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We're about to introduce a .com version of our website as well as a few additional ccTLD's and from what I've read, I'm unsure whether to be using a rel="alternate" tag or not.

The scenario:

  • We have a ccTLD (.co.za) domain for everything now
  • We are adding a .com as the main domain, but also introducing additional regional ccTLDs such as .co.uk
  • Our homepage shows a few products relevant to different geographical regions depending on your IP or the ccTLD specified.

Should everything 301 all ccTLD's to .com or is it better to let the user stay on the ccTLD?

If going the 301 route, will it have a bad impact on our existing .co.za reputation?

If they stay on the ccTLD, do we use a canonical or a rel="alternate" to indicate that .com is the main domain?

  • I don't usually recommend country code domains for language because of the expense and hassle of obtaining them. See: How should I structure my URLs for both SEO and localization? But if you got them, you might as well use them. – Stephen Ostermiller Jun 11 '17 at 10:04
  • These gTLD's are more for allowing different countries to feel like the site is local for them. It's not for different languages. – quijames Jun 11 '17 at 10:23
  • Google allows (even prefers) multiple duplicate sites for different countries of the same language. – Stephen Ostermiller Jun 11 '17 at 10:28
  • Okay great. So should the multiple duplicate sites have either of rel="alternate" or rel="canonical" in them? – quijames Jun 11 '17 at 11:03
  • Canonical would prevent Google from sending traffic to any other than the canonical one. You don't want that. I don't know about rel="alternate". I've never used hreflang myself. – Stephen Ostermiller Jun 11 '17 at 12:42
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Generally, in terms of SEO it's better to host everything under the same roof, but if you do want to provide more personal approach using specific country top level domains then you can, using alternative and hreflang.

If your content is English only then you need to specific en_XX, xx matching the ISO code of the country.

For example, if you wanted to target English people in Spain on your example.es domain, then you would use: <link rel="alternate" href="https://example.es/" hreflang="en-ES" />.

You may want to serve multiple English versions to various English countries such as AU, ZA, UK and so forth, this would look something like this:

<link rel="alternate" href="http://example.ie/" hreflang="en-ie" />
<link rel="alternate" href="http://example.ca/" hreflang="en-ca" />
<link rel="alternate" href="http://example.au/" hreflang="en-au" />
<link rel="alternate" href="http://example.com/" hreflang="en" />

The last one above is for English users not in Australia, Canada, and Ireland. You can find more out on Google's help page.

  • Thanks Simon. After reading several more sources and comparing to similar websites, our strategy will most likely be to use the hreflang's to indicate the regional variant sites. We will not use canonicals. Our only concern at this point is that the link juice from our historical ccTLD (.co.za) will not pass to the new .com or any of the other ccTLD's. – quijames Jun 13 '17 at 11:14

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