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Old 06-06-2004   #1
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Question Use of Regionally-Specific Domains

For those of you promoting sites outside of the US, how important do you feel it is to own the country specific domain when targeting that country? For example, if you owned site.com and you are targeting Australia amongst other countries, how important do you feel it is to own site.com.au? Do you make your content regionally specific? Or do you just use the domain as a pointer to your main site?
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Old 06-06-2004   #2
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It is good practice when targeting a market like that to either use a local domain or host the site on a local host. If you meet at least one of those criteria then most SEs will be able to determine that you are focused on that local market. Of course if you are also targeting a local language market it is also important to ensure that your page encoding is set correctly.
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Old 06-06-2004   #3
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Well in terms of rankings, Alan Webb just came back from SES London, and talked about this topic in the domain name issues track. His post can be found at http://forums.seochat.com/t11609/s.html

Quote:
Domain Name Issues
===============

I attended this seminar, moderated by Danny Sullivan (Editor searchenginewatch.com), as I wanted confirmation of my own observations that unlike a couple of years ago, where the general consensus amongst SEOs was to have separate folders for different languages on the same site, that it was now better to have separate domains with the language/country specific top level domains for the different language content. My own site suffers currently from this as I have an /en/ directory which caters for my English pages. Good when I did it, bad now!

It doesnÕt however stop at just changing the TLD (top level domain such as in my case .de) There are three other considerations which were pointed out Robin Hislop (Spannerworks) and Ren Warmuz (Trellian) who were the speakers. The language on the page is important. Defined not only by the Character set but the content itself. Other factors for determining regional relevance from the search engines are the IP address. That is of course the IP address of the website. This means you may need to find a webhost in the country you are targeting. Where the links are coming from also logically help to define region/language. So you need links from sites in the language you are targeting.

For my website which is a .de domain with an English language section in a /en/ directory I should theoretically be doing the followingÉ

Find a web host in the US and/or UK to register my .co.uk / .com pages. Making sure there are no trademark violation issues first.

Move the english language content from my German tld /en/ directory to the uk/com domains. Change the .co.uk content to be more in line with the uk market (avoiding duplicate content and helping conversion by specific Geo targeting). If I have a .com then change the content to be more US focused.

Use 301 moved permanently in my .htaccess on the .de domain to make sure that there is search engine friendly redirection to the English language websites (.com or .co.uk) (Never use meta refresh or javascript redirection).

Pursuade all those linking to my old /en/ folder to switch to the new .co.uk domains / .com domains.

A lot of work really, but it would certainly help my rankings for the English language keywords I want to target. I do very well indeed for the German terms, itÕs the English terms IÕm not doing well on and the reasons why were confirmed in the first seminar I went to (not an English language tld, hosted on a german server, more german sites linking in than English language sites).

A good start and thanks to Robin and Ren for the confirmation. I have a lot of work to do!
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Old 06-06-2004   #4
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When targeting a specific region only, a regional domain is critical IMO. To me, there is no other domain in those circumstances.
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Old 06-07-2004   #5
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Great post and outstanding information Barry - Thanks!

Kal, if you are mentioning "promotion" in general, including offline advertising. Right now I'm spending a few days in Mexico City and It's one of the highest in driving billboard marketing in the world. I mean, they are one on top of another every 100 yards spaced out. Plus utility vehicles brand their cars a lot, including using their website domain name. From a good eye perspective, I would guess 90-95% of all I've seen used was www.domain.com.mx

I also went to a baby clothing store here that my wife loves, but the clothes are imported from Spain. They had printed on the carry out bag their www.domain.com. They sell in various countries. I think that they are going with this as an umbrella .com branding, because when I went to the site, it's a spash page to: Spain, Mexico, France, Italy, Argentina, Cipro, Portugal and Greece. They are also saving lot's of money on costs to make these shopping bags by applying the "economies of scale" rule.
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Old 06-07-2004   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Anthony Parsons
When targeting a specific region only, a regional domain is critical IMO. To me, there is no other domain in those circumstances.
Well...that's fine in many cases, but sometimes the reality of the local market doesn't always work that way. There are a lot of countries that still have really archaic domain regulations. Try getting a .in domain in India for SEO...you'll soon see the economy of a good old .com. I know that in Japan a lot of companies will go for a .com over a local domain. It's still a lot cheaper that way and is well accepted by the local SEs.
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Old 06-07-2004   #7
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Thumbs up A domain extension is important

Having the domain extension is very important. Translating to the local language is not enough for some search engines. Purchasing those domains can be problematic, as there are some countries that require to you have a local presence to own that extension.

