Domain registration is one of the first steps you need to take when creating localized websites for your export markets. South America is not an exception, but which domains should you register?
It is a diverse continent consisting of many countries and languages. The two languages spoken by the majority of South Americans are Spanish and Portuguese. Let’s have a look at the Spanish speaking regions first.
Domains for Spanish speaking Americans
Your strategy for South American domains in Spanish speaking countries should depend on your existing or anticipated relations with specific countries. Are you targeting one or multiple countries?
Targeting one specific country
If you are targeting one specific country, let’s say Mexico, we recommend registering a local country code top level domain (ccTLD, referred to as a country domain), such as .mx. The advantage of country domains is that they are better optimized for local search engines.
So if you were targeting Mexico only, your visibility might be lower if you used a general top level domain (gTLD) such as .com or .lat. When you are registering a Mexican country domain, you have two options: to register .mx or .com.mx. They both have equal search engine optimization benefits, but the .com.mx version is more commonly used. In Mexico, there are almost twice as many .com.mx sites than .mx sites. The same applies to most South American countries. Sometimes, the version without .com is not even available for registration or is more expensive. Google is a good example; in most South American countries they use the .com.countrycode version as the default one. However, Chile with google.cl is an exception. We therefore recommend you research statistics, preferences and habits of your target South American country when deciding between using country domains with .com or without. Usually, a registration of .com.countrycode domain is easier; it is available without conditions or requires a VAT (tax registration) number or a passport number only.
Targeting multiple countries
If you’re not targeting specific countries, but Spanish speaking parts of South America in general, you should consider registering .lat, which is not associated with a specific country, but the Latin culture in general. If you registered a country domain of one of the South American countries, like .com.mx, this could suggest to your website visitors that the content is meant only for the Mexicans, and that your products or services are not available to the Colombians, Peruvians, Argentinians or the Venezuelans. .lat is a great solution for this situation. It is a fairly new domain, but becoming popular alongside similar regional domains, like .eu (already the 11th most popular domain) or .asia. Even though Google will not give extra credit to .lat domains for country association because they are treated as general domains, it will resonate better with the locals than a foreign country domain. Increased popularity of regional domains might even lead Google one day to give them the same status as to other country domains, like .de for Germany or .fr for France. Read more about Google’s view on gTLDS and ccTLDS here. Note that .lat domains are not available at all domain registrars. If you can’t find .lat for your business on your usual registrar, just google .lat domain registration and a number of suitable registrars will pop up.
Our final recommendation is that even if you decide for the broader .lat domain, you should consider purchasing specific country domains for your primary export markets as well. You can then point them to your general .lat domain and people searching for your company using local domains will be still able to find you. In this way you equally ensure that you, and not your distributor or competitor, own your brand!
South American country with Spanish as official or national language
Population (above 10 million in 2014)
|Dominican Republic||10.3 million|
Domains for Portuguese speaking Americans
Even though there are over 200 million native Portuguese speakers in South America, they all come from Brazil. This makes our domain recommendation fairly straightforward. Although .br is the official country domain of Brazil, the .com.br is the most popular domain format with over 91% or Brazilian domains registered. A VAT (tax registration) number or a passport number is required for registration. However, many domain registrars provide local contacts that will help you overcome this requirement.
Your country domain not available?
If your country domain is not available, you can still use a system of subdomains (e.g. mx.yoursite.com) or subdirectories (e.g. yoursite.com/mx) with the same search engine optimization benefit. Here’s a blog on this topic by Google.
TLD = top level domain
gTLD = general top level domain, does not have any country association and does not bring search engine optimization benefit in geotargering
ccTLD = country code top level domain, has country association and brings search engine optimization benefit in geotargering