The world is your oyster. Yes, you might already have come to realize that there is a huge Internet market beyond your local country speaking a variety of languages and each making purchases in their own currency. This means you have some interesting decisions to make, including the one we address in this article – is it preferable to house your business on a single.com (international) domain, or is it better to set up a local domain for each country and/or language?
The world is your oyster. Yeah, but people still live, shop, and for the most part work in their own countries speaking their own languages and buying with local currency. What’s a global Internet marketer supposed to do? Should you serve everyone with a single .com domain? Or should you set up a country-specific domain for each language and/or country and/or currency?
There is no simple answer to such a conundrum, but there are choices and there are some important factors on which you can make the best choice for your business. Here are a few of the more important factors.
- Countries you can ship to
- Countries you wish to target
- Languages you can serve them in
- Currencies you can accept
- Can you appear local enough that a country-specific website will appear credible
- Whether you want to manage multiple websites.
- Which countries you are marketing to (read on to see what a difference this can make)
This article addresses strictly the aspects related to country domains, such as .co.uk for the UK or .fr for France. There are other elements of how to approach a global multilingual marketplace, but the domain is enough for one article.
Let’s look at three widely different views of what Americans take for granted – the .com domain.
In Europe, .com is not usually the best choice. It is seen as “American”, which is often a code name for “foreign” and “untrustworthy”. Sorry, but many Europeans feel that Americans are all-too concerned with making money and not enough with giving good, honest service.
Latin America offers a totally contrasting viewpoint. In most of Latin America, a .com domain carries a significant advantage. It is seen as “international”, conveying a message a trust and stability. A local company might be here today, gone tomorrow, and sometimes people are shy to trust their money to them over the Internet. A big international outfit is seen as more likely to have a reputation to uphold.
Canadians present a third viewpoint, treating .com much as Americans do – as the default domain for a website. Canadians don’t really distinguish between .ca and dot.com (except when purposefully seeking something not USA-based), because so many local Canadian websites are .com, and they are just as likely to type in .com even when they hear or read .ca. A .ca domain is advantageous primarily when Canadians are looking specifically for something local, but that is most often not the case with international e-commerce.
There are competitive advantages in the search engines from using a country-specific domain, and these should not be ignored. I have often had Canadian client websites rank much higher at Google.ca than at Google.com, just because the domain is Canadian. I have seen this also with .fr and .co-.uk websites. This is important, because Google serves up the local version of Google to anyone it identifies as being located there. So at my desk, Google defaults to Google.ca except when I search through the Google Toolbar. For this reason, I have a website specifically for the domestic market in Canada.
There is another advantage to country-specific domains – you can address people with their own currency. This can be important even when language is not a barrier. I have noticed that Canadians like to see their real costs without having to do calculations. This is even more pronounced among the British, and I must assume it is also among Australians and New Zealanders.
Multiple domains do present logistical challenges (OK,OK, they are “problems” in many cases, not just “challenges”) because it is tough to manage so many websites. It certainly is easier to maintain a single .com website. As I said at the beginning of this post, the answer is not simple. Think carefully about your goals and find the right mix of domains to accomplish what you set out to do.