Reaching Global Markets
The web is seen to be global but in truth, Search Engines are trying to localize searches and make them more relevant to your region. This makes international SEO strategies increasingly important when targeting an international audience.
Search Engines are trying to deliver more personalized search results based on your location. This has impacted on internet marketing strategies for industries such as travel and hotels in particular, that are looking to target a global as well as a domestic audience. Here are seven invaluable tips to overcome the challenges of international SEO.
International domain strategy
There are various ways how to build up an international and multilingual site structure. Essentially, the question is whether to go for local top level domains such as mydomain.fr, sub-directories e.g. mydomain.com/fr or sub-domains e.g. fr.mydomain.com.
Generally a local top level domain (TLD) provides the best starting point as it carries the most geographic information for the search engine. For instance, Expedia.ca ranks better for ‘travel’ in Google.ca than Expedia.com, although Expedia.com has more pages indexed and more backlinks than the .ca site showing a local domain name carries more weight. This useful video from Matt Cutts who leads up the Search Quality/Webspam team at Google helps explain the best practice strategy for multiple Top Level Domains to maximize visibility in multiple countries.
However, there could be technical constraints, corporate policy or even local business owners that prevent adopting this approach. Also, there may be certain regulations that apply when buying an international domain name. In Germany for example, you are required to have an office in the host country and in Australia, you need to have an Australian Business Name (ABN).
For countries in which Google dominates the search market, Google’s geo-targeting tools provide a way to geo-targeting the less favorable options of sub-directories and sub-domains.
In addition to the domain extension, Search Engines also consider the IP address location of your server to determine the geographical relevance of your website. You may want to target another country but your service provider may be based in a different region. Using a local server to host your website may increase your chances of being indexed for that particular region and improve your global SEO.
International Search Engines
While Google may enjoy market domination in regions like Australia, the UK and the US, significant markets such as China, Russia, and South Korea prefer local Search Engines and the algorithms may vary to Google’s: Baidu (China), Yandex (Russia), Naver and Daum (S.Korea). For instance, Yandex and Baidu favor social media sites as in some countries, user-generated sources may be more trusted than official sites so it is important to research local Search Engines.
Local keyword research
Make sure you do localized keyword searches not just a straight translation. There are even discrepancies between countries where English is their national language. Someone in Australia may search for ‘romantic holidays’ while another person in the US may search for ‘romantic vacations’. Using localized keywords your target market is more likely to use in web searches will improve your online visibility and international SEO in that local market.
Multilingual SEO copy
For optimum results, copy should be written from scratch in the target language. Translated content may not achieve the same meaning as content that is created with the local audience in mind: SEO keywords, language and topics that are relevant to the cultural environment of the user. There are other factors like prepositions, accent marks, and different symbols that you should consider when people search as well.
Build relationships with local sites relevant to your product and/or service. Start blogging on locally based relevant websites, sign up to local networking sites and submit your website to local directories to reach your audience. You want to establish a presence overseas and if your site contains incoming links from relevant and quality local websites, local Search Engines may give your website a higher ranking.
This is an important consideration in regards to international SEO. Understanding your regional target market will help focus your SEO activities and create rich targeted landing pages aimed at those regions. For example, when summer is in Australia, it is winter in Europe. Holidays may also fall on different days as well. It is important to do research on public holidays and cultural events significant to the region.
International SEO Code
When serving same or similar content pages in multiple locations it is critical to ensure correct link tagging and coding is applied, the most common being hreflang. This clever tag assists the search engines to ensure users land on the correct localized page based off their location or search term.
International SEO is becoming increasingly important with research by comScore showing that less than 30% of internet users read English based websites. International SEO may have its pitfalls but by researching the local markets you are targeting and putting together a detailed localization strategy, you should be able to increase your website visibility and ranking on locally based Search Engines.