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Choosing a Domain Type for Your Multilingual Website

You may need a multilingual website to target a country where more than one language is spoken, to target a specific language in a country or to target a language spoken in many locales. No matter what your multilingual website’s goals are, optimizing your website with the correct domain type is a necessary step for reaching your global customers.

Choosing Your Domain Type

When you decide to translate and localize your website content for global audiences, you will need to decide which type of domain to use. Below are three examples of situations and which domain type is recommended for each.

In the first scenario, a company is targeting a specific locale. For example, a company is targeting customers in Canada where English and French are the official languages. In this situation, you should create a separate website serving a single country with multiple languages using a country code top-level domain (ccTLD), like .ca, to automatically geo-locate the site and then have content available in both English and French to target French and English queries.

In the second example, a company is targeting based on language, not locale. It is targeting language speakers with no geographical bias. In this case, it’s recommended to have a generic top-level domain (gTLD), like .com, that doesn’t correlate to a specific country for the source language website and subdirectories (subfolders) for the translated content. Subdirectories don’t require separate hosting and the translated content is easily indexed. A subdirectory looks like

The third example is creating a subdomain, which can be used to target by either language or locale. It is less expensive than creating a ccTLD and exists within a gTLD. Subdomains look like

SEO Tips for a Multilingual Website
  • ccTLDs are the most reliable way to show search engines and users where a site originates and will rank better in locale-specific SERPs.
  • Subdirectories only require one domain, which makes technical support easier and consolidates domain authority with the source language website.
  • Subdomains are less expensive and easier to maintain than ccTLDs and can be geotargeted separately for each country or language.
  • Use hreflang attributes to tell Google which language you are using on a specific page.
  • Research your target audiences’ local search engines. SEO tactics vary depending on which search engine is being used. For example, Google vs. Baidu, if you are targeting customers in China.
  • After indexing your website and hreflang attributes are indexed by Google, check back to the International Targeting section found under Search Traffic within Google’s search console to see if any errors are being reported due to updates. If hreflang data is appearing with no errors, then you have properly implemented the tags for your website.