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Sam Bonner

Which solution works for your global business?

If you are an organisation who is active in multiple countries, the approach your brand takes to web assets in each region, will impact on the overall global digital strategy. In this blog we explore the pros and cons of creating one global website instead vs multiple localised sites.

The first thing that needs to be decided on is whether we’re 100% wanting or needing to have only one website for all regional variants?

Some of the pros for housing everything on one domain include:

  • Brand consistency can easily be achieved across all regions, varying from website appearance to brand messaging.
  • Content & asset management can be done all in one platform no matter what region you’re working on.
  • Indexing of content can be easier for Google to complete, as Google will only need to crawl one domain rather than multiple.
  • Housing all the content under one domain will naturally increase the domains authority which in turn will help with gaining better positions within Google SERPs.

Having only one domain can have some cons too:

  • Changing a specific page template on one region could potentially implement that change across all regions.
  • Each region may require a completely different feel/message from each other which could require a lot of development time to create various amounts of templates, rather than using one the fits all regions.
  • Potentially site speed may become an issue as there will be a lot more content housed under one domain.

If the goal is to achieve a more global presence that facilitates everything in one place, no matter where people are around the world, then having a one domain approach is typically best practise. After deciding that a one domain solution is the route that we want to take, the next step is determining how that content will sit on the website. This can be achieved via regional folders i.e., coastdigital.com/en/example or coastdigital.com/us/example, it could also be achieved via a subdomain approach i.e., en.coastdigital.com/example or us.coastdigital.com/example. Most commonly used and typically best practise is the folder approach.

Google indexing regional versions

When having multi-regional websites, language tags (or hreflang tags) are essential and need to be set up to ensure Google understands where to serve specific pieces of content and in which region it should serve it too. Below covers some summary points on what these tags are and how to implement them:

  • Hreflang tags are required when you have multiple versions of the same page for different regions and/or languages
  • They tell Google that “yes, this page is available in 50 other places/countries, but they are all unique and shouldn’t be treated as duplicate content”
  • The homepage is a great example, every country will have a homepage, so we need to ensure Google serves the correct homepage to the user no matter what region they are based
  • For every language variation of a page, we need to include a self-reference and then reference all the variations
  • If we have a page which is only ever going to be on one region e.g. a news article relevant only to UK, then we just need a self-referencing hreflang tag
  • Ideally, we should have an x-default tag which says “if a user is not located in one of our regions/languages searches for our website then we should serve this version by default.” We would recommend using the UK variation for this tag

By not having these language tags set up correctly, it can cause a lot of problems indexing content, negatively impacting organic visibility, and subsequently seeing a decline in traffic through to the website.

Immediate after effects of launch

Once the global site launches, whether it be a full launch with all regions live at the same time or a staggered launch with select regions being added over a length of time, there will be a decline in organic traffic over a course of 3-6 months. This is due to Google having to de-index all the old individual regional domains and all the authority from those old domains passing onto the one global domain. Google states that it can take 180 days for this process to fully complete but in some instances, it can take a bit longer, for example, if the language tags aren’t implemented correctly, this can cause the re-indexing process to take longer.

Long term effects of launch

Once the re-indexing process has completed and the language tags have been set up correctly, you will have one unified global website which presents content to the right users no matter which region they originate from. The business brand and appearance will be unified globally which will reinforce brand awareness across all global activities. The ability to update, manage, and publish content will become much easier, no matter the region, as it is all housed in one platform. From an SEO perspective the domain will have gained a lot more authority from acquiring it from the old individual domains, which will provide a natural boost in organic rankings (for all regions). It will also improve the websites’ ability to rank for new keywords as the authority of the domain will be stronger.

If you are considering your global strategy and would like to speak to our experienced team of experts, please get in touch.

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