This article provides information on choosing domain names, URLs, country-level domain codes, and more.
Last Published: 10/20/2016

Step 1 - Select a Domain Name

A key component to establishing a web presence is choosing a Universal Resource Locator (URL) and a domain name (i.e., www.computersrus.com). As with URLs aimed toward the domestic market, a URL for an online exporter's website should be short, simple, descriptive and memorable to customers in the target market. ICANN Accredited Registrars will concurrently register your URL and domain name for each country in which you register.

--Using Country-Level Domain Codes

Every country (and a few territories) in the world has a reserved, two letter country code domain (e.g., The United Kingdom has the domain .uk; see http://www.thrall.org/domains.htm). An online exporter might want to choose domain names localized for their target markets. Locally branded domain names can increase brand awareness, website address recall, and even,  impact brand sales and loyalty. In addition, most local search engines display locally relevant content by filtering the search results to include local country-code domains only--something to consider when deciding whether to localize or internationalize your site. Companies that want to have a local domain name should research the rules for the particular country, as registration requirements vary. (See www.iana.org, which lists domain name databases and http://www.iana.org/cctld/cctld.htm, which includes information on country code top-level domain names.) The link to Top Internet Markets on the right provides information on registering domain names in a few international markets.

--Internationalizing Your Domain Name

Companies seeking foreign customers may also consider an "internationalized" or "multilingual" domain name. Such domain names are web addresses written in characters other than the Roman alphabet. For example, a company called "Bright Light Bulbs" wishing to sell in China could have a domain name that would use the Chinese characters for Bright Light Bulbs in its website address. Internationalized, or multilingual, domain names allow customers to search and access sites in their native language. Again, most ICANN Accredited Registrars can assist you in researching domain names in various countries. 

Step 2: Register at Search Engines

Most people use search engines to find information on the Internet, so website registration with multiple search engines is key to visibility. Search engines range from global, in scope, to search tools focused on small areas of information. There are a number of international search engines. Some are in native languages and characters (i.e., http://nomade.aliceadsl.fr/). Others are popular English search engines with international links (i.e., http://br.cade.yahoo.com/). Online exporters should register with search engines popular with the target audience in their target markets.

 

Step 3: Choose a Web Host

A web host is a company with a server that maintains the files of websites. There are a variety of free and subscription based web host services available, including those offered by many Internet Service Providers. Web hosting services often go beyond website maintenance to include domain name registration, website design, and search engine registration. For some online exporters, it may be most feasible to use a web host in their target market to take advantage of all of these localized services. The location or nationality of the website host does not impact accessibility of the site. However, when choosing a host, companies should ensure that the host servers reside within a stable infrastructure and are maintained to ensure optimal reliability.

Companies also should consider whether they will be storing personal information of EU citizens, or citizens of other nations that restrict the export of personal data. EU citizens’ personal data can only be sent to countries deemed “adequate,” or to companies using approved model contracts, binding corporate rules, or those participating in the U.S. EU Safe Harbor program. Companies also should take into account potential negative perceptions if they store personal data in nations in which fraud or identity theft are rampant. As with domestically located web hosting services, agreements should be clear and enforceable about ownership of intellectual property, performance specifications and warranties, security, privacy, the right to transfer the site to a different host, and contract termination. Your contract with a hosting service should provide the same level of security and privacy that your company promises clients whose information it collects, when applicable.​


Step 4: Website Content - Localize and Internationalize

Companies seeking foreign audiences with their websites will want to either localize or internationalize their site, or provide a mixture of both processes. Forrester Research notes that "visitors linger twice as long [on international sites] as they do at English-only URLs; business buyers are three times more likely to buy if addressed in their own language; and customer service costs drop when instructions are displayed in the user's language." Localization consists of adapting your website to meet the linguistic, cultural, and commercial requirements of a targeted market. Internationalizing a firm’s website enables the company to be multilingual, and be sensitive, [SW1] to cultural conventions without the need for extensive redesign. Localization or internationalization must be part of the online exporter’s corporate strategy for website and business development.

Features for website localization that should be considered include:
  • language in target market
  • cultural nuance, such as differences in color association and symbols
  • payment preferences in target market
  • pricing in the appropriate currency
  • web metrics and visitor reports
  • regular maintenance and updating of content of your website
More information on localization and internationalization can be found at the website for the Localization Industry Standards Association, [www.lisa.org ] or the Globalization and Localization Association, [www.gala-global.org ].

Step 5: Execute Orders

Guidelines for order execution and after-sales service are similar for offline and online transactions. You can easily add a checkout app to your website from a growing number of vendors.  You can specify the payment methods that you will accept.  Keep in mind that overseas buyers will have different payment methods,  and that the app or third-party checkout service you acquire needs to provide these options. You can also create your own site and online store using vendors, such as shopify.com.  These services provide templates which can be customized up to a point.  You can purchase a domain name and install a checkout function.  Vendors purport to enable their customers to have a store up, running and taking orders within a couple of hours—and no computer programming skills are needed.
 

DISCLAIMER: Links to websites outside the U.S. Federal Government, or the use of trade, firm, or corporation names within the International Trade Administration websites (export.gov and trade.gov) are for the convenience of the user. Such use does not constitute an official endorsement or approval by the U.S. Commerce Department of any private sector website, product, or service. When selecting links, be aware that you are subject to the privacy and security policies of the owners/sponsors of the outside website. Prepared by the International Trade Administration. With its network of 108 offices across the United States and in more than 75 countries, the International Trade Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce utilizes its global presence and international marketing expertise to help U.S. companies sell their products and services worldwide. Locate the trade specialist in the U.S. nearest you by visiting http://export.gov/usoffices.



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