Choosing a Domain Type for Your Multilingual Website

September 12, 2018

You may need a multilingual website to target a country where more than one language is spoken, to target a specific language in a country or to target a language spoken in many locales. No matter what your multilingual website's goals are, optimizing your website with the correct domain type is a necessary step for reaching your global customers.

Choosing Your Domain Type

When you decide to translate and localize your website content for global audiences, you will need to decide which type of domain to use. Below are three examples of situations and which domain type is recommended for each.


In the first scenario, a company is targeting a specific locale. For example, a company is targeting customers in Canada where English and French are the official languages. In this situation, you should create a separate website serving a single country with multiple languages using a country code top-level domain (ccTLD), like .ca, to automatically geo-locate the site and then have content available in both English and French to target French and English queries.


In the second example, a company is targeting based on language, not locale. It is targeting language speakers with no geographical bias. In this case, it's recommended to have a generic top-level domain (gTLD), like .com, that doesn't correlate to a specific country for the source language website and subdirectories (subfolders) for the translated content. Subdirectories don't require separate hosting and the translated content is easily indexed. A subdirectory looks like


The third example is creating a subdomain, which can be used to target by either language or locale. It is less expensive than creating a ccTLD and exists within a gTLD. Subdomains look like

SEO Tips for Multilingual Websites

  • ccTLDs are the most reliable way to show search engines and users where a site originates and will rank better in locale-specific SERPs.
  • Subdirectories only require one domain, which makes technical support easier and consolidates domain authority with the source language website.
  • Subdomains are less expensive and easier to maintain than ccTLDs and can be geotargeted separately for each country or language.
  • Use hreflang attributes to tell Google which language you are using on a specific page.
  • Research your target audiences' local search engines. SEO tactics vary depending on which search engine is being used. For example, Google vs. Baidu, if you are targeting customers in China.
  • After indexing your website and hreflang attributes are indexed by Google, check back to the International Targeting section found under Search Traffic within Google's search console to see if any errors are being reported due to updates. If hreflang data is appearing with no errors, then you have properly implemented the tags for your website.

Further Resources on Global Digital Marketing


GPI's Global Search Engine Optimization Specialists can help optimize your multilingual websites for better SERP results. Our teams can provide both organic Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Advertising (SEA) such as Pay-Per-Click (PPC), paid inclusions or contextual advertising to help you achieve better visibility in country-specific search engines, which will lead to increased traffic and ROI with your multilingual version websites.


For more information on issues specific to search engine marketing (SEM), you may wish to review our previous blogs:



Please feel free to contact GPI at with any questions about our language and technology services. Also let us know if you have any interesting blog topics you would like us to cover in our future blogs. You may request a complimentary Translation Quote for your projects as well.

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multilingual website domain type, domain type for translated website, website translation

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Farah is a native Arabic speaker born and residing in Cairo, Egypt. She received her degree in Commerce and English from Ain-Shams University studying marketing, management, economics and accounting. Her experience includes working in various specialties in global digital marketing with specific training in Link Building, Website Traffic Analysis, On-page Optimization and Off-page Optimization as well as standard Social Media Marketing. She is skilled in a variety of tools including Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Light Room and SEO tools such as Google Keyword Planner, SeoMoz, Opensite Explorer, Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools. She enjoys playing sports such as swimming and basketball and loves to read in her spare time.