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How Do I Structure A Global Site With Country-Specific Content?

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How Do I Structure A Global Site With Country-Specific Content?

This Ask an SEO question comes from Dan from Melbourne, who wrote in:

“What is the best site structure for a content/news-based website that wants to be international but also country-specific?

E.g., You want some content to be shared to the U.S., U.K., Australia, Hong Kong, and Singapore, but then some separate content that is mainly for U.K. or Australia.

Is it best to have main domain level site (.com) for global content and then also use sub-directories (.com/au/ or .com/gb/) for country-specific?

Do you also then have a separate home page for each country?”

Hey Dan, the good thing about this question is there is truly no wrong answer.

While international-based websites might be confusing and expensive to implement, you generally have the freedom to go about it however you feel best.

Occam’s Razor applies more than we like to think when it comes to SEO.

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So yes, to answer your question, I think that’s the simplest approach, though it depends on the type of content you produce.

For example, suppose you’re uploading international news stories in English that will be read across the globe.

In that case, having a generic top-level domain (gTLD) will be the best route with subdirectories for each separate country you wish to target.

However, if you want to create localized content and appeal to specific audiences in different countries, then there are perks to using ccTLDs and subdomains, which I think warrant discussion.

Which URL Structure Is Right For Me?

Ultimately, I think two options will best suit your website, so the choice is up to you of which you think is best for your news organization.

gTLDs With Country-Specific Subdirectories

If you use a blend of international and localized content, investing in a top-level domain with subdirectories for different countries would be the easiest option.

Each country-specific landing page could have its own unique landing page with limited navigation that deals with specific content to that country, such as .com/au or .com/uk.

The benefits of this approach are that it’s incredibly easy to set up, and all domain authority will be shared across your entire website. Additionally, you could have the same team managing your local and broad-focused content.

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Unfortunately, there are two drawbacks to this approach.

First, your subdirectories won’t have as much local feel, which could slightly impact UX.

However, the bigger concern is that your website architecture could become messy, especially if each subdirectory has its own navigation categories.

For example, many news organizations often feature top-level navigation bars that deal with specific issues related to that country.

Take this basic website structure from CNN as an example:

Image from CNN, May 2022be careful that all content falls under the URL structure

Be careful that all content falls under the URL structure: https://example.com/us/newsstory and not separate subdirectories within your country-specific subdirectory, like https://example.com/us/covid19/newsstory.

This will help you avoid navigation issues and make your website more manageable.

Benefits

  • Easiest to implement.
  • CMSs offer easy multilingual management.
  • Minimal upfront costs.
  • Easy navigation.
  • Link equity is shared across domain.

Localizing Content With Subdomains

On the other hand, if your primary focus is on localized content, and that’s where you want to dive in, then hosting regional webpages on subdomains may be a good option.

Ideally, you would have a broad gTLD with international-based content for your parent brand.

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Then, you could create subdomains for specific countries that appeal to that demographic audience.

So your gTLD might be an English-speaking news site that people from the EU, AUS, and US could enjoy (if that’s your primary audience), while you might host a separate domain for each of these countries if you were dealing with specific topics related to that country.

Unfortunately, there are many drawbacks to this approach.

  • Hosting content on separate domains could be challenging to organize.
  • Subdomains cost more to implement than subfolders.
  • Branding could be difficult to maintain if multiple teams work on your website.
  • Link equity will not spread evenly across your domain.

However, if you have separate teams that work on content for specific regions worldwide, there is a strong case for hosting location-specific content on a subdomain.

Benefits

  • Localized UX.
  • More efficient geotargeting.
  • Content is more organized by region.

Extra Considerations

Language vs. Geotargeting

Now, a lot of what we’ve discussed so far primarily focuses on geotargeting for specific countries/regions.

However, what happens if these countries have a large population of multi-lingual speakers? How do we optimize for that?

For example, what if you’re writing international news stories in English but want to create the same article in Spanish and feature it on your homepage?

Whether using a subdomain or gTLD, you can implement hreflang tags to help you create multilingual content for both broad and local topics.

A basic hreflang tag is an HTML tag, such as <html lang=”en”> and signifies that the web page is written in a specific language to search engines.

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So if you wanted to create content in English for people in France, you would add a tag like this in the head of your HTML:

<link rel=”alternate” href=”https://fr.example.com” hreflang=”fr-fr” />

There are several ways to implement hreflang tags for multilingual speakers in different countries, but the easiest method is to create a folder with all of your hreflang tags and submit them in an XML sitemap.

Keyword Research

Clearly, your website will not encompass every country and language.

So, before you spend dozens of hours setting up a new subdomain, implementing hreflang tags, and hiring multilingual content creators, you need to research and determine which countries are worth targeting.

International keyword research is a great strategy to discover which markets will have the most engagement with your website. For example, Semrush provides tools that allow me to filter keyword trends and results by country in English:

research and determine which countries are worth targetingScreenshot from Semrush, May 2022research and determine which countries are worth targeting

Additionally, tools like this provide me with a baseline of the global volume for each keyword.

