With the power of the web, entrepreneurs can now turn their local small business into a global company with customers all around the world. But remember: Before taking this step, you will first need to verify all business and legal aspects connected to making business and having a website presence in another country.
If, after a thoughtful business analysis, you have decided that it is high time to target other countries, regions and languages, you need your website ready to go international! To do this you have to think of a multilingual URL structure strategy early in the process. This is why you need to know these three strategies using domains to achieve a successful multilingual website architecture.
What is the best domain strategy for your multilanguage website?
If you want to be successful you need to reach a wider audience. Search engines are nowadays the starting point of most web searches and you have to consider their needs in terms of international SEO if you want to establish a successful localized web presence. It is Google itself that recommends using different URLs for each language, rather than cookies or browser settings to adjust the content language of your website.
Therefore, optimizing your URL structure is a winning solution: it is the favorite country and language-related factor for search engines and it provides users with clear and straightforward information about the content.
There are mainly three technical strategies using domains that help search engines find and understand that your website is targeting specific countries and languages. The first one is using subdomains, the second subdirectories, the third ccTLDs. They are both valid methods that will help you create dedicated content for a certain country and language and they come, of course, with pros and cons. Let’s take a look.
1. Subdomains with gTLDs to go international
One valid option to establish a multilingual website architecture is to structure the website in subdomains, i.e. you will place different translations of your website in an URL that will look like this:
In this domain example the first two characters represent the language code for Italian. A subdomain gives you more freedom. Basically, it is like running a second website. For every language subdomain you can create a different layout or offer different content. This is very convenient if you are planning to offer different products or services in a certain country.
Since a subdomain is a standalone site you need to be careful how you link all your internationalized pages as you cannot rely on the SEO effort put on the root or www domain.
Moreover, duplicate content can be tricky as the root domain will likely rank better. For this matter the use of canonical links and hreflang tags will be of help. On the other hand, this method is very flexible and it can be used for both localization by country or by language. Subdomains are easy to set up and cookies can be shared to create a smoother user experience.
- This method is easy to set up.
- Each subdomain has an IP you can geolocate for example in Google Search Console.
- You can use different server locations.
- Every site remains separate preserving the identity and allowing backlinks between the different subdomains.
- You will have to work on ranking each subdomain meaning more work and resources to invest.
- The subdomain might create confusion between the users in some cases: ca.yourdomain.com. Is it the country, Canada, or the language, Catalan?