International SEO: Country Code Top Level Domains (ccTLD) Guide

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What's up everyone. Today you're gonna learn about country code, top level domains, or ccTLDs.
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What's up everyone. Today you're gonna learn about country code, top level domains, or ccTLDs. Internationalization is basically what this is. We're gonna talk about everything that's important around country specific domains, whether or not you should buy them, what the implications are for localized and internationalized rankings in Google and other search engines. Stay for the whole video. We're gonna get deep into the details on international SEO here. I'm Tommy Griffith with clickminded.com, let's get going. Okay, so country code top level domains, or ccTLDs, so talking about international SEO here in a moment, but just a quick reminder before we get going on that. Thinking about the technical stuff around SEO and country code top level domains, we're gonna dive deep into SEO, but SEO is only one piece of a more comprehensive digital marketing strategy, so while it's super important and I'm a huge fan of it and I love it, don't neglect all of your other digital marketing channels. SEO is just one component. Then within SEO county code top level domains are just one component of that. This is just one thing among many that you should be doing from an SEO perspective and SEO is one thing among many that you should be doing from a digital marketing perspective. Do keep that in mind as we dive in. Okay. Country code top level domains. A country code top level domain or ccTLD, this is just an internationalized version of what you might be familiar with. It depends on where you're from, where you grew up, or where you may have lived, but this differs from country to country and it's colloquially different as well. I'm from the US. I grew up in the US and for most of my life I've heard nothing but .com. In Germany, very common is .de. In Australia, very common is .com, .Au, or .Au. Mexico .mx. China .cn. A country code top level domain is just the domain extension.
It generally has a country connotation or a regional connotation.
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It generally has a country connotation or a regional connotation. It's essentially a domain that I can decide it signifies it's from a particular place. Websites that are ending in .de are designed for German user. Let's get into the weeds here. Country code top level domains are the most powerful way to rank a domain or rank a page in a certain country. There's other ways to do it. I could technically get a page on our website, clickminded.com ranking in Germany. I would have to do a lot and talk about sort of how I would do that, but the fastest, most powerful way to do this is to get the country code top level domain of the country in question and use that. In general, apples to apples, if you have two pages and they're exactly the same and one is on a .com and one is on a .de, the one that's on a .de is generally more inclined to rank better in the Google German version or in Google.de. Keep that in mind. Google assumes that all of the content on a country code top level domain is designed for that country is gonna buy us rankings toward that country, but keep in mind this is unrelated to language. This is country specific. Documents on a .de domain or on a .fr domain, or a .com, .Au domain, those documents are designed for Germany and France and Australia but they're not actually language specific. These are country specifications. Stay away from country code top level domains if you're targeting global traffic. They're a huge headache. One massive problem I saw very popular in San Francisco when I first moved there in 2011, was people were getting .it version of a site, which is the Italian domain. They were either doing IT services or they made up some cute clever name for their start
Up and they were ending it in .
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up and they were ending it in .it and then they were super confused to why they weren't ranking in search results for the United States. It's because it's a massive signal to Google that this content is designed for Italians. They were doing great in the Google.it, but not in Google.com. Watch out for this. A lot of people try and get cute with their domain names, and it hurts them a lot. It's also colloquially difficult for a lot of people to understand a lot of these domain name extensions. Wherever you are, whatever is kind of colloquially popular, just use that. It makes it way easier. One test I like to use, I call it the mom test. When you pick your domain name, you call your mom, you say your domain name one time over the phone, and if your mom is able to go to a browser, input that domain name, and get to your page without any clarification from you at all, it's a good domain name.If not, it's a bad domain name. The other version of this test is the crowded bar test. If you said your domain name one time in a crowded bar to someone, could they remember and visit it the next day. If you fail either of these tests, it's a bad domain name. Keep that in mind. The exception here are what are called GccTLDs, Global country code top level domains where Google basically came out and said, "Okay, yes .de is for Germany and yes .fr is for France, but it looks like most people are buying certain domain extensions and they're not really targeting those places." .IO is for Indian Ocean, but every single one is a start up or an app. They basically said .io actually is gonna be global. .CO originally for Columbia, same things, it's becoming very popular. A lot of people are using that kind of for their start up. .TV ... There's a list of a bunch of others, we'll list those in the resources down below. The basic idea here, though, is that if you're not a Global country code top level domain, you're going to be biased toward whatever country that you actually are, so keep that
In mind. Okay, let's go through a little list of how to think of this.
