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Tuesday, June 07, 2011

TLD vs ccTLD –A 301 Redirection Issue– Real Case Scenarios!

Tuesday, June 07, 2011
Misuse of a 301 Redirection in Case II
Quite often, I observe that SEO professionals for the lack of profound knowledge get caught in catch 22 situation if they find a non-performing top level domain (TLD) over country code top level domain (ccTLD) on Google.com or vice versa.

Let me cite two practical cases to explain it more clearly. 

Case Scenario 1
One of my clients Alex (Name changed) has two domains -http://www.xyz.com, and http://www.xyz.co.uk (domain name changed). Both these domains have same design, same content, and same IP, same server and same folder including single root folder. The developer has used mirror technique to distinguish these two domains to serve the ‘same content’. Both .com and .co.uk was a replica of each other.
Given the above scenario, my recommendations to the client were:

  1. Create two folder structure and host .com in the US and .co.uk in the UK
  2. ‘Or’ check Google SERP and see which performs better and accordingly 301 redirect 
While the first recommendation requires change in server configuration, a migration of web infrastructure apart from other complex technical issues, the available option was the ‘next best alternative’. In this case, a 301 redirect from .com to .co.uk has been implemented by the dev. team but not without pros and cons.
Pros
  1.      .co.uk ranking might improve further without a mirror domain
  2.     .co.uk is preferred to .com by Google more in the UK than in the US for local traffic    
  3.     .co.uk is already performing and has good SERP without a major loss in traffic
  4.       Had .co.uk been redirected to .com, traffic could have fallen significantly because, as said in the above, co.uk was ranking while .com was not

 Cons
  1.           .com (TLD) is better choice if targeting universally
  2.           Traffic from TLD would perceivably higher than ccTLD
Its official confirmation from Google that geo-location of the web host has significant ranking factors for Organic SEO because Google detects IP address of the web server. In this case, both ccTLD and TLD were hosted on the same server with the same IP address and IP locations, ccTLD was performing better than TLD in Google ranking because it was based in the UK and Google automated algorithm detects IP address that gives impression that a particular website hosted in a country is useful for local audiences.

However, this is not the only factor. If we set geo-location preference in Webmaster console and instruct Google bot, we can minimize the ‘ranking loss’ but Matt Cutts encourages to find a great deal in a particular country to host on a web server.

Case Scenario 2- A company had similar issue. They had two domains – one was ccTLD and TLD. Both had different folder structure, different IP locations, and little different content serving to the UK audience while TLD was serving to the US & universal audiences.

Their SEO team recommended a 301 redirection from .co.uk to .com, for .com was performing better on Google.com while .co.uk was performing SATISFACTOY in the Google.co.uk. They misunderstood the issue of duplicate content across two domains.

The question here is

Was this 301 redirection absolutely required for this? I really don’t think so because SEO professional here not only misunderstood the issue of duplicate but also misused a 301 redirection. There was absolutely no problem as long as .com and .co.uk had little different content catering to specific country audience. A redirection in this case, according to me, was a loss or at least the not best practice.
  
Had you been in the first and second case, what would you have done?  Write in your suggestions – munazanjum@digitalgossips.com

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