There are also 3 points I would raise from previous experience doing global search campaigns:

1.) An important factor to keep in mind is character encoding. This can be particularly important in the Asia/Pacific region, particularly in China.

2.) Many countries are still not even in the age of crawlers... There is still a reliance on directory driven search results, particularly in South America and Asia... So you have to do a lot of legwork in those countries.

3.) Remember that sites like Google are still defaulting to searches of the entire index. Go to any Google homepage, and you can see that the search defaults to searches of the whole web, not just a particular region.
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Old 06-08-2004   #8
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Thanks for the info Barry, Nacho and all. In my experience, the importance of having the regional domain depends on the country you are targeting. These are a few things I tell my clients when they ask me if they need regional domains:

1) If you want to be found in the regional search engines, you should probably purchase the regional domain because some local SE's will only accept sites using regional domains.

2) If you ever want to present different information to different country markets (i.e. multi-language versions of your site or regionalized vocab and spelling e.g. optimize vs optimise or different currency pricing), you should def consider purchasing regional domains.

3) If you want to protect your company brand or trademark name so you can use it in other countries, purchasing the regional domains is a good safeguard not only to prevent anyone buying them from under you but also good from a legal standpoint if you need to battle trademark cases or domain disputes.

4) One easy way to handle regional domain issues is to decide on a main domain for your site (e.g. your site.com) and then point your regional domains (e.g. site.com.au, site.co.uk etc) to the same IP address. That way you can still submit the regional versions to the local SEs but you shouldn't attract any ranking penalties for duplicate content domains. Obviously, this only works if you want all country markets to see the same site content .
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Old 06-08-2004   #9
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And a DMOZ regional listing is also worth gold if you don't have a country extension domain......
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Old 06-08-2004   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kal
One easy way to handle regional domain issues is to decide on a main domain for your site (e.g. your site.com) and then point your regional domains (e.g. site.com.au, site.co.uk etc) to the same IP address. That way you can still submit the regional versions to the local SEs but you shouldn't attract any ranking penalties for duplicate content domains. Obviously, this only works if you want all country markets to see the same site content .
My client, located outside Europe, targets Europe as their primary market--especially UK and France. It is impossible to get a .fr version of their domain due to France's restrictions on that (thanks for noting that, Bill). However, would it be worth the money to buy the .co.uk version and just have it point to the existing .com (hosted in Canada)? Or would I be better off getting the .co.uk name AND hosting a duplicate of the .com somewhere in the UK?

I have seen duplicated sites under completely different domain names, and was curious if this is considered spam.
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Old 06-08-2004   #11
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Buying a .fr domain

Quote:
Originally Posted by theBPC
My client, located outside Europe, targets Europe as their primary market--especially UK and France. It is impossible to get a .fr version of their domain due to France's restrictions on that
I have been able to get a .com.fr domain through a british company, the only requirement is that the owner has French citizenship. I asked a close French friend to send me a photocopy of his ID card and he is now the owner of my .com.fr domain. Of course it's important that it is a CLOSE friend you can trust. In my case my buddy doesn't even know what a domain is. I now have multiplied my visitors to the French version of my site by 10.

