Impact of a Country Specific Website on User Experience

Ratul Saha
Ratul Saha May 14, 2018
10 minutes read

Since its first launch, Google has expanded the Chrome User Experience Report (CrUX) to include more than 3.2 million websites and a new global view across countries. We are now able to compare the user experience of the same website from different countries, as well as of two websites from the same country. In an earlier post, we introduced Site Experience Benchmark (SEB), the probability of the time to first contentful paint being less than 1 second for a given website.

Country specific websites

Personalising content is key to better engagement with your users. A lot of companies create a dedicated website for each country they operate in. By serving different websites to users in different countries, companies are able to personalize various aspects of the website including the language, currency and the content. It is also a strong signal for users and search engines that the website is targeted towards a particular country. This is usually achieved by getting country-specific top level domains (ccTLDs) like .sg for Singapore or .jp for Japan.

As part of this study, we wanted to answer an important question - are the country specific websites faster than their global counterparts? For example, does google.com.sg really provide better user experience than google.com to users in Singapore? If so, then how much faster? We can now answer questions like these since the CruX dataset has a dimension for country as well.

Such a study needs to be done on websites that have a wide presence across the world. After initial pruning, we decided to focus on Google and Amazon, two of the most prominent companies. We will compare how a country-specific website (e.g. google.com.sg in Singapore) racks up to the corresponding global website (e.g. google.com).

#goLocal: On average, the country-specific versions of Amazon and Google website has 18% and 12% better SEB than the global website.

Results for Amazon

We have assesed 13 country-specific Amazon websites. Comparing the performance of amazon.com, the global website, in these countries with the country-specific website, we conclude that in 12 out of 13 cases, the country-specific website provided a better user experience than amazon.com. On an average, websites having a country-specific domain has an 18% increase in speed. For China, the country-specific site www.amazon.cn saw a 43% better performance than amazon.com (as measured by SEB). Only for Amazon Brazil, the global version performs 5% better than the localized version (www.amazon.com.br).

Performance of Amazon: Country-specific vs global website for 13 countries

You can find the Google BigQuery snippet for comparing the performance of Amazon China (https://www.amazon.cn) with Amazon global (https://www.amazon.com) in China as follows:

Results for Google

We also experimented with Google across 162 different countries where Google had a country specific website. The results were similar - 136 out of 162 countries had a faster country-specific website. On an average, country-specific websites accounted for about 12% increase in performance.

Performance of Google: Country Specific vs global website for 162 countries

The results from the experiments with the Google and Amazon websites shows a clear pattern: country-specific websites consistently outperform the global websites. Among 13 websites of Amazon, only Amazon Brazil performed slightly worse than Amazon global for users in Brazil.

Among 162 Google domains, only 26 country-specific websites performed worse than Google global in their respective countries. Among them, the biggest anomaly was Google China, where https://www.google.com performed 40% better than https://www.google.cn. We further dug into the 26 domains where the global Google website was faster and interestingly found that most of them seemed to be countries in Africa, in the Middle East and Central America. As far as we can tell Google uses the same CDn across all their domains, so we aren’t able to pinpoint why this might be the case (anyone from Google reading this and has better insights, let us know!)

What % is a native Google website better than Google.com in a country

Takeaway

Companies might decide to have a website for each country that they operate in for various reasons including SEO, localisation, etc. It is very important to ensure that these country-specific websites perform at least as good as your global website for users of that country. Having different websites for each country also gives you the freedom to easily choose the right CDN, DNS provider, etc for each region and based on our analysis companies such as Google and Amazon are getting as much as 18% increase in SEB by doing optimizations like these.

What other techniques are you using to improve the site speed for users within a country? Let us know in the comments below!

While you are here, check out our other articles on CrUX!
- Chrome User Experience Report Explained with Google BigQuery.
- Impact of 3G vs 4G Connections on User Experience across Countries.
- What is the impact of Server Side Rendering (coming soon).
- More articles coming soon. Stay updated!

(Inian Parameshwaran and Rupak Sarkar contributed to this article.)
Stay updated, because #perfmatters!