April 7, 2010
As a long-term subscriber I would like to ask for your advice concerning optimisation of an e-commerce site for multiple countries.
Specifically I am in the UK and have a client in Australia operating an e-commerce site. The site is well established and ranks well in the UK (where it is hosted) but not very well in the USA or Australia.
My client believes this is because the site is hosted in the UK and that in order to succeed in the bigger US market he needs to host in the USA (same for Australia).
He is asking if he should operate 3 sites – one hosted in each country – and I wondered if you could comment on the importance of hosting in the target country, and the implications of having what will essentially be 3 duplicates of the same site – one for .co.uk, one for .com and one for .com.au.
Any other suggestions will be welcome.
The country code top-level domain (ccTLD), such as .co.uk and .com.au, is more important to Google for determining the target country than where the hosted server is physically located. That said, while a .com domain does target the US audience, it's not actually a US domain, but a worldwide one. Therefore, to target the US market, you might want to physically host the .com in the US.
There are a few additional options open to you. You could have one .com website and use different subdomains or subdirectories for each country you want to target. For example, uk.example.com and aus.example.com for subdomains, or www.example.com/uk and www.example.com/aus as subdirectories. If you go this route, you'd need to set up each subdomain or subdirectory in Google Webmaster Tools to target the individual country assigned to it.
The problem with that method is that it is only a Google solution and is not going to help with the other search engines.
If you already have the specific ccTLDs for the UK and Australia, you are better off using those domains and creating sites that target those geographical regions. While you will likely have duplicate content because they're all English-speaking countries, it shouldn't be a problem because the search engines will typically choose the correct version of your site depending on where the searcher is located. You can see this yourself, if you already have separate ccTLD websites, by heading over to google.co.uk and searching for your site by name. It's likely that the UK version will show up there rather than the other versions.
Hope this helps!
Jill Whalen is the CEO of High Rankings, a Boston SEO Consulting Agency.
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