International SEO: Country Code Top Level Domains (ccTLD) Guide

By | August 13, 2019

What’s up everyone. Today you’re gonna learn about country code,
top level domains, or ccTLDs. Internationalization is basically what this
is. We’re gonna talk about everything that’s important
around country specific domains, whether or not you should buy them, what the implications
are for localized and internationalized rankings in Google and other search engines. Stay for the whole video. We’re gonna get deep into the details on international
SEO here. I’m Tommy Griffith with, let’s
get going. Okay, so country code top level domains, or
ccTLDs, so talking about international SEO here in a moment, but just a quick reminder
before we get going on that. Thinking about the technical stuff around
SEO and country code top level domains, we’re gonna dive deep into SEO, but SEO is only
one piece of a more comprehensive digital marketing strategy, so while it’s super important
and I’m a huge fan of it and I love it, don’t neglect all of your other digital marketing
channels. SEO is just one component. Then within SEO county code top level domains
are just one component of that. This is just one thing among many that you
should be doing from an SEO perspective and SEO is one thing among many that you should
be doing from a digital marketing perspective. Do keep that in mind as we dive in. Okay. Country code top level domains. A country code top level domain or ccTLD,
this is just an internationalized version of what you might be familiar with. It depends on where you’re from, where you
grew up, or where you may have lived, but this differs from country to country and it’s
colloquially different as well. I’m from the US. I grew up in the US and for most of my life
I’ve heard nothing but .com. In Germany, very common is .de. In Australia, very common is .com, .Au, or
.Au. Mexico .mx. China .cn. A country code top level domain is just the
domain extension. It generally has a country connotation or
a regional connotation. It’s essentially a domain that I can decide
it signifies it’s from a particular place. Websites that are ending in .de are designed
for German user. Let’s get into the weeds here. Country code top level domains are the most
powerful way to rank a domain or rank a page in a certain country. There’s other ways to do it. I could technically get a page on our website, ranking in Germany. I would have to do a lot and talk about sort
of how I would do that, but the fastest, most powerful way to do this is to get the country
code top level domain of the country in question and use that. In general, apples to apples, if you have
two pages and they’re exactly the same and one is on a .com and one is on a .de, the
one that’s on a .de is generally more inclined to rank better in the Google German version
or in Keep that in mind. Google assumes that all of the content on
a country code top level domain is designed for that country is gonna buy us rankings
toward that country, but keep in mind this is unrelated to language. This is country specific. Documents on a .de domain or on a .fr domain,
or a .com, .Au domain, those documents are designed for Germany and France and Australia
but they’re not actually language specific. These are country specifications. Stay away from country code top level domains
if you’re targeting global traffic. They’re a huge headache. One massive problem I saw very popular in
San Francisco when I first moved there in 2011, was people were getting .it version
of a site, which is the Italian domain. They were either doing IT services or they
made up some cute clever name for their start up and they were ending it in .it and then
they were super confused to why they weren’t ranking in search results for the United States. It’s because it’s a massive signal to Google
that this content is designed for Italians. They were doing great in the, but
not in Watch out for this. A lot of people try and get cute with their
domain names, and it hurts them a lot. It’s also colloquially difficult for a lot
of people to understand a lot of these domain name extensions. Wherever you are, whatever is kind of colloquially
popular, just use that. It makes it way easier. One test I like to use, I call it the mom
test. When you pick your domain name, you call your
mom, you say your domain name one time over the phone, and if your mom is able to go to
a browser, input that domain name, and get to your page without any clarification from
you at all, it’s a good domain name.If not, it’s a bad domain name. The other version of this test is the crowded
bar test. If you said your domain name one time in a
crowded bar to someone, could they remember and visit it the next day. If you fail either of these tests, it’s a
bad domain name. Keep that in mind. The exception here are what are called GccTLDs,
Global country code top level domains where Google basically came out and said, “Okay,
yes .de is for Germany and yes .fr is for France, but it looks like most people are
buying certain domain extensions and they’re not really targeting those places.” .IO is for Indian Ocean, but every single
one is a start up or an app. They basically said .io actually is gonna
be global. .CO originally for Columbia, same things,
it’s becoming very popular. A lot of people are using that kind of for
their start up. .TV … There’s a list of a bunch of others,
we’ll list those in the resources down below. The basic idea here, though, is that if you’re
not a Global country code top level domain, you’re going to be biased toward whatever
country that you actually are, so keep that in mind. Okay, let’s go through a little list of how
to think of this, depending on who you are and kind of what your business is and who
you work for. There are a bunch of different questions you
should ask yourself before investing in country code top level domains or before investing
in internationalization strategy. First of all, do you operate in a certain
country and you have no plans of expanding beyond that? Are you a French coffee shop chain, maybe
you have one or two retail locations and maybe you want to go to three or four, but you’ll
never expand beyond France. Fine. Get the .fr, totally fine, no issues there
at all. Go for that country code top level domain. Do you operate in multiple countries? Maybe you’re in the US, in Canada, maybe over
in the UK, or maybe you’re in France and you’ll also go to Germany, I would recommend still
picking on domain, but using country codes sub folders. It’s what we did at PayPal. I managed search engine optimization for two
years at and everything still happened on the .com, but the localized versions of
the actually web application were on country code sub folders. All of our Mexican content was on /mx. All of our Spanish content was on /es. All of our French content was on /fr. Basically, we had the localized versions of
each country specific site in a sub folder and all of our internationalized links and
the content all that would live there. But we only had one domain. This was technically much easier to manage. Every time you’re adding an incremental domain,
it’s tough. It’s technical. You gotta do a lot of stuff. You have to manage registrations and crawl
budgets, Google search console, analytics, cross domain tracking. There’s so much there. If you’re just getting started expanding,
picking one domain and using a country specific country code sub folder is actually an okay
way to do it. That’s how we did it at PayPal. The big dog one is this. Are you everywhere? Do you have multiple offices everywhere? Do you have content in multiple languages? Are you a massive operation? Then you can go ahead and buy country code
top level domains. I really wanna warn against this. You wanna be careful. PayPal was even big enough that they … It
didn’t make sense to them, it’s actually technical reasons why it didn’t make sense to them … A
story for another day. The point here is massive companies are still
in situations where they only use one domain and they use a country code sub folder. Don’t think you need to do this but you can. At Airbnb, I managed search engine optimization
there, we had 26-27 different country code top level domains. There’s some very complicated intricate engineering
on the back end around making localized copies of each domain. A lot of management in order to do all that. Lots of different versions search console
and analytics. Do keep that in mind. But, it’s a fantastic ranking signal. All of our content was translated by local
translators and on that country code specific version of the domain, it’s great for search
engines. It’s great for users. It’s extremely expensive and very difficult
to maintain. Do keep that in mind. If you’re not gonna expand at all … Just
to summarize … If you’re not gonna expand at all, stick with the country that you’re
in. If you’re expanding a little bit or you’re
a start up that just want to deal with a lot of the technical overhead, pick one domain
and build up country specific versions on the sub folder. If you’re a massive operation and you’re willing
to invest in all of the behind the scenes infrastructure you need to keep multiple versions
of the domain up, then go ahead and buy the multiple country code top level domains. That’s it. That’s all there really is to country code
top level domains, or ccTLDs. I hope that was useful. If was helpful and if you learned something
today, go ahead and click subscribe down below for even more digital marketing tactics and
tips from us. If you’re on YouTube, we would love a comment. What’d you think of this? Are you back and forth between whether or
not you should pick up your country code top level domain? Would love to hear from you. I read every single one. Finally, if you want a super comprehensive
SEO checklist from us that includes internationalization and all the technical stuff you need for country
code top level domains, go ahead and click that link below to to get
your free SEO checklist right now. Thanks a lot.

