Is a .COM domain really the best choice for international targeting? Can a local TLD rank as well abroad as at home? Can a domain rank well internationally even when we don’t use ccTLDs?

Read on to find out about the most frequent misconceptions concerning domain names and international SEO.

Myth #1: I Need a Separate Domain for Each Market I Target

Look at the example above of IKEA’s international website. They only use subfolders for geo-targeting. They don’t use hreflang: the only geo-targeting factors are the country codes in the subfolder, content language and some local backlinks pointing to the URL.

The truth: You DON’T need separate TLDs if you want to build one strong global website, as long as you use geo-signals properly.

Myth #2: If I Choose Domains with Keywords in Them, the Websites Will Rank Higher


Here is an example of a search for “iPhone 6” performed in Mexico. The majority of results do not have the actual keyword “iPhone 6” in the domain name. The website was actually outranked by stronger, more authoritative websites.

The truth: Having the keyword in the domain carries little importance for international SEO. Instead of buying a bunch of TLDs with keywords in them, focus on building one strong website.

Myth #3: When I Use Subfolders for International Targeting, I Need a .COM Domain


Above is an example of a search for “prater” (a fun fair in Vienna, Austria) carried out in the Netherlands. Even if searched from different countries, the .AT domain appears at the top of the results because Google perceives that to be a local business.

The truth: A .COM domain is not the ultimate win in international targeting. Local businesses in particular may choose to use a local ccTLD rather than a generic gTLD like .COM, .NET or .ORG in order to rank well.

Myth #4: When Targeting Particular Markets, it’s Always Best to Use ccTLDs


As the image above shows, local users may not necessarily prefer local ccTLDs to .COM domains. The scope of the website also greatly affects which TLDs are preferred. Follow the research results for more information.

The truth: Google uses ccTLDs as a geo-targeting signal, but not as a ranking signal for SEO. It’s actually better to use a TLD that users are more familiar with and which they tend to trust.

Myth #5: The More Domain Names I Have Covered, the Better


The truth: Buying domains to cover frequent misspellings of your brand is fine, but registering domain names for the sake of having as many domains as possible doesn’t do much for international SEO. By placing content under unnecessary TLDs, you are hindering your marketing activities. On the other hand, redirecting the domains to other websites that you own slows down the loading speed, which is definitely harmful for SEO.

So, How Do I Find which TLDs and Domain Names I Actually Need for International SEO?


First, decide on which category your business belongs to.

Image source and further details can be found here.

What domain strategy worked for your international SEO activities? Let me know in the comments!

Author Photo
Martin KuraMartin Kůra is an International SEO Strategist. You can visit his personal website.
More about SEO
How To Track SEO in Multiple Cities with SemrushDo you want your website to be seen by searchers in more than just one location? Semrush now has a new multi-targeting feature you have to check out! Whether you operate a business with multiple locations or a just single location serving a larger area, being found by searchers in more than one location is good for business.
Apr 05, 2021
6 min read