At some point or another every website owner must decide what route they wish to take when rolling out their new or conversion domain strategy. There are two options to consider:
- Use multiple ccTLDs, or
- Group all international versions of a domain into one single domain
In terms of how these options can affect SEO, it’s not always the most beneficial to have multiple ccTLDs. Moving multiple ccTLDs to a shared gTLD is much more likely to positively impact your website’s SEO value. Continue reading below to unpack some of the other benefits of ccTLDs and gTLDs on both a small and large scale.
The most basic of website or domain extensions include, but are not limited to, .com, .net, and .org. These extensions are universally known as generic top-level domains, gTLDs. These extensions can be used for any website, as long as the website creator is using the extension within set requirements. To view the frequently asked questions on what the requirements are, click here. gTLDs also do not have a country or geographic designation as the primary focus and so can be used nationally and internationally.
While there are cheap gTLDs like .xyz and .top, it is not recommended to select these just to save a few dollars, as the search engines will often mark them as spam and not to show them to users. Although the licensing on a .com or .org will be more expensive, it is much more likely that your website will be seen.
ccTLDs have only two characters, opposed to the three characters in gTLDs. You may have seen the extensions .eu, .fr, .uk, and .cn listed or on websites before, but may have not known that these actually have a specific name and purpose. These extensions are called country-code top-level domains, better known as ccTLDs.
Each country has their own individual domain extension. All are managed by each individual country, except for Australia, whose domain extension is overseen by auDA, the policy authority and industry self-regulatory body for all .au domain names.
Some of the codes are restricted and can only be used by and for citizens of the specific country and/or region the extension is tied to, while others are used open-ended, universally, or changed, all depending on said region’s regulations.
ccTLDs are a simple way to show that your website is targeted at a specific country and is not necessarily intended for broad international designation. For example, you can know that a .fr extension is targeted for an audience in France, and not necessarily for an audience in Australia.
ccTLDs are beneficial for companies wanting to secure the country’s business name, attracting local markets, and the general broad availability of high traffic names in specific countries. If you are looking to register your ccTLD, 101domain is a great place to start, as they have country-based domains for the regions of Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Central America, Europe, and more. Given the fact that simple and punchy domain names are often already taken, it is recommended that you attempt to lock down a domain name as soon as you can after first conceiving of the idea you have for your website.
If you are interested in broadening your website from a national scale (ccTLD) to the international scene (gTLD), it is necessary that you weigh the pros and cons of different URL structures and domain extensions.
Downsides of ccTLDs
Even with a strong ccTLD, there are still some negatives. They include having to build up the authority of each individual domain, they could potentially be more expensive than a general gTLD. As well, some ccTLDs require the user to be affiliated with the country in order to access the website, which is not ideal when trying to reach a diverse market.
Some countries also have strict requirements for the use of ccTLDs, so they may take more time to obtain than a general gTLD. These requirements could have restrictions on the purchasing, renewing, and transferring of the code domain names.
Upsides of ccTLDs
For companies that are located in a specific country and are just directly regional, it will most likely be more beneficial for SEO to use a ccTLD, as you can locally target your users (but note: you can still target specific users while using gTLDS). Another positive of using ccTLDs is that you can bring out your creativity with the extension name. If you are a jeweler, let’s say Anthony’s, you can name your website Anthonys.diamonds or Anthonys.engagementrings, that way you can make the domain name simple, direct, and fun.
To see a list of all available ccTLDs, click here.
SEO should be the primary focus when deciding between gTLDs and ccTLDs. A search engine such as Google will always try to provide the best and most relevant content. Even if your website is being hit under a number of different ccTLDs, it does not necessarily mean that the search engine will accumulate those as several collective hits.
For international companies such as Apple, Amazon, Alibaba, and Berkshire Hathaway, it is more beneficial to have one domain extension, rather than several individual ccTLDs. For example, Apple.com will be more optimal for SEO searches than Apple.eu, Apple.uk, and Apple.au, as it is obvious that more traffic will go to a specific website than a bunch of individual ones.
Even while using a gTLD, you can still target specific users in a designated country by using Google Webmaster’s panel. Google Webmaster is a suite of Google’s SEO tools which provides data, analytics, and configuration control for your website within Google. It a free service that helps the website owner evaluate and maintain the performance of their website in Google’s search results. For more information on how to work with Webmaster, click here.
It should also be noted that it is not necessary to use Webmaster to appear in Google search results.
Google has made it very clear they do not intend to reward or provide extra ranking for new gTLDs, such as .cars, .attorney, .diamonds. They will continue to treat these gTLDs as typical, basic, and expected gTLDS, like .org and .com. Therefore, while there is no disadvantage of having these gTLDS, there is also no particular advantage.
It should also be noted that, while Google dominates the US market, Yahoo and Bing still have about a 6% search engine market share. In the Chinese market, Baidu dominates. In Russia, their number one search engine is Yandex.
If you are trying to build a global business, it’s more beneficial to build up all of your SEO on one global site, rather than trying to build up the individual SEO on sites for each country. However, if you are trying to build a regional business, it may be more beneficial to have a ccTLD as it indicates your target region.
It is recommended that you weigh the pros of cons of each domain extension, while also taking into account who your audience is, what your company’s goal is, how you plan to reach that goal, and if you plan to eventually expand from a regional market to an international market.
In a micro sense, this decision does not directly affect your consumers if your vision is set, but from a macro point of view, if there is any chance of growth, we recommend directly creating a gTLD.