.”
Build Separate Sites When Expanding Internationally?
Watch at 20:20 minute mark in the video
5 Easy Ways to Building a Solid SEO Content Strategy
You are stuck in a maze and you’ve tried every possible turn but there is no way out.
This is what our brains feel like sometimes and if you haven’t tried banging your head against the keyboard out of frustration with your content strategy, you have no business reading this.
Yes, even I have those days when getting the mix of SEO and the client’s technical writing desires in your content strategy seems like an unsolvable puzzle.
So here are 5 things to keep close when planning your content strategy so you don’t ever have to damage your keyboard again. You will rank and you will also provide the best possible content to your client and your readers – win, win and win.
The Importance of a Strong SEO Content Strategy
Before anything else, it’s important to acknowledge that quality content is one of the defining components of an SEO strategy. Great content paired with SEO efforts has always been the backbone of any successful campaign. Regardless of other standard SEO practices- if your content isn’t good enough for Google, then your website isn’t good enough to rank.
Ways of Setting Up An Effective SEO Content Strategy
Do Keyword Research Above All Else
Keyword research is like the egg to your omelet- all your ingredients won’t come together without it. Never start building your SEO content strategy without gathering your keywords first. Your keywords will be the foundation of any type of content that you’ll be publishing to your web pages. It’s important to keep in mind these guidelines when doing your keyword research:
- Use keywords that acknowledge your target audience
- Ensure keyword relevancy to your website
- Understand the search intent of each keyword in the list
- Only consider keywords that have good monthly search volume
Learn more about the latest keyword research practices!
Identify Website SEO Content Opportunities
It’s a fairly general SEO practice to commit all your content publications as blogs for your website. While this particular SEO content strategy proves to still be very effective in attracting website traffic- wouldn’t it be ideal if you could attract THAT traffic straight to pages that have higher possibilities to convert?
Imagine an e-commerce site with a web page that purely displays product listings as its content.
By including a frequently asked questions (FAQ) type of information, we allow that page to target SEO-friendly keywords increasing the chances for it to have a strong online presence.
This is an example of an “SEO content opportunity” on your website. Instead of simply publishing blog articles, you can direct your writing efforts to pages where there’s an opportunity to target a keyword.
You can mainly identify these SEO content opportunities by analyzing search results and identifying what type of pages are ranking. For example- when searching for the term electric scooter, the search result returns product listings. Therefore, there’s a higher chance of ranking a page that mainly displays products. Which makes it a good target for additional content.
Keep Your Content Human
Build your content for users.
The rising popularity of AI-written content allowed web pages to rank high within search results. This led to unnaturally written articles being presented to users. As a result, Google continues to release algorithm updates that punish these pages’ rankings.
It is very important to note in your SEO content strategy how the articles should be written. Always bear in mind to present information in a way that’s digestible and easily understood by readers. Not only will this help keep Google’s eyes away from you, but it will also increase user retention.
Acknowledge Your Competitor’s Content Strategy
In any card game, there’s a benefit to knowing what hand are your opponents playing. The same concept applies when building your SEO Content Strategy. Your competitors have done the work, so why not learn from them?
Noting your competition’s implementation of content in web pages, topics they publish in their blogs, and how they’re structuring their content can give you an idea of how can you improve your own content strategy.
The tool that I mainly use to gauge my competition is SE Ranking’s competitive research tool.
This allows me to see what organic keywords are they using on their website, in addition to manually browsing through their content.
Optimize As Much As Needed
Let’s assume that you’ve already started publishing your content- the only way to maintain and improve its quality is to perform regular on-page SEO optimizations. Not only can it serve as the solution to ranking changes, but it also allows you to be flexible in the content you have on your website.
Here are some of the things that you should consider when performing on-page SEO optimizations:
- Maintain the quality of the SEO factors being implemented in your pages by ensuring proper keyword usage in SEO factors such as title tags, meta descriptions, headings, and the like.
- Look for opportunities to improve/update existing content- such as enhancing keyword usage and content comprehension.
- Point out and correct any existing UI/UX issues to improve the visitor experience
- Ensure proper indexing practices such as appropriate robots and sitemap implementations that guarantee website visibility.
There are honestly a lot of ways that you can approach your website’s content. But instead of overloading yourself with information, learning these 5 ways of building a solid SEO content strategy can allow you to focus on the basics. Only then can you start applying other SEO practices that can help you formulate a successful SEO campaign.
If you want to learn more about content marketing, check out our guide on how to write your content!