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Maximize the Benefits of a Country-Specific Domain

Want to create a buzz with a country-specific domain name?
These domains, like .UK for the United Kingdom or .IT for Italy, are commonly known as Country Code Top Level Domain, or  ccTLD for short. They can be great to help localize your site traffic and boost your search engine results. But if you decide to go this route, there are several issues you’ll need to consider.

In order for search engines to send your website more organic search traffic, they need to understand your website and your business. Give them all the information and indicators that your website is located in a certain country and the search engines will reward you for it.
Let’s take a look at how you can help out search engines and optimize your site traffic with ccTLDs.

Alternate Domain Names

First of all, you need to decide what your primary domain name is going to be.
It might be a good idea, for example, to register both the .CO.UK and .UK domain names for your company and forwarding one to the other with a 301 Permanent Redirect. To protect your brand and company name, you might also want to register other domains, such as .COM. If you expand your business or offer your products or services in the United States or other countries, you might want to use .COM for your main website. You can still use the individual ccTLD domain names in each country, but it’s easier to own the domain name now than to try to acquire it later.
Whichever way you go, choose one domain name, stick with it, and redirect the other(s) to your main domain name.

Google Doesn’t Know Where You Are

When you use a ccTLD for your website, the domain name isn’t enough for search engines to know that your website and business is located in a certain country.
Some ccTLDs are used because the abbreviation is shorthand for something else. For example, some .IT domain names marketed in the United States are often used simply because owners of the domain name thought it was clever to use “it” at the end of the domain name. They likely had no plans to market the website in Italy, the country to which that ccTLD is assigned.

However, if you are a business using a ccTLD as they were designed, you’ll need to specify with search engines that you’re doing business in the country referred to in your domain.

Choose the Right Hosting Provider

Typically, the best option is to host your website in your own country. The search engines are aware of IP addresses, and hosting your website on an IP address in your home country tells the search engines that you’re really located there.

Optimize Your Website for Your Country and Language

There are several things you can do to tell the search engines that your website is, in fact, in a particular country or location:

  • Specify the language on each web page.

Use the lang attribute to specify the language of the top of each web page. For example:

<html lang="fr">
  • Add the appropriate hreflang tag to your web pages.

Also referred to as the hreflang attribute, it’s a way to tell search engines that a particular web page is also available in another language. This can be helpful if your website is in more than one language. In Canada, for example, it’s a requirement that websites be both in English and in French. So the French web pages need to tell the search engines that the page is also available in English, and vice versa. Here’s an example of the hreflang tag:

<link rel="alternate" href="http://example.ca/en-gb/" hreflang="en-gb" />

You can learn more about the proper use of hreflang on Google’s support page.

  • Add your company’s contact information on your website.

Website owners often fail to specify their full company name, address, email address, and phone number on their website. It may appear on the Contact or About page, but adding it in the site’s footer or sidebar is recommended. Not only should it be very easily found by visitors, the NAP (Name, Address, Phone) should be marked up with Schema.org markup. This markup won’t affect the way your contact information is displayed, but it will identify your NAP data to search engines, which is important.

Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Your Content

Content is important on your site, and any content that is written for your website should be in the language of your site visitors. Each country and language has its own “slang”—the way certain words are written. So, if you’re translating a website from English to French, for example, make sure you use a native speaker in that country for the translations. Machine-generated translations just won’t cut it, and may be inaccurate or even offensive out of context, which could hurt your business.

Remember to Use Relevant Citations and Links

Search engines still generally use links and citations as major parts of their algorithms. As such, it’s important to have links to your website from other websites that are appropriate for your website and your country.
A citation (mention of your company’s Name, Address, and Phone Number [NAP]) is also a strong indication and ranking factor when it comes to local search engine rankings, such as on Google Maps.
Ideally, you want those links and citations to come from websites using your same ccTLD or from sites located in your same country. This indicates natural and appropriate traffic. Foreign links (links from websites in other countries) aren’t very natural-looking. Google is looking for natural and appropriate links to your website, not unnatural ones.

Make It Easy for Search Engines

When it comes to setting up a new website using a ccTLD domain name, it’s important to give the search engines all the indicators and information they need to show that you’re located in a certain country. Otherwise, your site could be lost in a list of confusing search results or even not appear at all.
Not being consistent with all web search indicators – tags, language declarations, content, and NAP data – can confuse the search engines, leading to unwanted and potentially disastrous results for your site and your business.

Get a ccTLD Today!

Are you ready to register a ccTLD for your business? Namecheap offers a wide array of country-specific domains. Get one today!

Bill Hartzer is a domain name and search engine optimization consultant. He’s been buying and selling domain names ever since he started doing organic and natural SEO in the mid-1990s. He provides technical SEO audits of websites, helps recommend domain name acquisition strategies, and has conducted research and published studies on the new gTLD domain names. You can learn more about him at his website, BillHartzer.com.

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