Establishing a global web presence and optimizing for search engine results is more than just translation. In fact, without a true understanding of the cultural, political, linguistic, and social differences of the targeted country, marketers run the risk of driving users away. And, without the proper International SEO Strategy, they run the risk of something worse – never being found by users in the first place. Take a look at some of the best-practices and strategic tips below to help you gain international exposure and SEO value.
- Select Your Domain Name– Your domain name is the unique address that defines who you are and where you reside on the World Wide Web. When selecting an international domain, there are three options to consider:
- Country Code Top Level Domain (ccTLD) – Purchasing the ccTLD of your target country lets the search engines know where your business is located and what markets you are targeting for a specific website. This also helps to keep brand equity with your company. If you do not purchase your ccTLD for a specific country a competitor could buy http://www.yourcompanyname.fr for example.
- Country Code Sub-Domains – The second option for an international URL structure is to set up country specific sub-domains. E.G. http://fr.yourcompanyname.com this gives the search engines the ccTLD and lets them know that you are targeting France.
- Country Code Sub-Folders – If the previous two options are not viable then use a specific sub folder with the ccTLD of the country you are targeting (E.G. http://www.yourcompanyname.com/fr/).
- Set the Country You Are Targeting in Webmaster Tools – If you choose “country code top level domain,” Google Webmaster Tools will target the country for you. If you choose “country code sub domains” or “sub folders,” you should set the country that you would like to target within your Google Webmaster Tools account. This is a secondary way of letting Google know what country you are targeting. Other search engines have a webmasters area as well and this varies by engine.
- For Countries Where Google Is Not the Major Search Engine – You will want to host your site in the country in order to let the local search engines know that you are relevant for your target country. You will also want to submit your site to these search engines as well. Countries where this is the case includes Russia and China.
- Localization– Your customers drive your business, so you need to not only speak their language but also their culture. If you simply translate your site, you may be missing out on some opportunities to target localized versions of the language. For example, if you were selling “soccer cleats” you would miss the localized version of that keyword “football boots” which is used in the United Kingdom
- Title and Meta Data Localization – Make sure to localize your title tags and Meta data, using keywords that are highly searched in the market you are targeting. Some companies will create a new site and translate the content into the language but leave all of the Meta data in English. In order to capture search traffic in the target country you need localize and optimize your title and Meta data.
- Content Localization – You need to have your content localized into the language you are targeting. Don’t forget about images that contain text, many times companies will translate/localize their text but they leave the same images from the U.S. site, and if those images have text in them that text will still be in English.
- Global Gate Way – Your global gate way is your language or country selector page. It is important that this page be written in HTML as opposed to a dynamic script like Java or Ajax. By writing your global gate way in HTML the search engines will be able to read the links and pass link value to all of your international domains and URLs. We do not recommend using flags to represent the countries because if one were from Mexico they may get offended if they have to click the Spanish flag in order to get content in Spanish.
There you have it. The five foundational steps to international SEO success. Implementing these best-practice recommendations will help you set a solid foundation, and you’ll be well on your way to establishing a strong global web presence.
If you enjoyed this excerpt from our Owner’s Manual to Performance-Driven Online Marketing, download the full guide for more best-practice recommendations in online marketing from our subject matter experts. Topics include; Social Media, Organice SEO, Paid Search, Website Usability, Website Analytics, Testing and Optimization, Website Development and Writing for the Web—everything you need to drive measureable results as you venture out onto the road of online marketing success!