Choosing an SEO-Friendly URL Structure for Global Websites

Choosing an SEO-Friendly URL Structure for Global Websites
Dimitris Glezos
January 25, 2016
4 min read

When thinking about creating a multilingual website to serve your global customers, there are a number of important decisions that must be made like which locales and languages to target. It’s also important to define a clear business strategy, confirming there’s potential to sell internationally and profit to be made (ROI). This post focuses on a key decision that happens after addressing these issues – choosing an international and SEO-friendly URL structure for the translated version(s) of your global websites.

What Are SEO-Friendly URLs?

There are three main ways to structure your websites to target multiple languages as noted in the chart below, along with a basic outline of each structure’s advantages and disadvantages.

SEO-Friendly URL Structure chart

So Which SEO-Friendly URL is Best?

There are no hard and fast rules for choosing a URL structure for an international website. In fact, most businesses will select a URL structure based on individual constraints, such as time or resources. There are, however, general patterns that have been observed by SEO experts.


Historically, ccTLDs have been the recommended URL structure for international websites, but a recent Moz post shared that despite a wealth of published articles with this recommendation, there really has been no evidence to substantiate the claim. The article even hinted that the recommendation to use ccTLDs, specifically for the geo signals that ccTLDs send to Google, is outdated.

Because ccTLDs require a significant upfront investment, as well as a lot of development and design resources not only in terms of building, but maintaining customized websites for multiple regional audiences, they’re often the right choice for larger, internationally-known brands. These companies typically have offices in the countries they’re trying to target and have the exhaustive resources to develop unique, localized content for each new language version of their website.


Subdirectories are great for mid-market companies that may not have the funds for or access to development resources. These companies generally want to keep costs at a minimum and are focused on expanding into new international markets after establishing a website with high domain authority in their home country. Subdirectories uphold domain authority by not splitting that authority across new top-level domains like ccTLDs and creating a consolidated backlink profile.


One of the most cited reasons to use sub-domains for an international version of a website is to keep the company’s brand in the domain name. Besides this differentiator, subdomains don’t offer enough advantages over ccTLDs and sub-folders to select a sub-domain URL structure.

Addressing Duplicate Content

One of the biggest SEO concerns and issues facing webmasters is duplicate content, something that can significantly hinder how your website ranks in SERPs. The most effective way to address the duplicate content penalty is to use a hreflang tag which signifies to search engines like Google that it should display the proper language version of your website or webpage to each unique, regional audience.

Hreflang tags are generally placed in the header of your website’s pages and can be used when using ccTLDs, sub-domains, and sub-directories. While choosing to put the hreflang tag in your code is up to you, in regards to SEO and search, it is a step that is required to rank well.

Ready to Get Started?

Choosing an SEO-friendly URL structure for your international website is one of the first key steps in going global. If you have any questions about website localization, don’t hesitate to contact the Transifex team. You can also request a Transifex demo to see how the Transifex platform can address your specific website translation and localization needs. We look forward to hearing from you.

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Dimitris Glezos
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