Similarly, you could conduct the same keyword research in different languages to identify which countries have the most engagement in Spanish or German.

Since your website is focused on news and current events, your research will differ a little bit.

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However, conducting keyword and competitive research using tools like Semrush, Ahrefs, and Google Ads can provide a good idea of which countries/languages will be the most profitable investment.

Content And Translation

Finally, if your website focuses on regional content, you’ll need to invest in local content creators to provide visitors with an authentic news experience.

Hire translators and avoid using translator tools as much as possible. Furthermore, try to make your subdomain or subdirectory as unique to that country as possible.

Ultimately, this might involve handing off management of certain parts of your domain to separate individuals and teams to manage region-specific content.

Final Notes

Deciding between a subdomain or subdirectory comes down to your primary business objectives.

While considerations like link equity and backlinks are important, the decision should depend on which approach will yield the best traffic flow and engagement, especially since you are a news-based/blogging website.

Additionally, no matter what strategy you take, you’ll need to incorporate other factors, such as hreflang tags and hiring local content creators to make your content appeal to as wide of an audience as possible.

More resources:

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Featured Image: suphakit73/Shutterstock

Editor’s note: Ask an SEO is a weekly SEO advice column written by some of the industry’s top SEO experts, who have been hand-picked by Search Engine Journal. Got a question about SEO? Fill out our form. You might see your answer in the next #AskanSEO post!

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SEO

How We Used a Video Course to Promote Ahrefs (And Got 500K+ Views)

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How We Used a Video Course to Promote Ahrefs (And Got 500K+ Views)

Creating and selling educational courses can be a lucrative business. But if you already have a product to sell, you can actually use courses as a marketing tool.

Back in 2017, about two years after joining Ahrefs, I decided to create a course on content marketing.

I had a very clear understanding of how an educational course would help me promote Ahrefs.

  • People like courses – Folks like Brian Dean and Glen Allsopp were selling theirs for $500 to $2,000 a pop (and rather successfully). So a free course of comparable quality was sure to get attention.
  • Courses allow for a deeper connection – You would basically be spending a few hours one on one with your students. And if you managed to win their trust, you’d get an opportunity to promote your product to them.

That was my raw thought process going into this venture.

And I absolutely didn’t expect that the lifespan of my course would be as interesting and nuanced as it turned out to be.

The lessons of my course have generated over 500K+ in total views, brought in mid-five-figures in revenue (without even trying), and turned out to be a very helpful resource for our various marketing purposes.

So here goes the story of my “Blogging for Business” course.

1. The creation

I won’t give you any tips on how to create a successful course (well, maybe just one). There are plenty of resources (courses?) on that topic already.

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All I want to say is that my own experience was quite grueling.

The 10 lessons of my course span some 40K words. I have never attempted the feat of writing a book, but I imagine creating such a lengthy course is as close as it gets.

Scripts of the course in Google Docs.

I spent a tremendous amount of time polishing each lesson. The course was going to be free, so it was critical that my content was riveting. If not, people would just bounce from it.

Paid courses are quite different in that sense. You pay money to watch them. So even if the content is boring at times, you’ll persevere anyway to ensure a return on your investment.

When I showed the draft version of the course to my friend, Ali Mese, he gave me a simple yet invaluable tip: “Break your lessons into smaller ones. Make each just three to four minutes long.”

How did I not think of this myself? 

Short, “snackable” lessons provide a better sense of completion and progress. You’re also more likely to finish a short lesson without getting distracted by something. 

I’m pretty sure that it is because of this simple tip that my course landed this Netflix comparison (i.e., best compliment ever):

2. The strategy

With the prices of similar courses ranging from $500 to $2,000, it was really tempting to make some profit with ours.

I think we had around 15,000 paying customers at Ahrefs at that time (and many more on the free plan). So if just 1% of them bought that course for $1K, that would be an easy $150K to pocket. And then we could keep upselling it to our future customers.

Alternatively, we thought about giving access to the course to our paying customers only. 

This might have boosted our sales, since the course was a cool addition to the Ahrefs subscription. 

And it could also improve user retention. The course was a great training resource for new employees, which our customers would lose access to if they canceled their Ahrefs subscription.

And yet, releasing it for free as a lead acquisition and lead nurturing play seemed to make a lot more sense than the other two options. So we stuck to that.

3. The waitlist

Teasing something to people before you let them get it seems like one of the fundamental rules of marketing.

  • Apple announces new products way before they’re available in stores. 
  • Movie studios publish trailers of upcoming movies months (sometimes years) before they hit the theaters. 
  • When you have a surprise for your significant other (or your kids), you can’t help but give them some hints before the reveal.

There’s something about “the wait” and the anticipation that we humans just love to experience.

So while I was toiling away and putting lessons of my course together, we launched a landing page to announce it and collect people’s emails.

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The landing page of the course.

In case someone hesitated to leave their email, we had two cool bonuses to nudge them:

  1. Access to the private Slack community
  2. Free two-week trial of Ahrefs

The latter appealed to freebie lovers so much that it soon “leaked” to Reddit and BlackHatWorld. In hindsight, this leak was actually a nice (unplanned) promo for the course.

