How to choose an International Domain Structure

how to choose a domain nameIt’s easy to forget, when selling on marketplaces, that localisation for your website involves a lot more thought than localisation for your marketplace listings.

For a marketplace listing you translate, you map item specifics and then change the currency and postage methods. For your own website there’s so much more to think about including something as basic as the URL structure.

Following on from our post on “How to choose a blog post URL structure“, I’ve been reading Translate Media and Smart Insights “Guide to Website Localisation” ebook which I can heartily recommend and there’s a section on URLs. The main options are:

Subdirectories

example.com/en/, example.com/fr/ etc.

In this instance you use your main .com URL and add a subdirectory in for each country. essentially this keeps the Google juice pointing at your main .com domain but there disadvantages. You’ll need to instruct search engines that this is a country specific area of your site for targeting and of course you only have one server so can’t locate country sites geographically close to users which could result in slower performance.

Country Sites

example.co.uk, example.fr etc.

With separate country sites you can locate a server in the countries you’re operating in which can reduce latency for users, but costs can mount quickly in domain and server costs as you add more territories.

This is the format eBay and Amazon both use.

Subdomains

en/example.com, fr.example.com

It is possible to locate subdomains on different servers, but you do lose the advantage of any domain authority between subdomains. SEO on your main site won’t flow down to the country sites in the way that it would for subdirectories.

Query string

example.com?lang=en, example.com?lang=fr

This method is more complex to set up, doesn’t allow you to host your country specific servers in different geographic locations and makes it hard for search engines to crawl your site. Twitter uses this structure though so it’s not entirely unheard of.

Which URL structure should you use?

There are no right and wrong answers and you may already have started localising your website and be tied into a specific structure. In that case it might cost more to change than the benefits you’d achieve. If you’ve not set up your first country specific website it’s worth some serious consideration to your future costs and expansion plans to decide what the ideal URL structure for you should be.

You can read a much more indepth analysis in Translate Media and Smart Insights “Guide to Website Localisation” ebook