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in mind. Okay, let's go through a little list of how to think of this, depending on who you are and kind of what your business is and who you work for. There are a bunch of different questions you should ask yourself before investing in country code top level domains or before investing in internationalization strategy. First of all, do you operate in a certain country and you have no plans of expanding beyond that? Are you a French coffee shop chain, maybe you have one or two retail locations and maybe you want to go to three or four, but you'll never expand beyond France. Fine. Get the .fr, totally fine, no issues there at all. Go for that country code top level domain. Do you operate in multiple countries? Maybe you're in the US, in Canada, maybe over in the UK, or maybe you're in France and you'll also go to Germany, I would recommend still picking on domain, but using country codes sub folders. It's what we did at PayPal. I managed search engine optimization for two years at PayPal.com and everything still happened on the .com, but the localized versions of the actually web application were on country code sub folders. All of our Mexican content was on /mx. All of our Spanish content was on /es. All of our French content was on /fr. Basically, we had the localized versions of each country specific site in a sub folder and all of our internationalized links and the content all that would live there. But we only had one domain. This was technically much easier to manage. Every time you're adding an incremental domain, it's tough. It's technical. You gotta do a lot of stuff. You have to manage registrations and crawl budgets, Google search console, analytics, cross domain tracking. There's so much there. If you're just getting started expanding, picking one domain and using a country specific country code sub folder is actually an okay way to do it.
That's how we did it at PayPal. The big dog one is this.
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That's how we did it at PayPal. The big dog one is this. Are you everywhere? Do you have multiple offices everywhere? Do you have content in multiple languages? Are you a massive operation? Then you can go ahead and buy country code top level domains. I really wanna warn against this. You wanna be careful. PayPal was even big enough that they ... It didn't make sense to them, it's actually technical reasons why it didn't make sense to them ... A story for another day. The point here is massive companies are still in situations where they only use one domain and they use a country code sub folder. Don't think you need to do this but you can. At Airbnb, I managed search engine optimization there, we had 26-27 different country code top level domains. There's some very complicated intricate engineering on the back end around making localized copies of each domain. A lot of management in order to do all that. Lots of different versions search console and analytics. Do keep that in mind. But, it's a fantastic ranking signal. All of our content was translated by local translators and on that country code specific version of the domain, it's great for search engines. It's great for users. It's extremely expensive and very difficult to maintain. Do keep that in mind. If you're not gonna expand at all ... Just to summarize ... If you're not gonna expand at all, stick with the country that you're in. If you're expanding a little bit or you're a start up that just want to deal with a lot of the technical overhead, pick one domain and build up country specific versions on the sub folder. If you're a massive operation and you're willing to invest in all of the behind the scenes infrastructure you need to keep multiple versions of the domain up, then go ahead and buy the multiple country code top level domains. That's it. That's all there really is to country code top level domains, or ccTLDs. I hope that was useful. If was helpful and if you learned something today, go ahead and click subscribe down below for even more digital marketing tactics and tips from us. If you're on YouTube, we would love a comment. What'd you think of this? Are you back and forth between whether or not you should pick up your country code top level domain?
Would love to hear from you. I read every single one. Finally.
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Would love to hear from you. I read every single one. Finally, if you want a super comprehensive SEO checklist from us that includes internationalization and all the technical stuff you need for country code top level domains, go ahead and click that link below to clickminded.com to get your free SEO checklist right now. Thanks a lot.

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