9 thoughts on “International SEO: Country Code Top Level Domains (ccTLD) Guide

  1. Alexander Müller Post author

    This was very helpful! However, one small quetion popped up in my mind. Concerning the two possible solutions for expansion, i. e. subfolders or seperate ccTLDs, I wonder whether the former has the same or at least a similar effect on ranking like the latter. Is there a difference (I guess, but I am not sure)?

  2. Aduer Ngor Post author

    Hello! Wonderful Tutorial. I am interested in setting up and managing my country domain South Sudan with domain name .ss where should i start from? what are the requirements, help! please

  3. Yair Guy Post author

    Thank you for the tutorial.
    We are based in Australia and own the domain. These days we are expending to New Zealand.
    I understand that the best solution is to use the domain name, however, that means building another website with similar content (or copy the content to the new New Zealand site which I'm not sure is a good idea. Will google penalise this site or another for copying content? Canonical maybe? but are they, the Canonicals, will effect the ranking of the new site google NZ – what a mind job :o) haha)

    Anyhow, to the question,
    Do you think that it's a good idea to do even though we are using a domain name?
    OR should we proceed with site and create new content.
    And what about future plans? should we do (we do own so what, another website??)

    At this point in time the .com domain is out of reach to us but we do own the .net.

    I look forward to hearing from you,
    Thank thank you for the help!

  4. John Gabe Post author

    Okay so… someone please help me. I had a friend of a friend that owned a .gr domain which is apparently greece. Does that mean that domain is intended for greece viewers? Even though it was all english. Or can someone here in the U.S just have a website that has anything such as .au or .ru. Basically does the domain name come from the country they are using it from?

  5. Robert Pimlott Post author

    Great video. Quick question for you;

    If I was to have a website called which is the main ecommerce website for a company.

    Yet there is a bunch of retail/distributor websites selling the same product under the same domain but with their country specific url at the end, example;

    Would these sites be seen as competitors and essentially be damaging to the main .com address?

    Thanks 🙂

  6. Jason Moseley Post author

    I've spent hours researching a strategic approach to this challenge that your video described in minutes. Thank you for the insight!

  7. Kevin McAuliffe Post author

    Thanks a great video! My question living in Canada when it comes to selling a cc domain can someone or corporation buy a name from Canada? Or what are the guidelines?


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