4. The promotion

I don’t remember our exact promotion strategy. But I’m pretty sure it went something like this:

I also added a little “sharing loop” to the welcome email. I asked people to tell their friends about the course, justifying it with the fact that taking the course with others was more fun than doing it alone.

Welcome email with a "sharing loop."

I have no idea how effective that “growth hack” was, but there was no reason not to encourage sharing.

In total, we managed to get some 16,000 people on our waitlist by the day of the course launch.

5. The launch

On a set date, the following email went out to our waitlist:

Course launch email.

Did you notice the “note” saying that the videos were only available for free for 30 days? We did that to nudge people to watch them as soon as possible and not save them to the “Watch later” folder.

In retrospect, I wish we had used this angle from the very beginning: “FREE for 30 days. Then $799.”

This would’ve killed two birds with one stone: 

  1. Added an urgency to complete the course as soon as possible
  2. Made the course more desirable by assigning a specific (and rather high) monetary value to it

(If only we could be as smart about predicting the future as we are about reflecting on the past.) 

Once it was live, the course started to promote itself. I was seeing many super flattering tweets:

We then took the most prominent of those tweets and featured them on the course landing page for some social proof. (They’re still there, by the way.)

6. The paywall

Once the 30 days of free access ran out, we added a $799 paywall. And it didn’t take long for the first sale to arrive:

This early luck didn’t push us to focus on selling this course, though. We didn’t invest any effort into promoting it. It was just sitting passively in our Academy with a $799 price tag, and that was it.

And yet, despite the lack of promotion, that course was generating 8-10 sales every month—which were mostly coming from word of mouth.

A comment in TrafficThinkTank.
Eric Siu giving a shout-out about my course in TTT Slack.

Thanks to its hefty price, my course soon appeared on some popular websites with pirated courses. And we were actually glad that it did. Because that meant more people would learn about our content and product.

Then some people who were “late to the party” started asking me if I was ever going to reopen the course for free again. This actually seemed like a perfectly reasonable strategy at the time:

7. The giveaways

That $799 price tag also turned my free course into a pretty useful marketing tool. It was a perfect gift for all sorts of giveaways on Twitter, on podcasts, during live talks, and so on.

Giving away the course during a live talk.
Me giving away the course during a live talk.

And whenever we partnered with someone, they were super happy to get a few licenses of the course, which they could give out to their audience.

8. The relaunch

Despite my original plan to update and relaunch this course once a year, I got buried under other work and didn’t manage to find time for it.

And then the pandemic hit. 

That’s when we noticed a cool trend. Many companies were providing free access to their premium educational materials. This was done to support the “stay at home” narrative and help people learn new skills.

I think it was SQ who suggested that we should jump on that train with my “Blogging for Business” course. And so we did:

We couldn’t have hoped for a better timing for that relaunch. The buzz was absolutely insane. The announcement tweet alone has generated a staggering 278K+ impressions (not without some paid boosts, of course).

The statistics of the course announcement tweet.

We also went ahead and reposted that course on ProductHunt once again (because why not?).

All in all, that relaunch turned out to be even more successful than the original launch itself. 

In the course of their lifespan on Wistia, the 40 video lessons of my course generated a total of 372K plays.

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Play count from Wistia.

And this isn’t even the end of it.

9. The launch on YouTube

Because the course was now free, it no longer made sense to host it at Wistia. So we uploaded all lessons to YouTube and made them public.

To date, the 41 videos of my course have generated about 187K views on YouTube.

"Blogging for Business" course playlist.

It’s fair to mention that we had around 200,000 subscribers on our channel at the time of publishing my course there. A brand-new channel with no existing subscribers will likely generate fewer views.

10. The relaunch on YouTube [coming soon]

Here’s an interesting observation that both Sam and I made at around the same time. 

Many people were publishing their courses on YouTube as a single video spanning a few hours rather than cutting them into individual lessons like we did. And those long videos were generating millions of views!

Like these two, ranking at the top for “learn Python course,” which have 33M and 27M views, respectively:

"Learn python course" search on YouTube.

So we decided to run a test with Sam’s “SEO for Beginners” course. It was originally published on YouTube as 14 standalone video lessons and generated a total of 140K views.

Well, the “single video” version of that same course has blown it out of the water with over 1M views as of today.

I’m sure you can already tell where I’m going with this.

We’re soon going to republish my “Blogging for Business” course on YouTube as a single video. And hopefully, it will perform just as well.

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The end

So that’s the story of my “Blogging for Business” course. From the very beginning, it was planned as a promotional tool for Ahrefs. And judging by its performance, I guess it fulfilled its purpose rather successfully.

A screenshot of a Slack message.

Don’t get me wrong, though. 

The fact that my course was conceived as a promotional tool doesn’t mean that I didn’t pour my heart and soul into it. It was a perfectly genuine and honest attempt to create a super useful educational resource for content marketing newbies.

And I’m still hoping to work on the 2.0 version of it someday. In the past four years, I have accrued quite a bit more content marketing knowledge that I’m keen to share with everyone. So follow me on Twitter, and stay tuned.



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