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Geo Targeting SEO - Should We Use Local Domains, Subdomains, or Folders?

03 August 2012

seo One of the most popular SEO discussions comes when a webmaster needs to decide whether to use multiple local domains, subdomains, or folders to achieve better Geo Targeting strategy.

What Is GEO Targeting?

Search engines, such as Google, Yahoo, Bing, and so forth, list different search results for the same search keywords, why? Several factors are taken in searching algorihtm, such as the language of the website, the IP of the server, the country code (.uk, .au, .in) of the domain (ccTLD), the language of the websites that link to our domain, the settings in the Google Webmaster Tools, the META-geo tags (supported only by Bing and Yahoo) and a lot more. Before we talk further, let me give you URL examples of each method:

  • Local Domains: domain.co.uk for UK and domain.com.au for Australia
  • Subdomains: uk.domain.com and au.domain.com
  • Folders: domain.com/uk/ and domain.com/au/

There is no right or wrong on this, all methods have its own pros and cons. But the decision made plays important role in SEO world and it's not easy to switch direction once the changes are made. Let's examine how each method works.

Local Domains

Having multiple local domains is still the best way of showing Google that a website is intended for a specific geographical target (country wise). If you want to set up a UK website, for instance, you're likely to find your website easier to get indexed by Google if it's used a .uk domain. But we also need to consider the maintenance factors of having multiple content with different website layout, structure, or perhaps in different languages. We need to have extra resources to support all these different websites.

If you are launching international websites, perhaps you need to make sure the content is unique. If you have multilingual content, obviously you need to make them well-translated and well-optimised for your target audience as people from different countries will search for different search terms.


This method is used on websites that have different products or services that you'd like to present on different website structure. Google does this too for several of its products, such as Adwords, Gmail, Google Docs, and so forth. For multilanguage websites, subdomains are a great solution because they can be easily coded and they can achieve good SEO Results. You have also the ability to host subdomains on different servers to the main www site. Then Google will pick up on the fact that this subdomain is hosted in a specific country. Unfortunately Google treats subdomains as a single website.


The folders method is the most common and easy-to-maintain solution of all three. It is the safest method in terms of SEO and Web Development. You should use folders when you have a relatively small or medium scale website, where all the link reputation would be merged into a single website and domain. The drawback of this method is that you will only be able to geo-target your website to a single country. For example, you won't be able to geo-target domain.co.uk/au/ to Australia.

About Site by Tommy

Freelance web design and developer in Jakarta and Microsoft Certified Professional with five years of experience in web design and development, application development, database system, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), graphic design, logo design, business cards, corporate letterhead, posters/banners, brochures and flyers, social media marketing, and email marketing/campaign.

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