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I'm part of a business based in Western Australia, for example, Online Training Western Australia, currently operating a website on onlinetrainingwa.com.au. Our original goal was to provide the service to Western Australian customers only, and thought it would make good sense from an SEO perspective to name the business similarly to the search terms potential customers would be entering to find services like ours, hence the name Online Training Western Australia. This strategy has proven quite effective.

We are now considering the prospect of expanding the services to other states within Australia, and I am wondering what the best strategy would be for this moving forward as far as domains and websites go. I'd imagine, ideally, we would get a more generic, location-unspecific domain (perhaps: onlinetraining.com.au), and then have sub-directory pages for each state from there.

E.g:

  • onlinetraining.com.au
  • onlinetraining.com.au/wa/
  • onlinetraining.com.au/nsw/
  • onlinetraining.com.au/qld/
  • etc.

OR

  • onlinetraining.com.au
  • onlinetraining.com.au/locations/
  • onlinetraining.com.au/locations/wa/
  • onlinetraining.com.au/locations/nsw/
  • onlinetraining.com.au/locations/qld/
  • etc.

The above strategy makes sense in respect to the associated domain and infrastructure costs, however, no such location-unspecific versions of our domain are available. It's for this reason, the option of simply purchasing domain variations for each state appears to be a potential solution.

  • onlinetrainingwa.com.au
  • onlinetrainingnsw.com.au
  • onlinetrainingqld.com.au
  • etc.

The modularity and segregation of the above example is not necessarily an issue for us, however, I was hoping to find out more about what the pros and cons of the above methods would be in this situation. I've read plenty of posts relating to localisation on a country-by-country level (and therefore involving translations etc.), like this one: How should I structure my URLs for both SEO and localization?.

Are there any major caveats that would cause the option of purchasing a location-specific domain for each serviceable state to be a bad idea?

Any help would be much appreciated.
Thanks

  • See the pros and cons listed in the table at the bottom of this Google help doc: Managing multi-regional and multilingual sites – dan Oct 15 '18 at 6:32
  • @dan Thanks for your response. I have seen the Google help documentation you linked, but I don't think it's quite the same situation. The scenario in the help documentation is a site covering users in more than country (and therefore more than one language). There are commonly-accepted protocols in place to cater for these multi-national sites, which search engines use to serve the best version of the content to a user. In my case however, I am not trying to serve different versions of the same content based on the end-users state. I want search engines and users to treat the content as unique – slehmann36 Oct 15 '18 at 7:31
  • That's why I pointed to the pros and cons in the table, which still apply. For example, the cons for using different domains are: Expensive (can have limited availability), Requires more infrastructure, Strict ccTLD requirements (sometimes). The pros for using subdirectories are: Easy to set up, Low maintenance and doesn't require multiple Google Search Console and Analytic properties... Every time you add a domain, you're doubling your development, maintenance, tracking, and marketing efforts. – dan Oct 15 '18 at 7:43
  • 1
    @dan I see. Fair enough. Thanks for the clarification. – slehmann36 Oct 15 '18 at 7:48
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SEO vs CTR vs Usability

Duplicate Content & Canonicalization

onlinetrainingqld.com.au etc would never be good unless everything about the content is different. Your keywords would be dissolved between each domain and you'd have to employ some pretty rigorous canonicalization to prevent harming your search results, not to mention the extra effort of managing multiple domains.

Page Depth & Pillar Pages

In some search engines the higher the page depth, the more prominence it has, but not in Google.

However, for usability, you might do better if you eliminate the Pillar Page location.

While Pillar Pages are important for many topics, geo-targeting isn't one of them, not unless there is a reason to have a location-based Piller Page, such as a travel website.

If a Piller Page is not required and is one step too many for people, this could harm your CTR. But on the other hand, it's could be a good place to add in some extra geo-targeted keywords.

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What Does Microsoft Do?

Personally, I would go with onlinetraining.com.au/qld/ for your business like Microsoft do for their site https://www.microsoft.com/en-au, but either isn't going to have a massive difference for SEO, but debatably could for your CTR.

  • I'm not sure that modeling after sites that separate by country is going to give the best results. Google has long supported separate sites for separate countries, however I don't think it supports different sites per state in any way at all. For separate country URLs, there are at least three ways to do it. Separate domains are just fine and many big companies (including Google) do that. See How should I structure my URLs for both SEO and localization? – Stephen Ostermiller Oct 15 '18 at 10:29
  • The example was to show how not having a Pillar Page adding to the url depth was often preferred when geo-targeting if you don't need to have content in a geo-specific Pillar Page. If the example above was about targeting different countries, I would recommend country specific domains such as onlinetraining.de etc etc but not to target states, that makes no sense. – Invariant Change Oct 15 '18 at 10:42
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Use this:

onlinetraining.com.au
onlinetraining.com.au/wa/
onlinetraining.com.au/nsw/
onlinetraining.com.au/qld/
etc...

This is much better since you'll be adding information, location, and services in your website URLs and gain more authority.

If instead you use many different domains, that will be like many different websites, and if you start to link to each other, those links will not add any weight to your SEO.

To underscore the location, create a page for /location/version completely dedicated to describe the state/area.

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