25 May 2011

How to Geo-locate Pages Within Your Website in Different Countries

33 Comments SEO

How to Geo-locate Pages Within Your Website in Different Countries

This post is really a gift from Ian McAnerin whom I’ve met and shared stages with in China, Canada and recently in Bangalore. Ian is a world renowned international marketing specialist and shared instructions on how to rank the individual pages of your website in separate countries and avoid duplicate content issues.

Let’s start with a glossary.

  • Absolute Link: An absolute link defines the name and location of the document, the protocol to use to get the document, the server to get it from, the directory location the document.
  • Relative Link: A relative link assumes the server knows the location of the current document. To link to another document in the same directory, relative links are sufficient. Only the is name of the file is required to locate the document.
  • ccTDL: Country code Top Level Domain ie: xyz.co.uk or xyz.de
  • Non-specific TDL: TDL not associated with a specific country. Ie: .com, .net, .org

The general rule of thumb is generally the best way to rank pages in any specific country is to:

  • Register a country-specific TDL
  • Host the website in that country
  • Build links; rank well

The problem with that option is that it can lead to duplicate content issues and keyword and link cannibalization, not to mention a whole lot of extra work for everyone involved, forever. For SEO purposes, the best option is to have a single website for your company, build all your inbound links to it, and have all the pages in it benefit from your efforts. With the increasing importance of social media brand mentions, the problem becomes exacerbated. Here are some solutions.

I have a .com website and want specific pages in it to rank well in several countries

Option 1:

Buy ccTLDs in the countries you want to rank for. In truth, it hardly matters what the name is, but to keep things straight in your own mind, buy names you can remember, such as www.mywebsiteGermany.de and www.mywebsitefrance.fr and so on. It’s unlikely that your website’s domain name with the country added at the end is going to be taken and it will help you keep things orderly.

301 redirect the ccTLD’s home page to the country-specific landing page on your master website. Ie:

www.mywebsitegermany.de would point to: www.website.com/de-deutschland on your master website.

Now you have built a country specific link to the page you want to rank in a specific language and country.

Build at least one more link from within the country to the ccTLD. The more the better. So build as many links from the country you want to rank for to the landing page on your master website as possible. This is a signal to the search engines that websites within a specific country think this page is for them and that it’s important.

ie: Get links from appropriate directories, news sources, professional organizations, social media sites, etc. in Germany and point them to www.mywebsite.com/de-deutchland

Option 2:

This is unusual, as it’s very rare to suggest using a 302 (temporary) link.

Purchase a ccTLD. Use the naming conventions suggested above to keep things easy to manage.

Use a 302 redirect from the ccTLD to the landing pages on your .com (or other non country specific domain).

This is a signal to the search engine that your ccTLD is the “real” domain, temporarily redirected to the .com. The search engine will index the .com and keep the ccTLD as the “original” domain. In other words, the .com won’t be considered.

A 302 redirect is applied on a page-by-page basis, which means you can geo-locate specific pages of your site with different countries.

Note: If you need to geo-locate an entire non country-specific domain (.com, .net, .org, or .edu) with a specific country, create a sitemap with the ccTLD coded as an absolute (not relative) link to each page of your site.

Option 3:

Park the ccTLD directly on the .com. This associates BOTH domains to the site. Since one of the domains is a ccTLD, the site becomes geo-located. It takes awhile for the search engines to figure out that this is really the same site. Your link popularity will be split between the domains until they the search engines acknowledge that they’re merged.  And there may be a duplicate content issue during this time. Be patient; it may be a few weeks.

Use relative links to get your whole site associated with the ccTLD. If you don’t want the whole domain associated, control which pages will be geo-located by using absolute links or 302 redirects.

I have a ccTLD website and want to add my new .com to it

In this case, use a 301-redirect (not 302) from the .com domain to the ccTLD. This tells the search engines to pass on all link popularity to the ccTLD, and to not consider the .com as the “real” website.

Page-specific Geo-location Indicators

Regardless of your scenario or the option you choose, you’ll need to add some geo-location specific information to your pages. Employ as much of the following as possible:

  • Name the url: MyWebsiteI.com/ie-Ireland. Use the url to identify the language and country you want this page to rank for.
  • Include a local physical address if possible. If it doesn’t fit appropriately into the copy, the footer is a good place for this info.
  • Write in the local language. If it’s English, use local spelling, grammar, and terminology as much as possible.  Reference local places where possible.
  • Build links from the appropriate country to ccTLD site, not just the .com site.
  • Don’t confuse the search engines. Not all links need to be from the country, but avoid building links from the UK to your German pages, etc.

Things You Should Know

Each page can only have ONE country linked to it.

Most websites use relative links for internal linking. Some use absolute. Each has a difference on whether your websites pages are considered geo-located or not.

If you 302-redirect mcanerin.ca to mcanerin.com, you’re permitting the search engines to resolve any webpage on the site to the .ca website. But you’re not actually resolving any of those pages.

The problem with absolute links
If you use absolute links, and a spider follows a link to mcanerin.ca, the page it arrives on is associated with Canada.  If the spider follows a link to mcanerin.com, the page it arrives on is not associated with Canada since .com is not a ccTDL, the page is not country specific.

The problem is that absolute links within your website is that they take precedence over any previous redirect. If the link is made to /tools.thm, a relative link, the spider will follow that relative link within the .ca domain it’s already in. In that case, the page will be associated with Canada.

Absolute links are useful with geo-location sitemaps. Use an ordinary sitemap with 2 exceptions:

1) Point to the sitemap with at least one, and preferably many, absolute links using the ccTLD

2) Include a list of all pages you want to associate with a specific country. Use absolute links from ccTDL to each page to correctly associate it.

Remember -  301’s get rid of the old and keeps the new 302s keep the old and ignore the new, and a park keeps both.

You can reach Ian at Ian@McCanerin.com for more info. Thanks, Ian!

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