How do you structure a global site with country-specific content?
This Ask an SEO question comes from Dan from Melbourne, who wrote:
“What is the best site structure for a content/news based website that is intended to be international but also country specific?
For example, you want some content to be shared in the US, UK, Australia, Hong Kong, and Singapore, but then some separate content is primarily for the UK or Australia.
Is it better to have a site at the main domain level (.com) for global content, and then also use subdirectories (.com/au/ or .com/gb/) for country specifics?
Do you also have a separate homepage for each country? »
Hey Dan, the good thing about this question is that there really is no wrong answer.
Although international websites can be confusing and expensive to implement, you generally have the freedom to go about it however you see fit.
Occam’s razor applies more than we like to think when it comes to SEO.
So yes, to answer your question, I think that’s the easiest approach, although it depends on the type of content you’re producing.
For example, suppose you upload international news articles in English that will be read around the world.
In this case, having a generic top-level domain (gTLD) will be the best route with subdirectories for each distinct country you want to target.
However, if you want to create localized content and appeal to specific audiences in different countries, there are advantages to using ccTLDs and subdomains, which I think are worth discussing.
Which URL structure is right for me?
Ultimately, I think two options will work best for your website, so it’s up to you which one you think works best for your news organization.
gTLDs with country-specific subdirectories
If you use a mix of international and localized content, investing in a top-level domain with subdirectories for different countries would be the easiest option.
Each country-specific landing page can have its own unique landing page with limited navigation that deals with content specific to that country, like .com/au or .com/uk.
The benefits of this approach are that it’s incredibly easy to set up and all domain authority will be shared across your entire website. Plus, you could have the same team managing your local and general content.
Unfortunately, there are two drawbacks to this approach.
First, your subdirectories won’t have as much local feel, which might have a slight impact on UX.
However, the biggest concern is that your website architecture could get messy, especially if each subdirectory has its own browsing categories.
For example, many news outlets often offer top-level navigation bars that address specific issues related to that country.
Take this basic website structure from CNN as an example:
Make sure all content falls under the URL structure: https://example.com/us/newsstory and not separate subdirectories within your country-specific subdirectory, such as https://example. com/us/covid19/newsstory.
This will help you avoid navigation issues and make your website more manageable.
- The simplest to implement.
- CMS offer easy multilingual management.
- Minimal initial costs.
- Easy navigation.
- Link equity is shared across the domain.
Localize content with subdomains
On the other hand, if your primary focus is localized content and that’s where you want to dive, hosting regional web pages on subdomains can be a good option.
Ideally, you would have a large gTLD with international content for your parent brand.
Then you can create subdomains for specific countries that appeal to that demographic audience.
So your gTLD could be an English-language news site that people in the EU, Australia, and the US might enjoy (if that’s your primary audience), while you could host a separate domain for each of these countries if you were dealing with specific topics related to that country.
Unfortunately, this approach has many drawbacks.
- Hosting content on separate domains could be difficult to organize.
- Subdomains cost more to implement only subfolders.
- Branding could be difficult to maintain if multiple teams are working on your website.
- Link equity will not distribute evenly on your domain.
However, if you have separate teams working on content for specific regions around the world, there is a strong case for hosting location-specific content on a subdomain.
- Localized UX.
- More effective geotargeting.
- Content is more organized by region.
Language vs location targeting
Now, much of what we have discussed so far mainly focuses on geo-targeting for specific countries/regions.
However, what if these countries have a large population of multilingual speakers? How to optimize for this?
For example, what if you write international news in English but want to create the same article in Spanish and feature it on your homepage?
Whether you use a subdomain or a gTLD, you can implement hreflang tags to help you create multilingual content for general and local topics.
A basic hreflang tag is an HTML tag, such as and means that the web page is written in a specific language for search engines.
So if you wanted to create English content for people in France, you would add a tag like this in the header of your HTML:
There are several ways to implement hreflang tags for multilingual speakers in different countries, but the easiest method is to create a folder with all your hreflang tags and submit them in an XML sitemap.
Obviously, your website will not encompass all countries and languages.
So before you spend dozens of hours setting up a new subdomain, implementing hreflang tags, and hiring multilingual content creators, you need to research and figure out which countries are worth targeting.
Researching international keywords is a great strategy for discovering which markets will have the most engagement with your website. For instance, Semrush provides tools that allow me to filter keyword trends and results by country in English:
Plus, tools like this provide me with an overall volume baseline for each keyword.
Similarly, you can perform the same keyword research in different languages to identify which countries have the most engagement in Spanish or German.
Since your website is all about news and current affairs, your search will look a little different.
However, researching the keywords and competition using tools like Semrush, Ahrefs, and Google Ads can give a good idea of which countries/languages will be the most profitable investment.
Content and translation
Finally, if your website focuses on regional content, you will need to invest in local content creators to provide visitors with an authentic news experience.
Hire translators and avoid using translation tools as much as possible. Also, try to make your subdomain or subdirectory as unique as possible for that country.
Ultimately, this may mean handing over parts of your domain to separate individuals and teams to manage region-specific content.
Choosing between a subdomain or a subdirectory depends on your primary business goals.
While considerations such as link equity and backlinks are important, the decision should come down to which approach will produce the best flow of traffic and engagement, especially since you are a web-based website. news/blogs.
Additionally, whatever strategy you adopt, you will need to incorporate other factors, such as hreflang tags and hiring local content creators to make your content appealing to as wide an audience as possible.
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