SEO Tips: Targeting the UK with a .com domain extension
One issue I’ve been seeing a lot from new clients lately are UK websites with generic international domain extensions such as .com not ranking well in the UK.
As UK-based SEO specialists, we mainly have this issue with British websites, but it could relate to any English website with a non-country-specific domain name.
52% of all websites use the .com suffix, which is generally considered to be the most appealing domain extension for gaining authority.
However, if your business uses a.com domain and is targeting English-speaking countries other than the US, you may find you aren’t ranking well in your own country.
This issue can affect a range of generictop-level domain names (TLDs), with some common examples being:
Common Top-Level Domains (TLDs)
- The list of suffixes is ever growing!
Compare this to some of the country-specific domain names as seen below:
Country code top-level domain (ccTLDs):
- .co.uk – UK
- .us – USA
- .au – Australia
- .in – India
- .fr – France
- .ca – Canada
- .nz – New Zealand
- .cn – China
- .ie – Ireland
Why does My .com Site Rank Better in the US than the UK?
This was a question a new client recently asked me.
The client in question was trying to target the UK market but finding they had more enquiries from the US, with high shipping costs meaning they weren’t converting those leads.
There’s actually quite a simple reason why this is happening – it’s down to the international targeting of the site.
When Google sees a .com domain in English it has to default to one country to target – and the US is the country it does this to – probably due to the high number of .com sites chosen by US businesses.
Therefore these websites often rank for more keywords in the US than their target country…….a bit of a waste of time unless your plan is to ‘break America’.
How do I let Google Know Which Country to Target my .com site to?
If your .com site is experiencing this issue, don’t worry you don’t need to switch to a CCTLD such as .co.uk or .ie.
.Com domains are the most popular option because they are the best for building authority with Google and allow you to easily expand to a global market if required. They are sought after for a reason and thankfully they also won’t impact your ability to rank in a non-US country if set up correctly.
There are two ways you can let Google know your .com domain is not-focused to the US is to check and action the tasks below:
1. Google Search Console – International Targeting
You can easily change your international targeting on Google Search Console:
- Go to the International Targeting Report
- Select the ‘Country’ tab
- Select the target country if not target
2. Hreflang Tags
Hreflang tags are also a good indicator of country targeting for your business. These basically inform Google and other search engines of the language your site is using, and thus what country it is targeting.
But surely the English Hreflang is the same regardless of which country it is targeting?
Unfortunately not – the English href lang tags has several variations depending on the English ‘region’. Here are some examples of English hreflang country codes:
- “en-gb”, targeting English speakers in Britain
- “en–au”, targeting English speakers in Australia
- “en-us”, targeting English speakers in the US
Many website themes and developers will just use the “en” href lang tag which again is not specific enough if targeting a single English-speaking country.
To make the href lag country-specific, use this handy hreflang tag generator tool, then make sure these are added to the head area of the pages HTML you want to target (ideally sitewide for a site solely targeting one country) see example of how this would look on a .com site targeting the UK:
<link rel=”alternate” href=”https://www.exampledomain.com/” hreflang=”en-gb” />
You can even do this for individual pages on your site to target different languages/regions – quite handy if you are targeting multiple English-speaking countries.
3. Additional Tasks – Google My Business Listing
Google is trying it’s hardest to locate your business’s target audience and a good place to inform the search engine is on the ‘service areas’ section in your Google My Business listing if set up already.
Whilst not having as big as an affect as the changes above, choosing a country in this section to give further signals about which country to target.
What If I want to target Multiple Countries/Languages with a .Com Domain?
This is a pretty big topic in itself and something best answered elsewhere. The most comprehensive guide is Moz’s below and something we refer to when dealing with international SEO: