There has been a lot of discussions on TLD (top level domains) and ccTLD (country code top level domains) and this was one of the least recognized SEO trick in the book. TLD are domains ending with just .com,.biz,.org,.net….etc. These are generic TLDs and highlights the use of such domain signatures to indicate the sort of business you are in. This unfortunately no longer applies as even porn sites have .org.
The next thing to come out of the SEO equation is ccTLDs. Americans in general have problems understand this and there has been much critical press about the validity of this. Unfortunately, the bible for SEO has already been written by Google on the matter. The except of which is quoted below.
Multi-regional and multilingual sites
A multilingual website is any website that offers content in more than one language. Examples of multilingual websites might include a Canadian business with an English and a French version of its site, or a blog on Latin American soccer available in both Spanish and Portuguese.
A multi-regional website is one that explicitly targets users in different countries. Some sites are both multi-regional and multilingual (for example, a site might have different versions for the USA and for Canada, and both French and English versions of the Canadian content).
Expanding a website to cover multiple countries and/or languages can be challenging. Because you have multiple versions of your site, any issues will be multiplied, so make sure you test your original site as thoroughly as possible and make sure you have the appropriate infrastructure to handle these sites. Following are some guidelines and best practices for creating multilingual and/or multi-regional sites.
And there is another clue here that people seem to forget. Your ccTLD should be hosted in the country of origin, even though the SERP will not reflect this if you are using a CDN, countries with established Internet hosting infrastructure should not skirt this.
Server location (through the IP address of the server). The server location is often physically near your users and can be a signal about your site’s intended audience. Some websites use distributed content delivery networks (CDNs) or are hosted in a country with better webserver infrastructure, so it is not a definitive signal. Other sources of clues as to the intended audience of your site can include local addresses and phone numbers on the pages, the use of local language and currency, links from other local sites, and/or the use of Google My Business (where available).
How Does this All Work?
Good question. It is not for people browsing the web for general SERP but for users from that country looking for information provided within their national boundaries. This means if a person is doing a search in Spain for spanish related content or key phrases, then Google search will serve up .es pages which are hosted on Spanish servers (through IP detection) in preference to .com results. Through the use of Webmaster tools, you can also make your site appear on a top page of a SERP by targeting ONE specific country, as quoted here from Google.
You can use the Country targeting tool in Webmaster Tools to indicate to Google that your site is targeted at a specific country. Do this only if your site has a generic top-level domain name. However, don’t use this tool if your site targets more than a single country. For example, it would make sense to set a target of Canada for a site about restaurants in Montreal; but it would not make sense to set the same target for a site that targets French speakers in France, Canada, and Mali.
Note: Because regional top-level domains such as .eu or .asia are not specific to a single country, Google treats them as generic top-level domains.
This means, you can be top dog for SERP in one particular country as long as your business is targeted for it.
Why use ccTLDs?
People generally like .com addresses for one simple reason. It was the first to come out and the most recognizable. In many countries, it is an absolute PAIN to register a ccTLD.
Many ccTLDs are controlled national domain registries in that country. This means it becomes harder for people to register a ccTLD if they do not meet the criteria. There are normally 2 criteria for registration of a ccTLD.
- A company or business entity with a local set up in that country.
- A person who is not a foreigner in that country.
It also cost more to register a ccTLD, and in some countries, up to US$130 bucks a year. However if your intention to get a good ranking in a country specific SERP, then it makes perfect sense.
Who should use ccTLD?
Simple as pie. As a local business operating within a specific country, searches originating from your country will be better served. Even for online businesses like Amazon, we have seen these giants operate from ccTLD. By serving up pages of content in the local lingo, you have validated your intentions and this goes without say, having to pay to get to the top of the page. Sure, things get more difficult if your business is generic, like the hotel business, but it will serve up better if you include the local address with a local contact number.
The whole idea behind searching is to find things from a local perspective. If your search phrase is more generic…like “how to use a toothbrush” then it won’t matter what comes up. However if people are searching for “Spa in Iceland” you are better off having an Icelandic ccTLD.