The growing Global Economy has significantly increased the number of companies seeking search marketing strategies to connect with target audiences all over the world. Many clients we work with at TopRank Online Marketing are either already global organizations or aspiring to deliver products and services in different countries. As a result, we routinely field questions as clients begin their journey into International Search.
Many companies don’t know where to start with International SEO, so here are 5 basic and tactical SEO considerations for companies looking at expanding into International Search:
1. Domain Name
3 common domain setups include Country-specific, Subdomain and Subfolder.
Whenever possible, a country-specific domain name is preferred. i.e. companyname.co.uk
The country-specific domain is a strong signal to the search engine and may provide better visibility for country-specific searches.
In addition, this domain typically provides better usability for the searcher as it’s the familiar and more common domain structure.
For some countries, registering a country-specific domain requires a physical address. If you are launching international ventures without a country-specific address this type of url may prove difficult or impossible to attain.
In addition, with a new domain, time and resources for marketing a new website (think content, links etc) will be required.
If a country-specific url is not an option, a subdomain is likely the next best solution.
The pros for this type of url structure include:
- Easy to implement
- Can be hosted separately, in native country
- Can create a different sitemap for each country folder
- Ability to set geotargeting in Google webmaster tools
The downside to this approach is the URL will still require country-specific promotion/links and will not have the added credibility of the country-specific domain.
Subfolder (i.e. www.companyname.com/uk)
The pros of a subfolder are that it’s easy to implement and you still have the ability to set geo-targeting in Google Webmaster tools.
As with the subdomain, this type of URL structure provides no country-specific SEO value. In addition, a subfolder set up can potentially create duplicate content issues if the content is similar across multiple countries/subfolders.
Also, a subfolder is typically an indication of content subordinate to the top-level domain, which isn’t in line with creating a unique website for a different market.
2. Where the site is hosted
Where the site is hosted is an important factor and one of the hundreds of items the search engines take into account when returning search results. Whenever possible, the site should be hosted in the target country. This is especially important if your site uses a generic Top Level Domain (TLD) like .com .net .org. In that situation, a search engine like Google will use the location of the hosting server to determine location for the site.
If you use a country specific TLD, then that will be the primary signal for your site’s location and hosting in the specified country is not as important.
3. Addresses Published on the Site
In fleshing out the on-page company information, be mindful to lead with the contact information for the target country, even if the company headquarters might be elsewhere. This is good user experience as much as it’s good for search engines. The content of the website should be explicitly clear for the geographic target audience and that means displaying location information. Think of it as good keyword optimization. If you want your UK based company to rank well in google.co.uk for geographically specific phrases, then those phrases should appear in the site’s content, internal and external links.
4. Localize and Optimize Content
As with any other search engine optimization endeavor, content and the optimization of that content is key. Best practices will hold true and include:
- Creation of unique content for the site that is not only translated, but optimized after translation
- Content presented in the native language of the country – Optimized English that is then translated to another language does NOT result in content properly optimized for that language
- Optimization of content for popular keywords, according to country-specific keyword results
Whenever possible, have native speakers review (if not, write) content for the site. International SEO isn’t simply a matter of publishing a site translated into a different language. There are a host of localization issues to be addressed. There are intricacies and interpretations with any language and the content on your existing site may not translate well.
5. Inbound Links
In creating a marketing plan for the site, be sure to include content creation that will be useful to the target audience, easily shared and ultimately be something people want to link to.
Building authority for the site will be critical and plans should include the acquisition of links from country-specific and native-language sites.
Creating a website which will produce results in country-specific search takes the same planning and coordination that’s likely being invested to achieve results from Google (US) search. Keeping the target audience in mind and delivering a site customized for the visitor is the first step to International visibility. And don’t forget, Google isn’t King everywhere – so be sure to research how/where visitors search online in each specific country.