How to Choose the Right Domain Strategy for International SEO

Domain Strategy for international SEO

There is no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to choosing the right domain strategy for international SEO. The best approach depends on a number of factors, including a budget, time constraints, and CMS limitations. Other considerations include the markets you’re targeting and the level of competition in those multiple countries or markets.

This article will show you how to choose the right domain strategy for international SEO.

International SEO

What is International SEO?

International SEO is the process of optimizing a website for international search engines. This includes targeting multiple countries and languages and tailoring your website content and keywords to match the needs of the international target audience.

International SEO best practices

There are a few best practices to keep in mind to implement international SEO.

  1. Select the right domain strategy. Keep in mind the potential risks associated with each domain strategy. URL structure is a highly critical factor for international seo strategy.
  2. Make sure that your website is accessible in multiple languages. (If you are offering language targeting). This includes providing translations of your content, as well as using the right keywords and target markets. Make sure to properly set up hreflang tags and correctly define language.
  3. Make sure that your website is optimized for search engines in each target country. This can be done by providing quality content for a particular country.

International SEO Domain Strategies:

Businesses use three common domain strategies to target international markets: country code top-level domains (ccTLDs), subdomains, and subdirectories.


1. Country Code Top-Level Domains (ccTLDs)

A country code top-level domain is a domain that is assigned to a specific country targeting. For example, .ca is the country code top-level domain for Canada.

ccTLDs are an excellent way to show search engines that your website is relevant to a specific country. They also give you more control over your geotargeting settings and allow you to customize your website for different countries.

There are several pros to using ccTLDs for international SEO:

1. True geo-targeting: Domains are automatically associated with the country they cover. For example, a .de domain is automatically associated with Germany.

2. Better CTR: It’s clear to visitors that the site is meant for them, which can lead to a better click-through rate.

3. In many countries, customers prefer a locally-based website: In some markets, local ccTLDs perform better in the rankings. And in more extreme cases, only local ccTLDs are shown in SERP – such as in China, where the Chinese search engine Baidu only shows Chinese ccTLDs.

4. Easier to rank: In general, it’s easier to rank for keywords on a ccTLD than on a generic TLD or country-specific subdomain.

Of course, there are also some cons to using ccTLDs:

1. Increased costs of domain registration: If you want to target 20 countries, you need 20 separate domains.

2. No domain history or links when you launch into a new market: Each domain will have its own backlink profile.

3. It can be difficult to acquire the same domain name in all targeted countries.

4. It’s more difficult to set up language-specific websites: For example, a German-language website on a .de domain will look like a German-focused website, instead of one which can also serve customers in German-speaking Switzerland or Austria.

5. SEO work on the authority of one ccTLD won’t necessarily transfer to other ccTLDs.

6. In some cases, there can be political implications to using a country’s ccTLD. For example, in Russia, it’s required by law to have a Russian company address and contact information if you want to use a .ru domain.

2. Subdomains

Subdomains are domains that are on a lower level than your main domain. For example, if your main domain is, a subdomain could be or

Subdomains are a good option if you want to target multiple countries but don’t want to invest in ccTLDs. They’re also less expensive and easier to set up than ccTLDs.

However, subdomains can be confusing for users, and they may not be as effective at sub-directory domain strategy for international SEO strategy.

Pros of subdomains

Subdomains can be helpful when launching a new website in a new country. Because they are the default for some CMS tools, they are easy to implement and operate.

Cons of subdomains

Internal cannibalization is a risk with subdomains, as users could navigate to the subdomain instead of the main website. Additionally, search engines may not automatically associate the new website with the country you are targeting, meaning that it is less likely to show up in relevant search results. Finally, users are less likely to associate your domain name with their country if the language specification is at the beginning of the domain.

3. Subdirectories or Subfolders

Subdirectories are folders that are on the same level as your main domain. For example, if your main domain is, a subdirectory could be or

Subdirectories are the most common domain strategy for international websites.

They’re easy to set up and don’t require a physical presence in your target country.

With the subdirectory approach, you can pass the authority of your domain to your subdirectories. This is the primary advantage of this approach compared to all other domain strategies.

Subfolders can also be used for international SEO and have several pros:

-They help to improve SEO for the entire domain, as any work done on one part will benefit the others

-When entering a new market, you can inherit domain authority from your main domain rather than starting from scratch

-Links between countries are internal, which is beneficial for your backlink profile

-There are no extra domain hosting costs associated with subfolders

There are a few potential cons of using subdirectories for international SEO:

-If you’re not targeting the country correctly, you could end up cannibalizing your own traffic

-It can be difficult to rank well in a new country without much existing authority

-Different international landing pages could compete with each other in search results, making it difficult to get the right landing page to rank in the relevant country’s search engines.

Ultimately, whether or not you use subdirectories for your international SEO strategy depends on your specific goals and needs. If you’re just starting out in a new country, subdirectories may be the best option.

Conclusion: International seo strategy

There are a few best practices for a strong international seo strategy to keep in mind.

Domain strategy is one of the critical decisions you have to make. Once you establish the domain strategy, make sure you do market research and international keyword research and competitor research for specific languages and specific countries as well.

Your digital marketing and content marketing strategy for global markets is based on your research plan. Based on the target market, customise your content for multiple websites. On-page SEO optimisation needs to be a high focus area too.

Technical SEO setup is very important as well. Pay attention to correct language tags and link rel alternate, aka canonical tags, on your pages.

Depending on your domain strategy, you may need to set up geo-tracking within your Google Analytics account.

Make sure you submit your domain to the Google search console as well as other search engines’ webmaster tools like bing webmaster tools. With these webmaster tools, you can define the country you are targeting as well. If there are any local search engines, indexing in those search engines will be critical and local search engine optimization important.

Finally, make sure your domain name or domains are not an insult to the local language, customs and traditions. Make sure to consult local cultural differences if you need to get final advice on your local domain name.

There is no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to choosing the right domain strategy for international SEO efforts.The best approach depends on a number of factors, including a budget, time constraints, and CMS limitations. Other considerations include the markets you’re targeting and the level of competition in those markets.


  • Tharindu Gunawardana

    Tharindu is a passionate digital marketing specialist with over 14 years of experience planning and executing cross-channel digital media campaigns in the Asia Pacific and Australia. He is also known as the SEO wizard due to his extensive knowledge and technical skill in SEO.

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