In this instalment of the ABC’s of SEO, I wanted to hit on a few subjects around international SEO. Increasingly businesses are looking to tap into foreign markets and search is obviously a very powerful way of doing just that.
Do Google Favour Local Domain Suffixes?
There was a conversation recently in our LinkedIn Discussion Group about domain suffixes and their effect on rankings. Colin asked whether having a foreign domain such as .co (registered in Colombia) makes it more difficult to climb search engine results pages in the UK. Google will prioritise relevant domain suffixes, but there are many other ranking factors. Look around, international sites can still rank really well. Some businesses really benefit from having these bespoke URLs, such as bit.ly or del.icio.us.
Having local domain suffixes is generally thought of as best practise, but there are other things to consider to maximise your performance. Google also score geographical relevance by checking where the server of a website is based, so it could be worth ensuring that this is the country in question. Additionally, a geographic location for a site can be specified on Webmaster Tools.
A web domain suffix is not just a handy way of customising your URL. Political instability in the country where the domain is registered could jeopardise the whole enterprise. This is why when the political situation in Libya became unsettled this year, I stopped using bit.ly for link building purposes immediately. The last thing I wanted was for all my links to be broken by bit.ly being pulled. One URL shortener was taken down by Libyan authorities, supposedly for featuring an image of a woman drinking alcohol.
Each country is different. In Ireland any business who wants an .ie domain must provide evidence proving that the domain relates to the company and that they are registered with the Irish Companies Registration Office.
International Search Engines
Remember it’s not just about international versions of Google. They might have a 95% share of the market in the UK, but users of the internet in Russia are much more likely to be using Yandex. It might be hard to get accurate and reliable data about search engine usage in particular countries, but some elementary research could prove extremely worthwhile.