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International website structures have a significant impact on the effectiveness of your global digital strategy. Not only is it a very technical decision, but also you must also connect your technical goals with your marketing objectives to experience the most international success. Keep reading to learn which website structure is best for your international website.

International Website Structures

CCTLD

Country Code Top-Level Domains (ccTLDs) are considered the best approach if you are targeting your international customers by their country. Since ccTLDs automatically geotarget, they can benefit the perception and credibility of your brand in the market. Some examples of this are google.fr and amazon.de. Both of these take you to a country-specific, completely localized website. This allows global brands to deliver targeted content in the right language so they can truly connect with their audiences and improve local UX. 

Despite these benefits, ccTLDs are a pretty hefty investment and are better suited for brands with a more mature global strategy. In addition, each domain is treated as a discrete website, so ccTLDs need longer-term investment to grow site popularity and establish domain authority. 

For a company that does not have a Generic Top-Level Domain (gTLD) like .com, .net, etc., ccTLDs can be relatively limiting for international expansion. This is because subdirectory geotargeting is usually less effective within ccTLDs. 

gTLDs with Country-Specific Subdirectories

gTLD stands for Generic Top-Level Domain, and they have no designated geographic affinity. 

If you have a mix of international and localized content, it is probably best to invest in a top-level domain with subdirectories for different countries. 

Each country-specific landing page will have its own unique landing page with limited navigation that specifically deals with content for that country. For example, .com/uk or .com/au. 

This approach is not only easy to set up, but also all domain authority will be shared across your entire website. In addition, you could have the same team managing both your local and broad-focused content.

There are a couple of drawbacks, however. 

For starters, your subdirectories won’t have a very local feel, which could impact UX if that is something important to your users and brand. 

A bigger concern is that your website architecture could become messy. This is especially true if each subcategory has its own navigation categories. 

An example of this is many news organizations featuring top-level navigation bards that deal with specific issues based on the country. 

Let’s outline the benefits again here:

  • Easy to implement
  • CMSs offer multilingual management 
  • Reduced upfront costs 
  • Easy navigation
  • Link equity shared across domain 

If you go with this approach, your localized websites can leverage the gTLD’s existing domain authority. This gives it a major SEO advantage over ccTLDs when you are targeting by country. From a more technical perspective, this is a popular choice since it is simple, scalable, and easy to maintain. 

Localizing Content with Subdomains 

If your primary focus is localized content, hosting regional web pages on subdomains would be a good option. 

It would be ideal to have a broad gTLD with international content for your parent brand. Then, you could create different subdomains for specific countries that fit that demographic audience. 

Your gTLD might be an English-speaking website that people from the AUS, EU and US could all enjoy (or whoever your audience is), while you may host a separate domain for each of these countries if you are dealing with specific topics for each country. 

However, don’t forget to evaluate the drawbacks of this method too:

  • Hosting on separate domains can be challenging to organize
  • Subdomains cost more to implement
  • Branding might be difficult to maintain
  • Link equity will not be spread evenly across your domain

Don’t be discouraged, though. If you have separate teams that focus on specific content for each region, there is a strong case for hosting geo-specific content on a subdomain. 

Conclusion

Deciding on an international website structure can be a difficult task, but the most important thing to remember is to be consistent. It is super important to take the time and consider your current and long-term business goals. Think about what you wish to achieve through your international site and develop a global site structure that supports your localization strategy. Your site structure should also keep in line with your content and marketing objectives to ensure a realistic and scalable plan for site maintenance and content management. 

A global team of digerati with offices in Washington, D.C. and Southern California, we provide digital strategy, digital marketing, web design, and creative for brands you know and nonprofits you love.

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