I recently came across an excellent article discussing whether international organisations should put their country-specific sites on their own domains, or under a single worldwide domain as directories. So, for example, Coca-Cola has separate domains all around the world such as coca-cola.co.uk, coca-cola-deutschland.de and a domain for the USA called ‘Global’. On the other hand, Microsoft just uses microsoft.com; its German site is microsoft.com/de-de and the microsoft.de domain just redirects there.
In Migrating from ccTLDs to a gTLD – The Why, the How, and the WTF, the author points out that “there is never a one-size-fits-all solution.” However, the article argues for the SEO advantages of having a global domain, like Microsoft, while admitting we “should not take anything in SEO as an absolute truth, even if there are lots of case studies and opinions pointing in one direction.”
The reason turns out not to be that a global domain (like ‘.com’) is better than a country domain (like ‘.co.uk’). The real advantage comes from having everything on a single domain. The thinking is that search engine rankings are largely governed by something called PageRank, which is largely powered by external links; this PageRank then flows through the rest of the site, but less so if the site is divided into multiple domains.
There are caveats: in some business sectors, there is no doubt that a country-specific domain is a sales advantage in some countries. It’s important to ensure that everyone is on board with this. One of our clients (a household name) recently moved to a global domain, but the brand was heavily associated with the style of its home country, and it did not consider that a ‘.co.uk’ was a particular advantage in the UK, for example. Everyone knows in which country that company’s products are manufactured.
With other organisations, country-specific domains can be important: a ‘.ru’ domain might heavily imply to the Russian market that the company has a physical presence in the country, which (assuming it does!) is a great thing to promote. Also, there might be different company names in different countries, such as Opel/Vauxhall, which makes a single global domain impractical.
Moving from country-specific domains to a global domain is a big decision, which needs to be made under advice from different angles. It’s not a simple marketing decision. However, in certain circumstances it can be worth the effort.
- Link: Migrating from ccTLDs to a gTLD – The Why, the How, and the WTF on the searchVIU blog