E-commerce has expanded the world of retail and made it so that almost nothing is inaccessible, no matter where people are in the world. This has given many small local businesses a new lease on life, with a universal selling platform that can be accessed by international customers. Recent success stories include Newegg from the USA, Germany’s Zalando and Cdiscount, based in France. However, simply having a website through which customers can make purchases is not enough, and when looking to branch out to international markets with a .co.uk website, there are some key things to consider.
Having a .co.uk domain is a tricky starting place, as it makes it much more difficult to achieve decent ranking on international search engines. Most keywords apart from the brand and/or product names are going to be masked by a pile of relevant results more local to the researcher. Listing on a new marketplace in a new country may be getting easier but this act in isolation, without any supporting activity, it’s not always a recipe for success especially for unknown brands.
Having a .co.uk site only makes it very difficult to rank prominently outside of the UK on keywords that aren’t brand / product name. Companies that do generate a significant % of their traffic from overseas with a .co.uk domain typically do it when an international marketplace footprint is complemented with a strong, localised content marketing strategy.
TLD (Top Level Domains)
Obtaining country code Top Level Domains (ccTLD) like .fr and .nz is the right way to present a company to an international market, this is normally only done by large, multinational companies for a reason. Companies that are already widely known and used across the world, such as eBay and Amazon, use ccTLDs to improve ranking in domestic markets, because they can afford the huge expense and time sacrifice required. Each ccTLD used means starting the entire website from scratch and building the loyal audience that is required to make it a worthwhile investment, which is why only the biggest organisations do it. It is worth bearing in mind that while Amazon ships to more than 200 countries worldwide, they only use thirteen separate ccTLDs to cover all of those demographics.
Consumers haven’t got a (ccTLD) preference when buying the products they need, as long as the site they are using is relevant to them (country, language, product) thus using a .com domain is the way to go for companies that can’t afford the time and cost of maintaining a local domain.
Will a local domain site rank better in a search engine using a local (ccTLD)?
Search engines like Google and Pricesearcher use different factors when ranking a site in a region. Language and hreflang, have a more relevant impact than ccTLD. Cases like British retailer Mothercare or US company Anthropologie are an example of .com sites that rank very well for organic results on search engines, out of millions of others.
Companies do benefit from having a .com site, focusing on making it relevant for the user and in terms of SEO, will ensure rankings grow higher and the capacity of gaining market share in a new territory through online sales, bigger.