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We have multiple ccTLDomains and are thinking about how to best combine these into one. We want to do this to focus our link building efforts.

We are running a website through which we offer a software-as-a-service. Therefore we could potentially sell to any country in the world. However, Germany is our most important market. We currently have a .com, .de, .nl. and .pl domain. All these domains have a high amount of unique content pages.

What we are planning is to change everything to .com with language-based subdirectories, so .com/en/, .com/de/, etc.

I have two questions concerning this issue:

  1. How much of an advantage does a ccTLD have over a gTLD with country specific subdirectories in search rankings? So let’s say .de versus .com/de/?
  2. How could we best redirect the visitors of our old ccTLD’s to our gTLD’s subdirectories? We would like to looe as few search engine rankings as possible.
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  1. There is some advantage in a ccTLD as search engines like Google use them as a geotargeting signal. So .de is by definition intended for Germany, whereas a gTLD with a section intended for Germany, e.g., .com/de/, does not by itself contain such intrinsic geotargeting information.

    The precise degree of advantage conferred by a ccTLD is open to debate, however the fact that Google describe them on the previously linked page as a "strong signal to both users and search engines that your site is explicitly intended for a certain country" is to me sufficient to consider ccTLDs as a preferred option where geotargeting is a concern.

  2. 301 permanent redirects. This is covered in detail elsewhere so I won't repeat that; but the essence, however, is that this method of server redirection provides a seamless user expreience and the best possibilities for preserving your existing SEO value (i.e., PageRank, backlinks, etc.).

    Wherever possible, redirect on a 1:1, page-by-page basis (rather than in batches). If you're dealing with very large numbers of pages, I recommend doing some analytic research to prioritise content for 1:1 redirection and use batch redirects for the rest.

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