Launching an international site, or sites, on a .eu domain has enabled UK businesses to promote a pan-European online presence. It has also allowed companies to create multiple language sites using a ccTLD structure with subfolders, such as .eu/fr and .eu/es. Although .eu domains do not carry any location signalling for search engines, they do add an element of trust for European users visiting your website.
However, the European Commission recently announced that many UK companies will no longer be able to register or renew .eu domains when we leave the European Union, which is set for 29th March 2019.
Why is this a problem?
Unless any changes are made during the Brexit negotiations, as of the leave date, any .eu sites registered to UK businesses that only trade online in the EU will cease to exist. This means any companies currently using them will need to migrate to a new domain before the Brexit date. The most serious impact this will have on businesses is the inability to transfer link equity to a new site, as the previous .eu domain will no longer exist for redirects. Put simply, this could have a serious impact on your company’s organic positions in search engine results pages and ultimately on the amount of converting traffic to your website.
It is worth noting at this point that, if you currently have a subdomain structure, for example eu.company.com, then your domain will remain unaffected. However, you may be missing out from a technical SEO perspective by having this domain structure.
What are the alternatives to a .eu domain?
There is no single approach to solving this problem, but there are some alternatives to consider. Before deciding on an alternative to your .eu domain, the first step is to look at your overall international SEO strategy. Look at which countries you are looking to target and review your whole domain strategy across all your websites.
If you are aiming to target Europe under one website that isn’t localised to any specific markets, then a .com domain would be a suitable replacement, allowing you to keep your subfolder structure. Hreflang, a piece of code that allows Google to serve the right language page to the right users, would need to be implemented on the site. This would allow you to specify the countries you would like the site to display for, as Europe is not a targetable region.
If you currently have multiple sites under your .eu domain as subfolders, such as .eu/fr targeting France and .eu/de targeting Germany, then a possible alternative would be to use a .com domain in much the same way.
If you currently use a ccTLD structure in other countries, such as company.co.uk in the UK and company.com in the US, then you may need to look at whether you create specific language sites using the same structure (e.g. company.de for Germany).
What steps should companies take now before brexit?
1. Fix any technical issues with your website prior to any migration
We always advise our clients to address all technical SEO issues prior to any migration. A site audit will uncover problems, such as broken links, that could be having a negative effect on your organic visibility. This process could take time depending on how many issues there may be to resolve, which makes it worth considering in the near future.
2. Migrate to your new chosen domain as soon as possible
As you will no longer own your .eu domain after Brexit, you will lose any associated link equity. By migrating your website from the .eu domain as soon as possible, you can implement redirects prior to losing the domain, which will give search engines time to understand that the website has moved. Bear in mind that you can’t put redirects to multiple sites from the same page on a .eu domain.
3. Develop an outreach strategy to change any existing links to your new website
As we mentioned, the existing links to your .eu domain will be lost when your domain is removed. By developing an outreach strategy to change links to your new domain, you can try to keep as much link equity as possible and help to minimise the impact on organic rankings.
4. Incorporate a new outreach strategy for building links to your new domain to build authority
The best approach for maximising organic visibility is to encourage new links to your migrated site through a new link building campaign. Once your website has been migrated, build new links before you lose the redirects to minimise any drop in rankings.
If you currently use a .eu domain to target Europe and need to consider other options, we can help. Contact one of our experts for more advice.