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International SEO – How to setup your domain correctly to meet your objectives?

In episode 16 of the ‘#askglynos SEO Show’, Andrew explores the ins and outs of three primary domain examples used to rank your website in international markets. In response to a client’s request, Andrew highlights the different SEO domain methods that can be used to target native Chinese speakers with a business and website hosted in Australia.

To begin the video, Andrew touches on the Australian top level domain extension (‘… .com .au ’) and why it is essential to match the host country of the site and the domain extension/language of site. This provides the website with a foundation to rank as it is clear to the search engine that the website is indeed from the specified country. Also, ensuring this will enable much faster download speeds for users located within that specified country.

Andrew then focuses on the domain extension “domain.com.au /zh-cn ” for targeting the Chinese-speaking market (cn). He notes that this extension is designed for the mainland chinese speaking peoples, disregarding any differences in dialect and variations of the Chinese language. Consequently, this extension, whilst still being hosted within Australia (‘.au’), will be targeted at individuals who speak Chinese or have their device language set to Chinese.

This domain extension is therefore most effective if a business wanted to target Chinese speaking peoples who seek information from Australian firms. Andrew moves to the domain extension “domain .cn ” for when businesses wish to physically move the host of a website to another country, in this case, China. Again, Andrew mentions that this would mean the website is written in Chinese, with Chinese content and a Chinese domain, making it much more understandable for search engines in China, and thus easier to rank for in that country.

Finally, Andrew touches on the extension “domain.com.au?lang=zh-cn ”. This domain will inform the search engine to render and translate the page content (in this case, English content) to the specified language (in this case, Chinese). Andrew points out the fact that the search engine will see the page as normally in English due to the ‘.com.au’, however, the ‘?lang=zh.cn’
query will enable the search engine to show Chinese content. This helps to target a Chinese speaking people within Australia primarily.

Andrew then mentions more complex domain scenarios. In particular, having two different top level domains, for websites using the same language. He uses the example of ‘xyz.com’ and ‘xyz,us’, as both will have an English website, with two different domain names, hence creating duplicate content. He then explains a potential solution to this, where you would you would use different HREF LANG tags. To learn more about HREF LANG tags, visit https://moz.com/learn/seo/hreflang-tag

Video Transcription Below:

Hey guys, on this episode of the AskGlynos SEO Show, I talk about international SEO targeting and what that means for your business. Boom!

So basically, the way I actually got this question asked was from an email from my client, who was overseas, who wants to target his business to a specific country and demographic. And that means that we have to change language and a portion of our website that will need to be changed, specifically to reach this new audience. And I thought, you know what? This is going to be a fantastic, it’s a fantastic episode number 15. I’ve got a new haircut and a new shirt. I thought let’s rock and roll.

I’m not going to use the client’s name, but I’m going to use the domain as the TLD that we’re going to be speaking about today. And basically, there’s three primary ways and this video won’t go for too long because there’s going to be one specific topic, whereas other videos have gone into multiple topics. These three domain examples can be used in a variety of different ways. So it all depends upon what you’re trying to do.

So for example, you have an English-speaking domain, so we’re going to use domain.com.au, which actually is a real estate website, but I’m not using it because of that. Maybe I should call it XYZ.com next time. But domain.com.au is the Australian top-level domain extension and obviously we speak English. So, Google can understand that a domain.com.au is going to be an Australian domain.

Now, why is that important? And I’m targeting small businesses, medium businesses and people who aren’t very knowledgeable on the issue or subject. When you want to perform better in the search engines; generally, it’s better to have two things  to set the right foundation. One, you want to have a domain in that country, and you want to have it translated in the native language, as well as have the website physically hosted in that nation. So, if you’ve got your domain.com.au, you obviously want to make sure that primarily it’s written in English which makes sense in Australia. And also, it’s going to be important that the website is physically hosted in Australia. That’s important because that helps Google to understand that your website is from Australia, and because the majority of your visitors are going to come from that country most of the time. I can’t say all the time, there’s always exceptions, but the majority of the time people will come from the country, the top-level domain extension. So, because its domain is in AU, the majority of the traffic is going to be from Australia. And to the reason to host it in Australia is because it is generally  faster to download information from an Australian IP address for someone logging onto the Internet and browsing to that website. And it’s obviously going to be quicker than if that website is hosted in Japan or Italy or wherever else. So, it’s very important to have the domain registered and hosted in the country that you’re primarily targeting.

Now, what if you want to target native Chinese speakers, but your business is located in Australia? I’m looking at which one of these three solutions is going to work .,ZH.CN is actually a code for the mainland Chinese-speaking people. And Chinese, like many languages have different dialects and variants. And there’s like an English AU, there’s an Australian, there’s a U.K., there’s U.S. and that’s all three variants of English. And so having domain.com.au/ZH.CN because it’s on the .AU domain, so obviously going back to that, it’s primarily an Australian business. We’re going to have /ZH.CN which is going to target specific content to people that on their computers, have changed the language, changed the keyboard, changed how they’re reading web pages, and changed the language on their computer to Chinese. And then anything would be in Chinese. as it forms a subdirectory format.

Now, I spoke about subdirectories and subdomains in another video, but just to give you an example, the reason why you would use domain.com.au/ZH.CN, if you want to target Chinese speakers, Chinese natives or people that primarily want to see some specific content in Chinese, but from an Australian business. And so there’s a few things you can do in SEO to make sure that Google renders all that content correctly. You can set location tags..

