International SEO is all about increasing relevant search engine presence in multiple countries around the world. Although Google is common in most countries, a blanket approach to search engine optimisation rarely works, so in this post I will cover a number of key points about getting started with International SEO.
Before I go into more detail I should mention that this article is aimed at those who already have an understanding of regular SEO, rather than beginners. If you are interested in attending one of our free classes to learn the basics, have a look at our upcoming workshops.
Here are some of the key points for anyone looking to optimise their website for search around the world:
- A straight translate rarely works: It is tempting to simply translate your website into different languages using tools like Google Translate, but this is very rarely successful. Firstly, although translation tools are getting more and more sophisticated, they still make mistakes and sometimes still don’t read well. Secondly, direct translations of certain words often don’t have the exact same meaning. Think about the word ‘pants’ in UK English compared to the same word in American English. And thirdly, you still need to do keyword research to find out which terms people are searching for in each country.
- Use the hreflang tag: When you create alternative versions of each page in different languages (even if you create one for American English and another for Canadian English), be sure to include the hreflang tag to tell Google that there are alternative versions. In the head of the page, include: <link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”es-es” href=”http://www.example.com/es” /> for each other alternative. So on your French version, you will point to the alternative for each other language. The hreflang= tag signals the language and the href= signals the location of the page.
- Domains, Subdomains or subdirectories – choose carefully: When splitting your website into multiple languages, you could either buy a local domain for each country, for example yoursite.ca for Canada and yoursite.fr for France; you could use subdomains, for example us.yoursite.com for the United States; or alternatively you could use subdirectories like yoursite.com/fr.
When using separate and localised domains you have the benefit of an easy to remember URL for that country, so this works well if you are likely to support your international SEO with international offline marketing. subdomains can do this too, but aren’t quite as slick. The main benefit of using subdirectories is that you can consolidate the domain authority across the world, but obviously this results in less memorable URLs.
- Keep the same sitemap structure: No matter whether you go for separate domains, subdomains or subdirectories, Google recommends that you keep a similar (ideally the same) structure.
- It’s not always Google: Although Google holds the majority of the search marketing across the globe, Baidu is the biggest in China, Yandex leads Russia, Naver leads Korea, Yahoo.jp leads Japan and Seznam leads the Czech Republic. If you wish to rank well in these countries it is worth getting to know their top search engines.
Here at b:web we offer SEO services both locally and internationally. If you would like to discuss your search engine optimisation goals and strategy with us, please contact us.