Recently I traveled outside the USA and learned a few things about International Search Engine Optimization (SEO) that I could only learn by trying. We have been very pleased with the results that our SEO clients have received in the USA, however our team has encountered some difficulties to do accurate Canadian testing without asking our friends in Canada to perform the tests themselves.
While doing some tests for USA clients in Canada (Toronto – Go Leafs Go!), I tried to search a keyword that I know was ranking #1 in USA for the targeted site, by testing with my friends in the USA then searching the same term in Canada, then again in the USA (Using online chat to pass results around).
Results: Our #1 USA ranking term was #7 in Canada, then a few hours later it was 8th.
Reasons: my hypothesis would be that because the site is hosted in the USA and receives mostly USA traffic and USA originated inbound links that the weight and category of the site in Google’s eyes is that it is mainly an American site.
Is it Better International SEO to Buy the Country Domain Extension as Well?
So if I am targeting a Canadian site, do I need to purchase the .ca domain as well?
The key here is understanding how to rank higher in specific countries based on the trust of the domains hosted on IP address within the country as opposed to those hosted outside the country.
Where the dilemma arises is when Canadian businesses use American hosting companies that may be bigger or more reliable, but located ‘outside’ the Canadian border.
First off you must recongnize that there are several factors which will affect the rankings regardless of location:
- Age of Domain
- Inbound Links from target anchor text from the target country
- Inbound Links from target anchor text other countries
- Search Volume and competition in the marketplace
- Keyword Phrases in the Domain Name
One technique: Build out a .ca site as well as a .com site.
For this to work, you must ensure that both sites have UNIQUE content that is quality content for the site you are promoting, not duplicated.
You can cross-link between the two sites where appropriate, but don’t do this overly as it could make it appear to be a bogus linked site created for SEO not for the users in different regions.
YES IT IS BETTER: In my professional opinion it IS better to buy the country domain as well, but only if you build out country specific content on that page and link it back to the main page. The other option is to forward the .ca domain to the .com domain however that basically just protects that domain from being used by someone else, it doesn’t necessarily ‘increase’ the rankings much if at all.
How About Translating Into Different Languages?
As long as the content is ONLY duplicated into DIFFERENT languages, it is quite normal and okay to have domains for other specific languages on their country’s domain. For example you could have .fr for a french site, or .cn for a chinese version of the site, which all can link back to the international .com site that links to the other languages somewhere from the main index page.
Reporting from Canada
Although my search on Google from Canada returned different results, when I ran an automated rankings program from Canada it responded identical to the results it returned when I ran it from the USA, thus the programmatic solutions in the back end obviously are able to be set so that they are ‘non-location-specific’. Interesting. This allows you to run rankings reports consistently without worrying where you are, say east coast or west coast, or perhaps in Mexico on vacation or up in Canada at a ski hill.
This could change depending on your programming team’s options in the software or if you are using out of the box software, on its own options and design in the back end.
Hope this helps all you Canucks working on US sites and vice versa!
Till Next time,
From your friendly neighborhood (or is it neighbourhood?) SEO.