Are you developing a multilingual website for your business? Chances are that you’ve seen all of the following structures being used:
At LiteBreeze we faced this challenge ourselves when planning the revamp of our websites. We were implementing a new design as well as migrating to the WordPress CMS.
Advantages of subfolders:
Advantages of TLDs:
Common advantages of TLDs and subdomains:
Common advantages of subfolders and subdomains:
Don’t machine-translate your content using tools like Google translate. Search engines may punish your ranking unless you add special attributes to the machine translation to make it non-spiderable, alternatively clarify the canonical URL. Computer translated texts also sound very unprofessional, so better stay away from those. Based on our experience, we have prepared a guide on translating a multilingual website.
Will your website just be multilingual, or also multiregional? Our own content will differ on our Swedish website, and more so in the future. This plays into our localization consideration. Parts of our websites, such as the careers section for example, will be multiregional; we will hire staff in both India and Sweden.
As of right now (Oct 2017) our career website is hosted at http://jobs.litebreeze.com. Using a subdomain was the wrong choice in terms of SEO as litebreeze.com/jobs would build up backlinks that would have benefited the rest of the domain.
My advice is to localize part of your content to start with. Choose the highest value content. Frequently reconsider what is high-impact and low-effort to localize. How much of resources are you willing to spend on translations and what is your return on investment? Don’t do everything at once!
At LiteBreeze we will use a .se to target our Swedish clients and candidates as they very significant to our business. We will also use .de to keep our structure consistent as we only translate our content into three languages. It also allows for future ease of management; we could easily hand over litebreeze.fr for example to a future French content manager.
But different TLDs will reduce the number of backlinks which are very important? My personal take on this is that it is indeed a major drawback right now. However, Google continuously works to make their ranking fairer. It’s probable that Google in the future will rank us based on language-specific backlinks as that makes sense to end-users. If we structure content in user-friendly ways we will sooner or later be rewarded. Let’s keep it simple.
Which option is the cheapest in terms of the time required by web developers? An experienced developer can implement either of these three options without requiring much time “extra” time if using a modern development platform/framework.
Your web developers just need to account for it early on, during the project planning phase. We recommend Laravel as a development framework for larger custom web solutions, and WordPress for custom websites.
This being said, it might require some extra maintenance to roll out updates across separate TLDs. The effort would be smaller for skilled web developers who structure their code well in version control branches.
To be precise there are country-code top-level domains (ccTLDs) as well as generic TLDs (gTLDs). .com is a gTLD. There are “vanity TLDs” like .me and .tv.
If you use a gTLDs you can country-target it to one country with Google Webmaster Tools (GWT). Google attempts to determine your country-target anyway though. Google says that “If you use an international domain (.com, .org, .eu), we’ll rely on several signals, including IP address, location information on the page, links to the page, and any relevant information from Google My Business.”
If your website targets many countries, like litebreeze.com does, you should leave the country-targeting in GWT blank (official Google source).
Server location has less and less effect on your Google ranking, especially if using a CDN. Load speeds, however, will affect your ranking, so locating your server near to your target users can make sense.