Just what is the best URL structure for a large corporate international website?
This post first stemmed from a while back, I was looking into the best naming convention for an international website with regard to SEO. For example, sub domain or sub folder? Abbreviation or country name? While working on the global digital strategy it became apparent that this question routed further than search engine optimization. When the digital agency we are working with highlighted a link to the ISO website. In all honesty their website is a pain to navigate so I have used wiki links to highlight my reading. Firstly, here is a link to get up to speed with country codes Wiki – ISO Country Code then there is the Alpha-2 Wiki – ISO 3166-1 alpha-2, 2 character country standardisation you see used in the Nike example below and the Top level domain naming convention we all know and love Wiki – Country code top-level domain. Although the domain naming is based on the ISO standardisation the official 2 character naming can be found on the IANA or International Assigned Numbers Authority notice the official UK TLD is in fact GB.
You will have seen many approaches to naming of URLs while browsing the Internet. When I used to build sites I would always organize sections of the website into folders and if I included a blog or forum I would sub domain them. I had no marketing reason for this, just tidiness! During my days as a Web Manager on eCommerce sites I became far more SEO focused. See a beginners guide to SEO. I shall write another post relative to page content, title URL etc, but in the mean time lets focus on the address bar.
Another consideration is language and how we represent this in our URL, or if we don’t at all. The most popular language abbreviation is again the ISO 3 character code Wiki – ISO 639-3
Look at any international company that identifies a need to have a global presence with local focus;
They all take on a structure that we can learn a lot from. Maybe something you wouldn’t necessarily think about at a country level. Also, there’s language to think about many content management systems require the duplication of pages in order to deal with language and these pages require URLs. So we now have 2 dimensions, country and language. Obviously there us such a thing as regional domain names but for a company with global presence these should be forwards not separate sites if you are to develop a prominent online presence. So, what do we have? A .com address, country level content needs and a language option.
Country option 1
Country option 2
The second is my preferred option as it is a well structured index-able page that allows for a language change that is obvious to the reader where they reside without any need for breadcrumb trail listed in your page content. This might look like,
Here are a few interesting reads on sub domain vs sub folder or sub directory with varying takes,
Search Engine Journal – Subdomains or subfolders which are better for-seo
Matt Cutts – Subdomains and subdirectories
Your pages might so dynamic that country and language are handled on a single page but this might have indexing and crawling implications by search engines (Id have to research further)
Another consideration to take into account is microsites. They shouldn’t be used for link building and the like but there is often a case. In our particular case these are business cases which is equally as important! No matter how passionate you are about your personal skillset or individual task, respect and align with the companies business needs, this is where your wages come from and while search ranking is number one in your agenda its not someone else’s.