Last edited by rustybrick : 06-08-2004 at 09:38 AM. Reason: missing quote tag
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Old 06-10-2004   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by theBPC
would it be worth the money to buy the .co.uk version and just have it point to the existing .com (hosted in Canada)? Or would I be better off getting the .co.uk name AND hosting a duplicate of the .com somewhere in the UK?
Hi BPC It might be worth getting a .co.uk version and point it to dot com, but only if you think it is important from the market's perspective (i.e. if you think UK and French searchers would be more likely to purchase from a "local" site. Then you could submit it to local engines. I wouldn't recommend hosting a duplicate site under any circumstances. I'm pretty sure this could trip the spam filters of some engines.
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Last edited by Kal : 06-10-2004 at 10:33 PM. Reason: addressed wrong poster
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Old 06-10-2004   #13
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That's right! I agree with Kal.


Quote:
Originally Posted by theBPC
would it be worth the money to buy the .co.uk version and just have it point to the existing .com (hosted in Canada)?
If you add a .com.uk domain and point it to the .com site that will not get you any rankings with or without a 301.


Quote:
Originally Posted by theBPC
Or would I be better off getting the .co.uk name AND hosting a duplicate of the .com somewhere in the UK?
If you add a .co.uk and remake your site without any change of content+template design, then YES, the second one will be penalized and probably never appear on the search engine's index. This is called the "duplicate website penalty". It will also FLAG the first site, as it indicates to the search engine that the site owner might be trying to fool the engines. BTW, "flag" does not equal penalty.
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Old 06-11-2004   #14
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.co.uk and .com.fr

You are probably right about the duplicate site problem, but it is done all the time and is accepted if the goal is to reach a specific market such as the uk one. So far I haven't had a problem. In any case when I mentioned how to get a .com.fr domain I wasn't implying that you use it to duplicate the site. In my case I am using it for the French translation of my site. I have a .de for the German version, a .nl for the Dutch version, and I am working on getting a .es for the Spanish(very difficult).
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Old 07-05-2004   #15
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UK Targeting

You don't currently need a .co.uk to target the UK and in fact many companies in the UK still opt for .com's when they're choosing their domains. This is not true of the rest of Europe where basically the opposite applies.

However, I personnally expect that search engines will eventually favour the .co.uk for the UK as an additional means of geo-targeting. For some time Lycos listed .co.uk only for the UK - but that's no longer seems to be the case. When Yahoo was updating it's crawler they tried this too - briefly!

The .fr and .ie addresses in particular require a local address - as far as I am aware. But you can buy 'accommodation' addresses that enable you to get these domains. Other domains eg .nl are less difficult.

The other alternative (not as good - but if all else fails) is to use a sub-domain as in fr.mydomain.com - the way Yahoo currently does it for itself!!

Importantly - you have to change American spellings to UK spellings! Organisation - not organization for instance!

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Old 07-07-2004   #16
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I think the key point here has been missed.

In Spain, (my local google dominated market) my web logs from varios sites in different sectors indicate that between 8 and 19% of searches done in google use the ´´paginas de españa´´ option. That is the local pages option.

So to answer the question
Quote:
For those of you promoting sites outside of the US, how important do you feel it is to own the country specific domain when targeting that country?
I think the answer is (at least in Spain) does this percentage of local google searchs interest you ?

ps. on the .fr difficulties of getting registered, get a local french web agency to give you a hand. In effect exchange local domain registering. Works for me.

Jorge if you need a hand getting a .es domain, get in touch ...
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Old 07-07-2004   #17
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Google Local Pages - .com Prominence

Patrick - your point is well made. Is it the case that .es ranks better than .com in local pages? I can see that .com features in there for various searches?

In the UK currently there is no difference - .co.uk or .com is equally good.
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Old 07-07-2004   #18
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Hello Andy,

Yes I think you hit it on the head, it is not the TLD extension or ccTLD extensions that matter. Rather, from looking at SERP´s I believe it is the location of the site itself that is interesting for local european markets.

In the SEO sectors that I cover I have not been able to discern a noticable difference. It is the location of the site that matters. That is not to say that TLD extensions are not part of the algos, but in my experience if they are in the algos, there weighting is so low as to not be an issue.

Just as in the constrction busness the slogan for the initial question should read:

only three things matter - LOCATION, LOCATION, and LOCATION

Why lose that 8 - 19% of google searchers? Well if the cost of multiple sites and all the content management problems that this creates outweighs the opportunity cost of these additional visitors.
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