Building Your Site For International Traffic

28 May 2009, Posted by admin in Whitehat, 3 Comments

Building Your Site For International Traffic

If you’re designing a large site that needs to geo-target to different countries, it’s not always easy determining how to structure your site. There’s a few options that you’ve got, and they all have their ups and downs.

Depending on which option you choose you can run the risk of splitting up your link equity, you might find that you’re not ranking as well as you should in local versions of Google and you might still find that your US based page is ranking above your local listing, no matter what you do.

I once heard a Google representative say that to properly geo-target your site, you just needed to set it up in Webmaster Tools. That was it. Google would work out the rest. From everything else I’ve seen, that’s not quite true.

For country specific versions of Google, I’ve found that it looks at a few things.

  1. Your country specific top-level domain (, .fr, etc.)
  2. The country in which your site is hosted
  3. The language used on your site (if applicable)
  4. The location of the sites that link to you (their tlds, host countries, etc)
  5. Your geo-targetted settings in Webmaster Tools

There’s a few ways you can use this to your advantage, if you’re designing an international site from scratch.

Use Country Specific TLDs

If you want to target the UK you can grab If you’re targetting Germany, you can put your site up on This is arguably (although not definitely) the most effective, yet it’s often the least doable. It’s rare that you’ll be able to get the tlds in all of your brand names. Having said that, if you can grab them all, you have the freedom to host each domain in it’s own country. You’ll also, possibly, have a higher click-through rate (although that’s more speculation than proof) because it’s more likely that someone in the UK will want to click on your, compared to a .com. The bad news, though, is that you’ll split up your link equity. If your US site gets 10,000 links, and your UK site gets 10,000 links, then it could be a slightly missed opportunity. You can interlink them, sure, but 10,001 links isn’t the same as 20,000 links.

Having said that, the links that each site gets will be more likely to be from the right country, so your is more likely to attract links from other UK sites. This will, obviously, help the site rank well in Google UK.

Pros: Boost from having the country specific tld. You can host the site in the targetted country. Possibly higher CTR.

Cons: Hard to get all the domain names. You split up your links more.


Use Subdomains

Subdomains, such as, etc, have the bonus of letting you host each subdomain within the target country. That’s pretty cool. With each domain geo-targetted in Webmaster Tools AND hosted in that country, you should get a decent enough boost (if you deserve to rank) in country specific versions of Google. The drawback is that you’re again splitting up your link equity – but again, the links that you get naturally are more likely to be from sites in that country, which will help.

Pros: You can host subdomains in the targetted countries. It can be easier to manage.

Cons: You split up your links.


Use Your Folder Structure

You could structure your site so that it uses folders, such as You can geo-target that folder to the UK in Webmaster Tools, but the drawback is that you can’t host the folders in seperate countries. You will, however, be able to use all of the links you get more effectively. Any links that the /uk site gets will significantly help to boost everything that’s on that domain, including the /fr site and the /de site. That’s a huge bonus.

Pros: The links you get will benefit the whole domain.

Cons: You can’t host the folders in their target countries.


It’s very difficult to say which is the best structure to use, and in all honesty it often comes down to other things like the nature of the site itself, your resources and how much you’re prepared to pay, how your CMS works, whether you use load balancing, how you need to manage your files and things like that. But if you’re designing a new site, it’s always worth considering how you’re going to structure your site to get the most out of international search traffic.

(Flickr image from bytezh)

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May 29, 2009 10:02 am

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June 3, 2009 2:47 pm


Great summary of the options available, well thought out and informative.

I would say the folder route is the most effective of these solutions all round. Not only do you retain all the link equity in one place you can target the folders via webmaster tools. This is also a low cost solution that is fully scalable to very large sites (hence your apple example).

I was wondering though, what effect do you think it will have having links from different countries pointed at each folder. Do you think Google will recognize whats going on here and how do you think this will affect the rankings of any non geotargeted pages. If you are only targeting english speaking countries you would want might want to share the homepage between the countries so it can gain all the links.

August 2, 2011 8:07 am

Englischtest Online

I know this post is quite old, but anyway, I have a question related to geotargeting, which is not on a country level, but more on a county or city level.
I run a directory on a country.tld which caters to widget retailers in different cities across the country. Right now I have setup pages for each city like country.tld/wdigets_cityname.htm

Are there any means to get more geo specific identifiers that are used by the SEs into the pages to make them even more relavant and improve their ranking?

Thanks in advance for any insights.

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