Then there’s an example of domain.CN. Now, if a client decided to break into the Chinese market, to physically move his business over to China or a new country, then I’ve always recommended getting a whole new domain. So, you’ll get domain.CN that’s the Chinese top-level domain extension as the code and that whole website will be written in Chinese and it would be hosted in Chinese, it would have Chinese content and it’s obviously going to a Chinese domain. So from a Google’s perspective that domain is actually going to perform better than if you have domain.com.au/ZH.CN.

Then we’ve got domain.com.au?lang=ZH.CN, so obviously it’s very similar to this one with the exception that /ZH.CN could be a whole different section on the website. This Chinese content in the subdirectory may not even be found in any other part of the website. Having domain.com.au?lang=ZH.CN, then  if you code it correctly it will duplicate and translate whatever, without that lang specified in the URL. By switching it over to lang equals Chinese, your code will then render it and change it to Chinese. So then Google will see this page as normally English, but now you want to show Chinese content. So, these two pages will be the same, but when this is executed, this query perimeter is a Chinese query perimeter, it changes it from English to Chinese. So you might have domain.com dot.au/aboutus, which will be just normal about us English-speaking content, but then if you add the query lang equal ZH.CN that would change about us content that is normally written in English to Chinese.

If you have any questions let me know. I love it when you ask me questions. This article is specifically targeted towards small business and the most common ways of handling international content.

There’s a lot of things you can do. You can set HTML data to make sure that the content is the alternate content and you create more directives to explain to Google that what should be common sense such as a .com.au domain. Google will see that it should be English, and if lang’s .ZH. are included, you’ll see at the top right-hand corner of the website different languages. There might be Dutch, German, Chinese or whatever. You click on that and sometimes you might see little query perimeters pop up.

So, it really comes down to what makes sense for your particular scenario. I’ve always recommended, if you want to target a business in a specific country, you can have, let’s say, XYZ.com, that’s your international website, which usually .coms are seen as a U.S. site, but now, you’ve got .US. So, then you’ve got XYZ.com, XYZ.us, XYZ.gr which is Greek, XYZ.it which is Italy. So, you can have all these four websites, but then it becomes a little bit tricky when you have XYZ.com and XYZ.us which are both English-speaking countries. And that’s where it gets a little bit more complicated when you have two different top-level domains that obviously have the same language. You can have duplicate content from Google’s perspective and from a search engine’s perspective but duplicate content is bad, but it’s not as bad as  it has been made out to be in the last 10 years. What some people do is either create different domains for each of those countries or have XYZ.com/GR. That may translate whatever English is on that website.

There’s also another example where you have GR.XYZ.com. Now, this example is very related to the second one, but it’s on a subdomain. As I mentioned in our last episode, I’ve talked about the difference between subfolders and subdomains from a search engine’s perspective. And so, having GR.XYZ.com, it’s actually a real website .com.au. It’s very similar to having domain.CN. So CN.XYZ.com is very similar to domain.CN and subdomains are seen as completely different websites. So, the benefits of having a subdomain usually comes down to things like. You’ve got hosting costs and additional server infrastructure costs and you can control it, generally all from one server and IP.

However, and obviously CN.XYZ.com from a Google’s perspective is seen as an entirely different website than just XYZ.com. The reason why people do this is because it is a little bit less confusing for search engines as it will be seen as a completely different domain. The biggest downturn is that it will be a lot more difficult to get a subdomain ranking than domain.CN, which will be a primary domain. It would be like CN.XYZ.com is a subdomain version and then you have XYZ.CN. This version will always perform better because if you have ten links pointing to CN.XYZ then you’ve got ten links pointing to XYZ.CN.

From my calculation and what I’ve seen over the last 11 years, generally the top-level domain will rank. And that’s why we always recommend with English speaking websites, for small businesses not to use the .com if you are trying to rank in the Australian market. And so I’m thinking, oh man, like you’re making it so hard for yourself. And what has annoyed me is that they actually talked with other SEO agencies and no one told them. And I’m going to actually do another video after this about, specifically one example we’ve seen, where you have domains redirecting out of nowhere and going to multiple subdomains and it’s crazy and really terrible.

To summarise: domain.com.au/ZH.CN is generally going to be content specifically targeted to Chinese-speaking people. And it could be completely or partially dedicated section of the website.. If you want to target English-speaking people in China, use Domain.CN, if you want to target specifically the Chinese market in China, you want to set up a resident, a business, a physical address in China use a domain.CN. The English version is the primary version. And then say you click a button or you click a drop down, then changes in the ads are query perimeter lang equals ZH.CN. That now becomes the alternate version of the primary English-written language, and now translates to ZH.CN.

If you have any questions please contact me.


Author: Andrew Glyntzos

The sole purpose of Omega Digital is to empower our clients by providing digital marketing expertise to advance their lead generation and business growth objectives. Our ultimate goal is to help them achieve enhanced profitability and positive returns to their online marketing investment. Andrew Glyntzos (founder of Omega Digital) has been heavily involved with the deployment of many online marketing campaigns stretching across many different industries. Andrew has worked with both national and international companies including Bing Lee, Kennards Self Storage and Recall.

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