Last updated on November 22nd, 2017 at 01:23 pm
When it comes to marketing, SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is both art and science. The various search engines establish best practices for structure, code and technical considerations but when it comes to content, creativity in translation is still a dominant factor.
If you’re expanding into new local markets or want to improve penetration into existing markets, a well optimized website is key. But it’s more complex than you may think! Just like an octopus needs all 8 functioning legs to thrive, there are many factors that affect how well your site can be found among people looking for your products or services. These are a few components of a well-rounded SEO program for global markets.
Engage In Effective Keyword Research
When you begin any SEO program, one of the first tasks is to determine the most likely keywords that your potentials customers will be using. That can be a daunting process under the best of circumstances, and localization adds yet another layer of complexity due to local language and colloquialisms.
Consider differences within the English language alone – in the United States we may sit down for “a cup of tea” but in Britain they’re more likely to settle in for “a spot.” Even within the United States you’ll find colloquialisms that make “tennis shoes” and “sneakers” interchangeable. You can imagine the challenge of determining unique vocabulary usage from culture to culture.
This is where creativity can shine. An international SEO professional will understand and unearth common language within your target market so that you can speak effectively to local culture, not only hitting the keywords they’ll be searching for but gaining their trust so they’ll be more likely to do business with you.
Build A Strategy Around Your Domain
Ideally, you will want to secure a top-level domain on a country-by-country basis. That means that instead of using a single domain and translating it into multiple languages, you will actually have multiple domains, one for each specific country you’re targeting. The typical convention for a business in the United States is to use a .com or .net domain. However, there are myriad options depending on your market, from .de (Germany) to .in (India), .cn (China), .mx (Mexico) and many more.
With your country specific domains, you will be prepared to customize your website around each local culture and language you wish to target.
However, should you choose to stick with a single domain, you still have options. You may choose to establish a subdomain for each language, or even a separate file folder within the primary domain. The most important thing to understand from a domain perspective is that each of these options requires a different strategy. So as you plan to optimize your site for local markets, this is a key conversation to have with your localization professional.
Employ Effective Metadata
Put simply, metadata is “data about data.” In the context of your website, it is data embedded into the code that tells search engines very specific things about your website, such as its language, authorship, site and page descriptions, and more.
Improperly coded metadata can be a huge roadblock for search engines, which means that proper coding is vital to the optimization of your site.
In short, proper metadata and effective coding are both components of a successful international SEO strategy.
Use Locally Appropriate Business Information
It may come as no surprise that presenting your website in a local language with culturally appropriate messaging and imagery will boost your trust-factor, enhance credibility and improve the chance of customers choosing to do business with you.
But what you may not be considering is that small details can make a big difference. If you’re planning to do business in Spain, for example, you probably don’t want to leave your California phone number on the website as your primary point of contact. Especially for consumer-facing businesses, contact information including phone numbers should be local.
Other details matter, too – showing events in local time and pricing in local currency to name but a few. And consider your URLs. As you’re engaged in translating content on your page, don’t forget that the URL translation and its keywords matter, too.
Effective SEO and subsequently effective business means paying attention to the smallest of details.
Consider Local Hosting
Factors beyond your website can also contribute to the effectiveness of a multilingual SEO program and one of those is hosting. If the infrastructure is good, your best bet is to use a local hosting company.
Unless there are technical reasons not to go local, it can give you an added boost in search ranking, first, by increasing delivery speed to your end users, and second, by providing signals to search engines that your site is relevant to local searchers.
Discuss options with your localization professional so that you know how to maximize your hosting advantage.
Think Beyond Google
Yes, Google is a dominant player, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only one. One of the mistakes that businesses make is focusing too heavily on Google to the exclusion of other search engines, especially local search engines that have greater adoption.
Yandex (popular in Russia) and Baidu (China’s primary search engine) are just two examples of major local search engines. Understanding the guidelines and expectations of both will increase the likelihood of your site ranking in these markets.
For example, Baidu’s guidelines state specifically that they prefer your site to be hosted locally, a key factor that we mentioned previously. There are other guidelines that include URL structure, navigation, page titles and more. As an added complexity, you can now include Chinese characters in URLs.
All of these factors mean one thing: global SEO requires a deep understanding not only of language and content but of the technical and local aspects of search.
Localizing a website requires translation, transcreation, an understanding of local cultural preferences and expectations, and more. But for true market penetration your efforts can’t stop there. Simply translating a site effectively does not mean that it will rank well in search where and when your customers will be looking.
Many technicalities and details come into play, including internal linking (how your pages interconnect), “ALT” tags (embedded text that specifically describes imagery), external links (from locally appropriate sites) and more than we can cover in one article.
And search engines are never static. They are constantly evolving, updating and improving so that they can present searchers with the best possible experience. That means your efforts cannot be static, either. SEO is an evolving, ongoing process with shifting complexities, whether you’re optimizing for your native language or a multilingual campaign.
But if you approach the process with a better understanding of what to expect, you’ll be primed for success. Choose a professional who understands not only translation and local markets but how to reach those markets via search. And remember to make it an ongoing effort so that you can adapt as technology, customer expectations and search guidelines change.