Local domains versus generic domain names

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Local Domains vs. Generic Domain Names

Careful selection and use of domain names makes a substantial difference to international web marketing projects. Local domain names (ccTLDs) help in terms of geo-location and will always win over generic domain names for a number of reasons:

  1. They give much stronger signals for geo-targeting.
  2. Users generally prefer them and they contribute to performance through higher click throughs on search engine results pages (all other factors being equal).
  3. It is easier to convince webmasters or online directories to link to local domains - and links from them is also more attractive to online marketing partners.

What about Page Rank weakness?

Some argue that a centralised generic domain.com (.com .net .org .info) can win over local domains on some sites because of the way that page rank rises to the highest page in the network.

In the view of the Webcertain team this is never the case for the following reasons:

  1. If the highest page in the network is a high Page Rank - say 9 - it will pass value to a separate domain of at least the same value as it does to an internal page. (It could even be argued it's higher because if that secondary domain is on a different IP address in a different country, then it becomes an external link rather than a slightly downgraded internal link).
  2. What about Domain Rank? Microsoft offers domain rank information within its webmaster tools and the argument runs that domains have a certain degree of trust and that therefore it is better to build a mid- or smaller web site around a large generic domain.com. If you think about what that means - it means inbound links which give the domain its ‘trust'. Now let's imagine that we are a searcher looking for the supply of a printing machine and we're based in Berlin, Germany. An American company has a web site with a .com and a page rank of 9. It also has a single German home page within that domain (either as a folder or subdomain) which ends up with a high page rank - and trust level - as a result of being part of that larger domain. A competitor - also an American company has a site with german domain .de - it has a lower page rank but ALL the links are German. As a searcher, we would have more faith in the more locally-linked organisation. From a search engine point of view, it makes sense to ignore the link values that are stateside - hence the domain rank and trust levels reduce. In fact, arguably, what we're looking for is a page where the proportion of German links is at its highest!
  3. What about duplication on sites of the same language? Google has stated that local domains actually help them to decide which content is appropriate to each market and so it actually reduces the impact of duplication. Moreover, unless the intention is to provide one English version, for example, of 9 different English markets the issue then presents itself of where that content will be seen as local and therefore appear in the ‘Pages from' category.

When should you use subdomains or folders as an alternative to local domains?

Only when system or content restrictions permit no other way of managing the site.

Is my country site ever too small to use a local domain?

If the local domain part of an international network of sites - no. Each new country will benefit from the combined strength of the others - even though they're not on the same domain.

If I'm launching a brand new site which will therefore have no history - and no network to support it - should I use a .com?

No. The benefits of using the local domain are great in this case - just as for larger sites.

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