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Mueller Gives Tips on Building an International Presence Online

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Google’s John Mueller recently discussed whether or not one should create international sections within an existing website or build a new site entirely to improve their website SEO ranking and search visibility. An international website SEO expert also shared their opinion on this topic and gave insights on what the best course of action is.

Using ccTLD for International Websites

A person asked Mueller about the ideal way to expand internationally. They said they have strong search visibility in the United States, but they wanted to grow their online presence in other countries.

The main website had a very strong online presence, so the person believes that it could give an advantage to international versions built within the site’s dot com version. This is because those versions would be built on an established domain.

However, there are several good reasons for establishing new sites on domains matching the countries they target. This includes domains like .uk, .jp, and .de, which are known as Country Code Top Level Domains (ccTLD).

The person who asked Mueller shared their situation. They said that they are starting to build their search visibility in the UK and Canada and have difficulties choosing whether they should create ccTLDs or just keep the dot com version.

They said that they are a real estate company, so their pages are location-specific and will possibly end up in a dozen countries. Therefore, they want to take advantage of targeting locally in Search Console with the ccTLDs since they cannot do that with the dot com version.

The person then asked Mueller if there is an advantage in either option or if Google considers one or the other as the best choice.

Several Factors to Consider for International Business Expansion

Mueller replied, saying that there were several factors to consider before making a decision.

Firstly, one should consider the aspect of owning multiple sites versus one strong website. If they have a dozen different locations, that is less of an issue.

Another factor to consider is geotargeting, which website SEO experts can use when people are searching for something local. So, either way, one should ensure that they can find out what geotargeting to use for their website.

Mueller also said that ccTLDs are obvious, so he thinks using them is a good approach. Subdomains and subdirectories are options as well.

Parameters to Indicate Different International Sections

Next, Mueller addressed what not to do. He said that one should not use URL parameters if they have a main global website and can search for a specific country, and then, the country is mentioned somewhere in the URL. That would mean that Google can’t conduct geotargeting for the website.

International Expansion Depends on Marketing Strategy

After that, Mueller advised the person to think about what their decision will mean for their locally targeted audience.

The person then mentioned that their US site has 40 million pages while the Canadian website has 500,000 pages. They also said that only 5% of the pages have a one-to-one match between Canadian and US versions.

Mueller responded, saying that they are all equivalent and that there could be some advantages by building on the existing domain. However, that depends on their marketing goals.

For instance, if the person wants to be known as a real estate company for Canada, they would want to have their own domain. On the other hand, if they want to position themselves as a global company targeting Canada, they should build that within their existing domain.

Things to Consider Before Expanding to New Countries

An international SEO specialist also shared their thoughts on the advantages and disadvantages of going international using ccTLDs or an existing site.

They said that the site on a dot com version is a good approach, especially since Google uses the hreflang attribute to determine a web document’s language target, and the search engine company has improved their algorithms.

However, they also offered arguments in support of the ccTLD, saying that it often promotes consumer trust, which results in an improved engagement. For instance, German consumers might be wary of purchasing any non-German products, making it difficult for companies with non-German specific presence to compete.

In this case, one should prove that they have better quality than other German competitors, and they should not diminish trust signals by avoiding German ccTLDs. Therefore, one should be as local and as German as possible to expand into the German market.

Other than these trust signals, one should also consider links. German sites that link to a website from within Germany, for instance, are preferred over links from outside of Germany.

International Expansion and Links

The international SEO specialist also discussed links, which are one of the foundations of a successful search presence and help websites climb the search results ladder.

They said that it is easier for publishers to use ccTLD instead of a dot com URL that mentions the location, as the former would increase the likelihood of a link. Therefore, it is easier with the hreflang attribute, and the website can still rank and compete.

However, they should consider the goals of usability and conversions, build trust among site visitors, and gain traction in an international online market.

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