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The Essential Guide to International Targeting with URLs

The Importance of International Targeting in Your SEO Strategy - Using Global URL Structures

Verity Hartley at LanguageWire Verity Hartley , Marketing Specialist, LanguageWire ||  Reading Time: 4 minutes

International targeting (geotargeting) helps your website attract traffic from different language speakers worldwide.

This process will allow you to target either individual countries and regions or speakers of a specific language, regardless of their geographical location.

International targeting is part of the SEO toolbox and essential to building a multilingual website for your customers.

Is International Targeting Right for Your Website?

You may want to implement an international targeting strategy on your website for two main reasons:

  1. Target customers who speak a different language to your website's native tongue.
  2. Break into global markets and discover customers in new geographical locations.

With an excellent geotargeting strategy, you can achieve both these goals and extend your website's global reach.

Language or Geographical Targeting?

Before starting your project, you need to decide what you will target: a language group or a geographical region.

Many confuse the two forgetting that often multilingual speakers can live in any country around the world. Your audience may not always live where you think, and you could miss out on a large audience segment by overlooking this detail.

Geographical regions can also have several language segmentations. Countries like Belgium, Canada and Switzerland have more than one official language. Whereas languages like French and Spanish have multiple global variants.

So, your first step is to decide if you are targeting a language, a geographical location or, in some cases, both.

Choosing the Right URL Structure

A website is defined by its URL and can be optimised for international SEO like any other part of your site.

Deciding on the correct URL structure for your international targeting goals is essential to your multilingual SEO strategy.

There are several options you can choose from:

  • a Country Code Top Level Domain (ccTLD)
  • a Subdomain
  • a Subdirectory
  • a Global Top-Level Domain with URL Parameters (gTLD)

Each has its pros and cons, depending on who or where you are targeting. Let's look at each in turn.

Creating a Country Specific Site with a ccTLD


A country code top-level domain is the most easily recognisable of all the options. Most users have encountered the two or three-letter codes and can recognise which country they represent.


  • precise location targeting
  • easy for users to find


  • most expensive option
  • more technical requirements

A ccTLD makes it very clear to search engines where the website is registered. However, it is an expensive option as you will need to register a new domain for every website variant and meet their requirements.



A subdomain is an easier-to-manage option compared to a full ccTLD. It allows you to build new sites within an existing domain without additional domain name registrations.


  • cheaper option
  • easy to create and manage
  • clearly defines sites


  • can weaken primary domain authority
  • potential lack of clarity between language and country



A subdirectory is a similar configuration, but instead of creating a new subdomain, you build a subsection of the website inside subfolders. As it keeps users within the main domain, it does not weaken domain authority but is less likely to be recognised by search engine geotargeting crawls.


  • cheap and easy to set up
  • easy to maintain


  • weak search presence
  • sites can be less clearly defined

With a weaker search signal, customers may not find themselves in the correct language version of your site. They may simply give up and exit if they cannot make sense of the website navigation.

International Targeting with gTLD URL parameters.


The final option is by far the weakest route to take. Instead of choosing a ccTLD, you can use a more general code like .com or .biz and then apply URL language parameters.


  • Quick redirects


  • Not recommended by Google
  • Poor user recognition

Using language tags or URL parameters can be used with the other options mentioned above with success on multilingual sites, but they should not be relied on alone.

It is usually better practice to allow users to choose the language they would like to use on your website with a language selector than to force a redirect on them.

Don't Forget to Localize Your Content

Whichever path you choose for your international targeting strategy, remember you must also always localize your content for your desired audience.

LanguageWire can help you get the best from your multilingual websites with international SEO and content localization experts. Contact us now and find out how we can help you build websites for global audiences.

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