International Ranking Factors: URL Best Practices

By Nathan Janitz, Natural Search Supervisor, Content Solutions

One of the best ways to get global SEO started on the right foot is to have a URL structure that spiders can easily read and understand. The URL should not only tell spiders what content is most important on your site but also share what country and language the site is relevant to.

CC TLD Importance

There are a number of signals that indicate a site is relevant for international content, and the top level country code domain is one of the strongest (server location is another, but that’s a conversation for another post). Think of the CC TLD as the difference between local information about states. I grew up in Southport, IN. If I were to just tell someone to head to Southport, they might wind up in Southport, NC, or in the Southport Corridor in Chicago. Without that little “IN” tag on the end, no one would know what “Southport” I was talking about. Portuguese is not always Portuguese. The context of a word in Brazil can mean something totally different than it means in Portugal (See Andrea Kaduk’s Article about Languages in Search Marketing). By helping search engines understand the location of the website’s content, they can better understand how relevant your website it to a particular query.

The top recommendation for a Brazil URL structure would be:


Follow the internationally excepted list of TLD extensions by checking out the official IANA website. See examples below.

Distinguishing between Languages

Setting and displaying the content in its proper language is also a key factor (Again, see Andrea Kaduk’s Article). This becomes increasingly important when dealing with countries with multiple languages (i.e. Brazil). The primary page should always be set in the official language of the represented country. In the case of Brazil, the homepage should default to Portuguese. After that, sub-domains should be used for alternative languages. See examples below.

Brazil’s Primary URL:
Brazil’s Spanish URL:

Additional Note: Coding the page with the correct HTML language syntax tag will help spiders identify and categorize the language of the site’s content. This is a simple tag included within the HTML tag at the top of any web page. See an example for a Portuguese site below.

<html xmlns="" lang="pt">

Directory Taxonomy

Organizing and labeling content within a website is of major importance. Besides increased usability, search engines use the signals of directory name and location to determine relevancy of a particular page. Hierarchies should follow query intent or should follow a structure that mimics how users search for the website’s content. For instance, if a directory is talking about “lawn mowers,” then call the directory “lawn-mowers” vs. “products.” Follow the same mentality for every sub-directory as well (/lawn-mowers/riding-mowers/model-xyz.html)

Also make sure that the website uses the regional word most used. For example, “lawn mowers” are often just called “mowers” in the US. Use the Google keyword tool to research the specific keyword within the desired country to determine how the majority of the population searches for the content in question. See example below:

Brazil URL:
Brazil Spanish URL:├ęsped/

Other basic rules to follow when constructing URLs (US or International)

  • Use hyphens instead of underscores
  • Try to flatten structure to be 3 directories or higher : www.yourcompany.con/directory1/directory2/directory3/page.html
  • Do standard code extensions (html, aspx, php, etc.)
  • Avoid session ID’s when possible: If session ID’s are required, implement the <rel=canonical > tag to reduce effects of duplicate content


Karl Foxley said...

This is a very informative post for anyone wishing to understanding the importance of TLD and the affect this has on SEO.



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