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Greetings from Austria!

My Problem: I have an .com-domain I would like to rank in the german, austrian and swiss Google, since those are our target markets. The website itself is in german.

From my experience with an .at-domain I found that it is quite hard to rank in a country for which you dont use a cTLD or target it via webmaster-tools.

So i had the plan to use WPML (its a Wordpress-Site) to make three versions:
.com/de .com/at .com/ch

and target each to the respective country via the Webmaster-Tools.

How to do that via WPML is clear, but 3 questions arose:

  1. If every user is redirected to his subfolder, what happens to the "pure" .com-domain? Does it then disappear after a while in the SERPs, since every country has its own page?
  2. Is it possible to geotarget the pure .com to Austria and /de and /ch Subfolders to other countries? Or does geotargeting of a domain overwrite the targeting of the subfolders?
  3. Some people say that its not useful to do this at all. But I did not had the basic idea out of nowhere. On many sites (like Yoast I read that this would be a smart idea to have a site for every country). Any ideas on this topic?

Greetings Markus

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  1. If there's no content or unpopular content on the .com, it will simply be lower in the SERPs. It won't be deindexed but if you've done a good job the relevant Home page for that search region will appear instead.
  2. Yes. Use HREF lang codes, embedded in the page and/or on the sitemap you submit. Whichever page you indicate is appropriate will be more likely to appear in the search engine.
  3. It depends. If you're using identical content for all 3 then you're wasting your time. Just attempt to rank the same page in all countries, you'll get more SEO benefit from aggregating the links. If you've changed them to better match the region by using local variations in the language, then yes separate them. Ignore SEO in this circumstance and focus on User Experience. As long as your language codes are in place that's going to be more important focus.
  • So just to clarifiy 2 and 3 2. I CAN target the basic .com to Austria in the WMT and .com/de and .com/ch to their respective country? 3. I should at least alter SOME content on the other versions? I can actually do that (may be a nice experience for the user to feel like this page is specifically for germans). My main idea in the beginning was that in my experience Google is not that good in realising that a page is directed to a certain country without telling it this.. Thanks for your help! – Markus Apr 6 '17 at 20:37
  • 2. Yes. As long as the HREFlang codes indicate this, that's fine. It's not as easy as other methods but will allow you to build reach on search engines faster. 3. Content duplicated is pointless - just target multiple countries with the same page and a general language code. But if you can change it to be better adapted to each market, it's a win-win on both SEO and user experience. – L Martin Apr 7 '17 at 11:51

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