Domain Strategy for international SEO


When you think about an international Strategy for your Website, one of the first things to think about is how to structure your domain and which domain to use. That’s what we will have a look at on this page, which option you have and what are their advantages and disadvantages.

Versions of Domain Strategies

We have 4 options for our domains:

  1. Subfolders on a gTLD – like
  2. Country specific domain – like &
  3. Subdomains like
  4. A Combination of the things above


gTLD – generic top level domain

ccTLD – country specific domain

Characteristics of each one of them

In the following table, you see the advantages and disadvantages of each one of these Versions. It depends a lot on your special case, your goals and your economic situation which solution fits best.

Subfolder ( ( specific Domain (
most cost-efficientLower maintenance and setup costusually expensive
additional geo-targeting usually requiredAdditional geo-targeting usually requiredclear geo targeting
duplicate content can be problematicduplicate content can be problematicduplicate content can be problematic
high sharing of SEO value across propertieslow sharing of SEO value across propertieslimited sharing of SEO value across properties
hreflang recommended for international siteshreflang recommended for international siteshreflang can be beneficial for international websites
authority of main domainpartial website separationFull website separation
CDN recommendedlocal hosting possiblelocal hosting recommended or required
lower CTR for local searcheslower CTR for local searcheshigh CTR for local searches
legal requirements in some countries
can have limited availability

Subdomains is the worst solution (to put it mildly, it is an average solution)

When do use what domain version? Example Cases

As I already mentioned, it is very specific what you should use when. That’s why I have some   cases here that might resonate with your case.

Case 1: Online Store Offering Products in Several Countries in Europe

Situation: A small online shop sells various handmade products. These can be bought online and shipped to Germany, Austria, and Italy. The shop is available in German and Italian. All prices are in Euros.

Recommended Strategy: Use a main domain (gTLD, e.g., with subdirectories (e.g.,,


To avoid unnecessary complexity and because specific localized content might not be needed, everything should be on a single domain. For flexibility, best to use a generic domain (like .com). 

Depending on the complexity of delivery conditions and differences, a separate subdirectory could be created for each country + language, or use the main country without a subdirectory as the default (what Shopify does by default). 

Another option is to just set up versions for Italian and German. This way, the shop avoids duplicate content and can display delivery conditions for all three countries.

Case 2: Construction Company with a Strong Local Focus in 3 Countries

Situation: A large construction company operates in three different countries: Germany, the UK, and Sweden. This is not an online shop, but services like excavation, crane rental, structural work. The local focus is very important. Services can vary greatly by country, depending on the partners the company has in each country.

Recommended Strategy: Use a separate domain (ccTLD, e.g.,,, …) for a clear separation between countries.


Since a construction company can afford the extra money for multiple domains and websites, this is certainly the best solution. This allows each area to operate independently. The big advantage of a local domain is also the geolocation, which is very important in this case. After all, the company will not send a digger from Germany to England to handle orders, but will work very locally.

Case 3: Historical Corporation Acquiring Companies and Operating Under a Central Brand

Situation: A large well-known corporation, known for its quality, acquires various companies in different European countries to unite them under its brand. This does not necessarily dissolve the local business, but just links it with the main brand to add value.

Recommended Strategy: A mixed approach. There should be a main domain for the corporation (ccTLD) where all subsidiaries are listed and linked. The acquired companies, however, continue to operate with their own website, be it an online shop or a company page. This can be a local domain or a generic domain with subdirectories, depending on the subsidiary.


I could think of more cases for hours and what I would do in this case. But I think these three show you what can be behind an international strategy and why there isn’t one right solution for all.

If you need support with your international strategy, you can send me an email at, and I’ll make you an offer.

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Appendix: The Problem with Switzerland

One thing I haven’t covered in the cases is Switzerland. Because here we have a somewhat complicated special case.

First, there are 3 languages – Italian, French, and German. And most websites are also available in English. A pure Swiss page therefore immediately has an international focus.

Another thing is the proximity to European countries with the same language. If you offer your products or services in German, it’s very logical that you cover Germany, Austria, and Switzerland – the whole DACH region.

But here we have two currencies, Euro and Franc. While you can easily rank in Austria with the same strategy and site as in Germany, it’s a bit more complicated in Switzerland.

Again, it totally depends on the business case what you really should do. But one thing I would always recommend: KEEP IT SIMPLE

You don’t want to manage 3 websites just to have a .de, .at, and .ch site. Often, it’s not worth the effort, unless there are good reasons for it. And maybe a simple currency switcher is enough, since that’s the only major difference.

If this is your case, think carefully about your strategy, because it affects everything that comes after. For example, the effort of your SEO optimization.

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