Have you got a killer product or service and are thinking about going global with it? Careful consideration should be spent on choosing the right domain name and whether to go for multiple domains or just one.
Step 1 – Choose the right Domain name
To brand or not to brand – that is that is the question. You could go for a keyword rich domain like www.semconsultancy.com. This kinda has a ‘what it says on the tin’ attitude and it will also help slightly with your search engine rankings, but not significantly to justify it outright.
On the flip side, you could go for more of a brandable name, that is often unrelated to the industry you are in, like Google or Wanadoo. From a user’s perspective, less traditional names, are often easy to remember and are good for creating a buzz factor and viral marketing. Brandable domains generally work well for large companies and if your company is going global, it could be a good port of call.
Perhaps more importantly in your domain strategy should be in the retention of visitors. The cost of acquisition is almost always more for a new customer than for a returning one. Sticking to .com or the tld of your country, if it is widely used and available, is generally the best route to go with. Stuntdbl’s awesome article shares these views and I am also in agreement that it is wise to stay away from .net’s, dashed domains and typo’s if you want to maximise retention of customers and visitors.
Step 2 – Your going Global, one Domain or one for each Country?
The reason for having more than one domain is largely to do with search engines and generating natural search results for each country and also forward planning. Also, customers will scan through listings for relevance and if your website is domain country specific, then this can be perceived as RELEVANT!
Google UK will favour UK based sites by default, even if you don’t use the pages from the UK option. However, the effect if you don’t select pages from the UK in a search is not as noticeable than if you do .
“In short, a search across the entire web at Google UK is not equal to a search across the entire web at Google’s flagship Google.com site and is quite different for a country-specific search.” Danny Sullivan of SearchEngineWatch.
Search engines are straying more and more into showing different results at the various country-specific versions they operate, even if country-specific results were not requested.
The main reason for this is due to Google associating a regional origin for the website. This is mostly due to where the website is hosted e.g. in the UK or USA. Other factors include the country origin of sites that link to you and also slightly to do with the tld of the domain e.g. .co.uk – but the tld has a lesser impact from a search engine perspective (for Google), but may have more of an impact when a user is scanning results to see the ones they perceive to be more relevant (localized).
Step 3 – Decision time and is it Worth it?
Decisions can be difficult at the best of times and this is quite a complicated issue – there isn’t one fit that will suite all. I don’t think there is case to argue in having multiple domains for each specific country in order to maximise natural search results.
As raised in a SeoMoz discussion, perhaps the more appropriate question should be – Is it worth it bearing in mind the costs and resources required for more than one?
From an SEO perspective, then yes it is. From a PPC perspective, no it is not. It really depends on how you plan to market your product and services online. There are heaps of other online marketing avenues you can explore like affiliate marketing, email marketing and viral marketing to name but a few – so it really depends on how much you value your natural search.
SearchEngineWatch provides an interesting article detailing problems with multiple domains and duplicate content. This can be a real issue and if not properly considered, it can create as many problems as you are adressing.
In the short term, the impact of having only one domain may not be that significant at first. But like any SEM practice, early planning and a clear strategy of where you want to be is essential and there is no a better place to start than with your domain strategy! Do it – Strategise it! – Don’t Duplicate it!
p.s. You may want to check where your website is hosted. Hosting companies are full of surprises!