We sat down with Brian Dainis of Curotec, an enterprise application and web development firm based in Radnor, PA, to talk about the global website Curotec built for JoieBaby. Based in the UK, Joiebaby sells baby gear all over the world. The client needed a custom built website which could be translated and localized for fourteen different countries: the Philippines, Australia, Portugal, China, South Africa, Germany, South Korea, Spain, Taiwan, France, UK, Japan, and the Netherlands.
I was looking at the site structure and I noticed that some of the sites use subdomains and others use country code top-level domains. Why the difference?
One of the first steps in creating a foreign-language website is choosing a structure. A French-language site with a subdomain looks like this: fr.yourcompany.com. A site using a country code top-level domain (ccTLD) looks like this: www.yourcompany.fr. Each of these choices has benefits and drawbacks.
The Joiebaby site structures were chosen partly because of search considerations. Google is the major search engine across Western Europe, so if you use subdomains on a single property – like uk.joiebaby.com for the United Kingdom and de.joibaby.com for Germany – then each site benefits from the authority of the other sites. That means that traffic on de.joiebaby.com boosts the standing of other Joiebaby sites.
But Google is blocked in mainland China so this isn’t relevant. We needed to optimize the Chinese site for different search engines like Baidu and 360Search. Also, the Chinese site required a different localization strategy to suit preferences of the Chinese market. And in Korea, Naver is the number one search engine and Google’s market share isn’t as strong. So for SEO, it was better to establish separate ccTLDs for each of these countries — www.joiebaby.com.cn and www.joiebaby.com.kr — instead of linking them to the other sites.
Who does the translation for the sites? How are content updates handled?
Joiebaby has sales departments in each country, so the translation was coordinated in-country by the client. But we set up a system whereby the country-level administrators are kept informed of any design or product changes communicated directly from headquarters in the UK. Decisions about how to translate and optimize product information are made in-country. If a design issue is problematic at the country level, then they can talk about it with headquarters before making the change.
What other issues did you take into account when creating the Joiebaby sites?
International SEO uses a lot of the same strategies as domestic SEO, but research for each site was done in-country by native speakers. The English language sites for South Africa, the UK, and Australia had to be localized for each country’s language preferences, like “pushchairs” vs. “strollers.”But this was taken care of by different translation teams.
One thing I want to point out is that a lot of American countries doing business internationally don’t realize that the competition for rankings overseas is less intense than it is in the US. Search engine optimization efforts in the US might move the needle a bit for a company’s rankings in the US, but the same amount of effort can have a much bigger impact in Europe and other countries. If it’s done right, the return on investment on international SEO can actually be a bit higher than on US-based SEO.
Are you saying that creating a foreign-language site can raise the ranking of your flagship site?
Google has its own ccTLDs for a number of countries, so each site will rank independently of one another. So, ranking well in Germany won’t help your US flagship site. But, there will likely be less competition for your (localized) keywords in Google Germany than there will be for the equivalent keywords in the US. And while your foreign-language sites may not boost your flagship site, optimizing your other sites will give you a significant advantage over your competitors who don’t have localized sites or don’t optimize those sites for the local search engines.
We talked about ccTLDs and subdomains. There’s a third option: creating subfolders, so that the URL for a French site would look like this: www.yourcompany.com/fr. What are the pros and cons of choosing a structure like this?
Subdirectories, or subfolders, can be a great option for smaller companies, especially if you are only translating a landing page or a small number of pages. This strategy keeps site administration in one place, and subdirectory sites benefit from the parent site’s domain authority as soon as they are launched. On the other hand, sites with country-level domains have to start building authority from scratch. Keeping all of the translated sites under a single domain will also improve the overall link profile, as each contributes credibility to the others. And you can set up geo-targeting in the Google Search Console for foreign language sites. You also have the option, with a subfolder scenario, of having different user experiences for each of the sites.
But, the downside is that, while your sites may be geo-targeted, users may not realize that a site is targeted at them when it shows up in a search. Also, it’s possible you might decide in the future to set up separate regional sites each with a country code top level domain and decentralized control. The transition gets complicated with a subdomain structure. If you think you’ll be expanding and want to have distinct regional sites at some point, you might want to avoid the hassle and skip the subdirectories.
Thanks, Brian, for sharing your insights.
For more information about Curotec, visit www.curotec.com.