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I am taking SEO of our website to another level. I read a lot about it and study all aspects of how to properly handle multiple domains and languages. For now we use three domain names www.myurl.eu, www.myurl.de and www.myotherurl.com.

All sites were pointed to the same content on the same server. I have soon learned that having multiple domains is not a good practice (good reading regarding this: http://www.seo.com/blog/multiple-domains-seo/). OK I solved this as suggested by SEO and Google experts, to pick one primary domain and do a 301 permanent redirect from other domains! OK solved!

BUT! Then I attended on an technical SEO brief in UK, where a SEO guy was speaking about local search and how UK Google search will prefer .co.uk domains. And as it turns out he was correct. Also the link I have posted above there is also a paragraph regarding this:

Country Specific Domains

This is less of a tactic, and more of a “must do,” and is therefore my exception to multiple domains. It’s an exception because all of the problems above do not apply when you get into other countries. In fact, in order to have the best results in international SEO, you’ll need to have a country specific TLD (or top level domain). For example, if you’re doing business in England, you will have a hard time ranking without a .co.uk domain. You can still rank without a country level TLD, but it’s an uphill battle. And by uphill, I mean Rocky Mountains-type uphill.

Q1: So OK, to rank high for my business in UK I will need a www.myurl.co.uk. I have bought one. Now question that arises from this. Is a www.myurl.co.uk again a 301 redirect to my primary domain or not? How should I handle this?

Q2: Then there is a multilingual aspect of all this. My site is build in a way so Language sites are altered with an /lang/ code in url. Example:

  • www.myurl.eu/en/products -> english products site
  • www.myurl.eu/de/products -> same site in german
  • www.myotherurl.com/en/products -> 301 redirect to www.myurl.eu/en/products

So now what to do with my country specific domains www.myurl.co.uk and www.myurl.de? Should these be 301 redirects to main domains like www.myurl.co.uk -> www.myurl.eu/en/ and www.myurl.de -> www.myurl.eu/de/? Is this the right way to go with?

Q3: should I really go this way having separate country level domains in countries where I do business considering all my content is served from the same server? I also haven't seen let's say Apple or Microsoft having an apple.co.uk and so on? How important is this really?

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

I'm going to try and answer all three questions at once:

If you really want to "optimize" your domains then have each domain live, accessible (non-directed), hosted in their own counties, with their own carefully translated content based on the language of that country. Costly.

If you want to keep things as simple as possible (like Apple), then pick the .com domain, have the content for each country under a sub-folder (like /uk/ or /de/), redirect your purchased ccTLDs to those sub-folder, and if those countries have different languages in the country (like both english and german in Germany), offer that as a sub-folder too (like /de-en/). Once you've done that, set the country targeting in Google Webmaster Tools at a sub-folder level, and implement their hreflang attribute to point Googlebot at the right page that matches the searcher's query (by language and location).

More reading:

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Great answer Mike! I will go with the other way with sub-folder /uk/, /de/, etc and with redirected ccTLDs. If I go with the 'optimized' way it will be impossible for me to manage multiple servers and website instances... One question I have here. So having my ccTLDs redirected to appropriate sub-folder, will for example Google UK show my results as www.mysite.com/uk/products or www.mysyste.co.uk/products? Thanks again! –  Primoz Rome Feb 23 '12 at 12:43
    
Google UK will show the URL redirected to - in this case the www.mysite.com/uk/products URL. You need to factor the impact that this may have on your UK visitors perceptions... –  Mike Hudson Feb 24 '12 at 2:04
    
"You need to factor the impact that this may have on your UK visitors perceptions..." - what kind of impact are you talking about here Mike? –  Primoz Rome Feb 24 '12 at 14:56
    
A UK searcher may look at a .com TLD's relevancy as being less than a co.uk TLD. This is purely subjective, of course. With big name brands (like Apple) doing the .com way the impact is not as big as it might have once been before. –  Mike Hudson Feb 24 '12 at 22:34
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