Cindy Krum


  • Multiple languages, currencies, seasonality
  • Different search engines
  • Different e-commerce laws

Things to Consider

  • Design, dev & maintenance cost
  • server config & hosting location
  • CMS & order fulfillment
  • Email, DM, Affiliate and PPC
  • SEO

One Site Approach

Everyone goes to a .com and you send users to specific subdomains or directories based on their language/nationality.

Use subdomains or directories with language, country or keyword groupings such as:



  • easy to set up
  • all links to the same domain
  • More pages in index
  • Flexibility with messaging
  • Grouping by language prevents dupe content risk
  • Country specific hosting options for subdomains


  • Homepage in wrong language=confusing
  • Homepage ranks in only one language
  • Grouping by country risks dupe content


  • Specify Target Country for each in Google webmaster tools
  • Redirect country specific domains to appropriate subdomains
  • Multi-Site Approach


  • Low start up costs
  • Can add sites one at a time
  • Rank well in multiple country specific search engines
  • Country specific hosting


  • More sites = more sites to update
  • More sites to SEO
  • Forced to target countries instead of language


  • Target countries in webmaster tools
  • Get appropriate external links
  • Link to each of your sites carefully and logically to avoid looking spammy
  • Use Language meta tags, html language and local address

Blended Approach (.com with links to .cctld pages via sitemap)

  •  Most realistic for worldwide presence
  • Can start with .com & build country specific sites as needed
  • Most costly to Create & maintain


  • Don’t specify the .com to a specific country to Google Webmaster Tools
  • Let users know you are taking them to another site
  • Use java translation & IP sniffing on homepage

The panel seems to agree that subdomains are not as effective as using cctlds.

Use subdomains for language and cctlds for country (e.g. v.

Best tip from Kristjan Mar Hauksson – if you are trying to get an idea of search volume call a small friendly search engine and ask them for the data.

If you are using translators get a second opinion.

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2 Response Comments

  • Jack DeNeut  June 5, 2008 at 3:09 am

    Internationalization of websites is an area where we can conclude that search engines have probably hurt more than they have helped. I’ll explain.

    Every modern browser sends an “Accept Language” header to a website when it requests a page. This header tells the website what language you prefer to receive content in, and can even contain a prioritized list of languages so the server can fall back to other languages/regions if it can’t serve you your favorite language.

    The “Accept Language” header from my browser looks like this: “HTTP_ACCEPT_LANGUAGE: ‘en-us,en;q=0.8,cs;q=0.6,fr;q=0.4,de;q=0.2”. This tells a website that I would prefer U.S. English, but if not, I’ll take any English version, and if not that, then serve me pages in Czech if you have them. No Czech? OK, give me French or German, in that order. Most users in the U.S. don’t have any preferred language other than English, but many installations of Firefox in Europe and Asia have the user’s native language as the preferred language, and then English as a second choice in the “Accept Language” header.

    So, because we have this info in the header the browser sends us, it is trivially easy to run *all* one’s websites under the same URL (e.g., but serve localized content to users that request it. The user doesn’t even have to know how this works – it he has a French language install of Firefox or IE or Safari, the server can automatically serve the right language without asking the user to click over to or

    Great. Problem solved, right? Uh, no. The problem here is that the GoogleBot doesn’t seem to know how to ask for multiple languages from the *same URL*, and so the GoogleBot will always get the default language for when it requests a page. It would be great if the GoogleBot would do a little testing, sending different “Accept Language” headers containing different language preferences to a site, to see how it responds. But it doesn’t seem to, and so it doesn’t discover that might be available in 10 languages without having to do anything other than request the main site. Strangely, Google *does* use the “Accept Language” header info for its own site, serving me in English, despite the fact that the default language for is Czech.

    Thus, I’d recommend doing exactly what you said in this post – use country-level domains as much as possible, and use sub-domains for countries that have more than one common language. Use for your main French-language site, and use and for your Canadian site if you support both French and English.