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Imagine a company selling software internationally. The software is the same, but it's mainly for people living in a few different countries and the features are different for each country. There will be a localized website for each country explaining exactly what the software offers in this specific country.

My question is what would be the best setup of ccTLD and gTLD when providing a general software with local features for specific countries?

Proposed solution:

Subdomain for target country using ISO 3166-1 alfa-2: Use company.io os gTLD (treated as gTLD by Google). Have ccTLD's like company.au, company.de, company.se and so on. These redirect to au.company.io. de.company.io, se.company.io and so on. The subdomain is thus the target country formatted as ISO 3166-1 alfa-2. Should this be a 301 http redirect or a domain redirect?

Subfolders for site language using ISO 639-1: People visiting the German site de.company.io migh wish to read the site in German or in English. This we can use subfolders for: de.company.io/de and de.company.io/en

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At the end of the day it comes down mostly to preference and what will work best for you and be the most intuitive for your customers.

Your strategy for procuring domain names seems well thought out although if available the .com gTLD would be preferable. However rather than redirecting these to subdomains of your main website I would recommend hosting each individual region-specific site on its own ccTLD domain. Websites with the ccTLD that is for the country of the end-users when they search in Google/Bing etc will be placed higher in the results as deemed to be more relevant. Redirecting would not get your sites this benefit.

Additionally if you intend to use language codes as subfolders, then to use country codes as subdomains at the same time may confuse users as subdomains are also often used as language specifiers. For English language on the Germany-specific website you could use www.company.de/en/, and for German language on the English-specific website you could use www.company.co.uk/de/ etc. Furthermore if you are on the German language Germany-specific website it would be better to use www.company.de/ rather than www.company.de/de/ or de.company.io/de/ since duplication in the URL is confusing to end-users and unnecessary.

Your main website could feature content that applies to all versions of the software, and all versions of your website could feature a menu selector where users can choose their region/country (perhaps with a flag dropdown or selecting a region on a map).

It's more work to maintain separate websites this way, but for SEO you will see the benefit as using the ccTLD's where appropriate will gain the geo targetting bonus. Folders are often used for language variants because they inherit the "domain authority", but this does not apply to subdomains, and since you need language and country parameters ccTLD's seems the obvious choice so as to avoid www.company.io/de/de/. Over time your ccTLDs would also benefit from their own domain authority.

Helpful reading: Moz.com: Folders vs Subdomains vs ccTLD in International SEO

  • I would appear that this comes down price (extra price for more domains) and time (keeping a number of websites alive) compared to maintaining just one domain with subfolders in correct language format. Thank you. – user3390352 Jun 12 '17 at 13:37
  • While cost and time are important factors, its always prudent to think more long term and plan for implementing the most appropriate solution if you can, even if this means it can't do everything from day one and some functionality is added later. Perceived cost and time savings in the short term usually leads to an eventual much greater cost and time taken in making substantial changes to address customer-centric issues and SEO issues which would directly affect sales. Changing things later always takes long and costs more so try to plan and get your setup right first time if you can. – richhallstoke Jun 15 '17 at 18:48

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