International SEO is one of the most effective ways to reach a global market, even if you are already successful with your local SEO. While international SEO is not right for everyone, it does provide search-marketing results on a global scale, meaning that your products and services are exposed to people from around the world. While international SEO is an extremely complex process and can take years to set up effectively, the following includes a few quick tips to get you started with integrating an international campaign into your localized Seattle SEO tactics.
There are two basic routes for setting up a domain for international SEO. These include using a basic URL (typically a .com) or choosing a top-level domain (TLD) for the country (such as a .de for Germany). These are Generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs) and Country Specific Top Level Domains (ccTLDs). You probably already have a gTLD, because that is typically a .com. This type of domain can and will come up around the globe and is therefore ‘generic’. gTLDs have a number of pros including that they make SEO campaigns easier. One domain means one campaign, and ranking for a .com in France increases the ranking in Germany, meaning that your current sucessful campaign will boost your international results. The only catch is that you have to create subdomain language folders, but we’ll get to that later. It’s also considerably easier and more affordable for lower budget companies to take this route.
Utilizing ccTLDs in an international SEO campaign means purchasing individual TLD domains per country. Unfortunately, that usually requires that you live there or have a registered address or office there. Therefore, for example, Rorymartin.com might become RoryMartin.ge, or RoryMartin.ca. This is advantageous for a number of reasons including that each individual site is more likely to rank in its country and that local searchers are more likely to see the site as a local and trustworthy website. ccTLDs also allow marketers to utilize local hosting and servers, which sometimes benefits SEO, and sometimes benefits website loading speed. However, using ccTLDs is resource consuming in that it literally requires the owner to manage and keep up individual websites for each ccTLD. Essentially, you’ll need separate SEO campaigns, and very little cross-link value between sites. For this reason, ccTLDs are mostly only recommend for very high-budget campaigns.
Some marketers choose to use their ccTDL domains as subdomains. Essentially, someone from Germany could type in Rorymartin.ge and show up at Rorymartin.com. This has no real SEO benefit, but is beneficial for anyone who wants to advertise with a local domain.
Anyone using gTLDs rather than ccTLDs should take the time to create language subfolders. This can be done in a variety of ways including creating an individual folder for each language or creating a folder for each country. It is recommended to utilize the ISO language and country codes in the URL for the source files. For example:
Others choose to include a country code, which can be represented in either a single file for country and language, or a dual file:
In this case, it is almost always best to create a single folder for country and language, rather than for both. In this case, the ‘correct’ subdomain would be ‘RoryMartin.com/ca-fr’ rather than dividing information between multiple folders. However, countries where you want to optimize for two languages would still require two folders.
For the most part, it is better to choose one main language for the country and rank for that.
Focus on the Right Markets
Digital marketers know that choosing a market can be the most important part of any strategy, and that rule holds true with international SEO. While you could invest in creating an international campaign for every potential market, chances are that this sort of campaign is going to be far too expensive and difficult to upkeep. Instead, focus on creating a smaller campaign that you can easily manage and invest in. Quality is one of the more important ranking factors of SEO, and focusing on one or two prime markets allows you to focus on quality translation, markups, and URLs, rather than using a lower budget for more content. Lower budget marketers with global goals can consider creating international campaigns for specific high-potential markets first, and then moving on to new markets one the first sites are set up. For example, if you want to expand to Toronto, Berlin, and Paris from Seattle, then you would want to do so one city at a time, rather than all at once.
As with any other form of SEO, international SEO requires optimized URLS. In this case there are a number of different strategies you can utilize for language, localized, and internal SEO. As a rule, you should include the following considerations in any URL.
• URL should be in the same language as the page.
• Use hreflangs
• Avoid redirects, as they confuse the reader and Google
Hreflangs are a confusing point to anyone not quite familiar with HTML or the more technical aspects of SEO, but they are an extremely important factor in international SEO. The HREF markup, as you may know, stands for ‘hypertext reference’ while the ‘lang’ stands for language. So a Hreflang is quite simply a hypertext markup that tells Google you are using another language and would like to rank this page for that language. Hreflangs are also useful for telling search bots that while the content is duplicated somewhere else, it’s because it is now in another language and intended to rank in another country.
<rel=”alternate” hreflang =”Fr” >
You should include a specific hreflang in the URL header for each alternate language page that you have. You do not have to use canonicals with hreflangs, and the hreflang already tells Google that the page is duplicate but in another language. Hreflangs are also important for pages with dialect changes, such as US to UK word changes.
Translation is an often-overlooked factor of international SEO but most search engines rank quality content over keyword optimization. For this reason, it is important to invest in quality translations no matter what the language. If you’re simply translating to other forms of English, such as British and Australian English, you can use a simple program like Microsoft Word to help. Otherwise, you most likely need a professional translator. Any translating software will have grammar or other errors that will affect search and reader satisfaction. For the most part, it is a mistake to use any sort of auto-translate or flash program on the page. You want an individual URL and individual pre-translated page for each country.
Very few countries have the same keywords for the same topics, so it is important to research keywords for the country in question. Google’s Keyword Planner is an excellent free tool for anyone who wants to do keyword research by country. However, any keyword research software or tools that you currently use may also be appropriate. In most cases, international SEO requires the use of both language appropriate and English keywords. For example, someone in Germany may search using both English and German.
International SEO, like other forms of SEO, also requires a link building campaign. In this case it is important to create links from domains and websites that reflect the language and country location of the new domain. For example, anyone setting up a British version of their site would want inbound links from sites using British English, and hopefully with a .UK instead of a com.
How are you implementing your international SEO strategy?