Google: ccTLD & Wildcard Subdomain Strategies Won't Give You An "Unnatural Advantage"

Dec 4, 2013 • 9:05 am | comments (9) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

serversGoogle's John Mueller responded to a detailed technical question regarding ccTLDs, wildcard subdomains and the likelihood of it being seen as doorway pages in a Stack Exchange thread.

In short, the webmaster wants to create websites that would target city names around the world, whereby TLD for each countries will be used. Here is the mapping they were considering: for let's say Germany and for China and the sub-domains will be and, as an example.

Google's John Mueller responded that this won't be a good idea.

Let me share John's full response since it can be a bit technical:

My first thought when reading the question was that this is going to be a case for the web-spam team. Please don't create tons of sites that are essentially doorway pages. Also, using wildcard subdomains (assuming the idea is to map them to cities after DNS resolution) make it extremely hard to determine how those URLs should be crawled.

Additionally, I think it's important to mention that a site using this kind of URL structure won't see any unnatural advantage in search. Search engines are just as good at handling URL parameters, there's no need to make it look like a website focused on [cityname],[countryname] when it's essentially just a part of the same website. Unless you have very good reasons to do this outside of web-search, I would recommend simplifying things significantly.

For geotargeting, using a ccTLD is a good way to let users & search engines know about your target audience. For Google, you can also use a gTLD (even the same one for all your sites) and work with subdirectories or subdomains to apply geotargeting there too. That saves you from having to get & maintain all those ccTLDs.

For multilingual content, at least from Google's point of view, the URL is irrelevant as long as it's unique. Use whatever URL structure works for you (and look into using hreflang where it makes sense).

Venturing overseas with content, especially with travel destination like sites, can be very tricky. This is especially true in the Panda world.

Forum discussion at Stack Exchange.

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Michael Martinez

12/04/2013 03:45 pm

He did say he wanted to put unique content for each city on its own site. No one can know what he means by "unique content" -- it might all still be useless mashup data, but I think John understood he's not just saying he wants to republish the same content on multiple pages, changing only the keywords.


12/04/2013 03:55 pm

funny. there is watch retailer who is doing it and they rank all their cctld everywhere.


12/04/2013 06:02 pm

The wildcard subdomain designation has always been a curious question for me. We run landing pages on subs for search and recently started using WordPress network installs to facilitate faster creation. So far they seem to be performing as well as traditional subdomains but John Mueller raises a red flag. We don't use them as gateways. We develop unique content geared towards users and search engines and they perform as we would like. Anyone else have any experience with wildcard subs?

Bruce Wayne

12/04/2013 06:15 pm

So the translation here is- the technique should work very well.

William Forrest

12/05/2013 02:34 am

For me it is better to use one domain only. Websites with different TLD or subdomain just for geotargeting but with the same content is not good it will be treated as a different website. What I can suggest is to use sub-folder for geotargeting,, it looks cleaner and for visitors it would be thinking of only one domain instead many.


12/05/2013 12:43 pm

"...won't see any unnatural advantage in search..." - to me that sounds like: "not a big advantage, but yeah, that's another loop hole"


12/05/2013 02:07 pm

Ha ha, Somebody should develop a Google translation tool. Input what they say then get an accurate translation of what they meant. There should be an app for that.


12/07/2013 04:10 am

Using a city or country name as part of a domain name will that not be more of a disadvantage rather than an advantage as you may be limiting the span of your search results to people in that city alone

Courtney Miller

12/09/2013 11:28 pm

I just found out my client has wildcard subdomains, i had no idea about this and i dont believe it was done intentionally. I figured this out by doing a site: and seeing some of these random subdomains, we are in the process hopefully trying to fix this but i'm so curious to see what happens to their rankings because this client's been a struggle for the longest time no matter how much I work on their content and website. It is interesting because the client changed their website well before me and she's stated that her rankings have seemed to suffer ever since that point in time. If anyone has any other experience similar to my issue i'd love to hear your feedback.

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