Which international domain to choose?

  • shutterstock_402665911 (1)
  • shutterstock_402665911 (1)

Choosing the most suitable domain for your overseas expansion is a vital first step on the path to international success online. However, many struggle with this decision and find understanding the subtle differences and the impact a domain has on business processes confusing.

From the businesses asked in Search Laboratory’s 2015 survey, 87% of businesses believe it is important to have a local website domain (.fr/.de).

This reflects the fact that the majority of European markets have, and are generally more successful with, a country-coded top-level domain (ccTLD). By using the ccTLD you’re not only ensuring that your website is most suitable for the search engines, but also establishing trust with the user: someone looking to purchase from you feels greater trust in a brand that is well established in their market. Signalling this through a ccTLD compared to a generic .com site is common practice and is an important signal to customers to display when expanding overseas.


When selecting a domain option, consider the following six factors and how they impact your overall plans in the market:

1. Authority

Building authority from the ground-up or using your domestic site’s existing authority.

2. Trust

What trust signals does the market you are expanding into require, and how you can match the majority, or ultimately all, of these requirements?

3. Cost

The budget you have available.

4. Location signals

The strength of the signal passed to search engines as to which region your content is targeting. Even top-level segmentation (such as sub-folder or sub-domain) is recommended over no segmentation at all.

5. Short-term impact

Does the choice of domain have an instant impact? Does this impact last in the market? And does this match what you wish to achieve in the market?

6. Long-term impact

Is the choice of domain better suited for a longer campaign in the market? Is long-term part of your business plan?

Here is a snapshot of all the pros and cons of the different options, depending on your business needs and your plan for international expansion:

Domain structure comparison


Ultimately, it’s down to each website and the business’ individual needs. If a company wants their various country sites to rank as quickly as possible, for example, then implementing a sub-folder structure would be immediately beneficial. However, if long-term consumer trust and geo-targeting are more important to a business, then a ccTLD might be the most appealing choice. Assess each option carefully before deciding. If you need more tailored advice on taking your website into new overseas markets, please feel free to get in touch on +44 113 212 1211.