In this lesson, we’ll explain how search engine optimization ( SEO ) strategy can help your business reach international prospects and customers.
If your potential customers are in different countries or speak multiple languages, there are many aspects to consider. We’ll go over the most important ones: language, localization and country targeting.
First things first: you need to speak your customers’ language—literally.
There are some SEO guidelines for websites that offer content in multiple languages. The first is to make sure that each page in a different language has its own unique web page.
Why is that important? Let’s say you sell birthday greeting cards in India and you want to sell them to other countries.
Web design technology makes it possible to have English language content on a web page—say www.example.com/BirthdayGreetingCards.html—but allow visitors to click a button to view the same page written in French. Sounds great, right? The problem is that humans can click that button, but search engines can’t.
A better approach is to separate each translated version on its own web page. In this example, it would be much better to place the French version on its own page, with a separate URL : www.example.com/BirthdayGreetingCards-fr.html
The second thing to keep in mind: mixing languages on the same page. This is a big no-no. For example, when half your content is in French and the other half is in English, search engines can’t decide what language your content is in. It’s better to use different pages for different languages.
Next: Avoid using automated services to translate your content. Have a piece of content about anniversary wishes that needs to be in French? Get a real live person to translate it for you.
Why is this necessary? Search engines don't value content generated from automated translation tools. Even worse, the page might be considered spam. Translation service may cost you a bit more upfront, but you’ll likely have higher quality content that can drive better results for your business.
If you’ve taken the time to translate content, some search engines allow you to add language annotations to your web pages. These annotations help search engines serve the right content to the right person based on his or her country or language.
Let’s imagine you are the owner of a gift shop in India who ships customised gift items across borders. You have created some great content for your Indian clientele, but you have also had the same content carefully translated into German for your market in Germany. One such page is about your Diwali greeting cards.
As a gift shop, you’d expect your German Diwali greeting cards page to show up on a search results page for your prospects in Germany, and your Indian page for customers in India. To help search engines discover this alternate content, in this case you’d be able to add an annotation to each English and German page.
These tags will mark your pages so search engines can serve up the right version of your content to viewers in their respective countries.
When you explore annotations a bit further, you’ll see that they can be great tools for more advanced multilingual and multinational setups.
That covers some of the structural considerations for adding different languages to your website. But even if you don’t add multiple languages, there are other considerations for customers in different countries and markets.
Start by thinking about what information would be useful to them.
Do you need to provide product prices in different currencies?
Do they use a different system of measurement—metric versus imperial? For example, would customers weigh your cakes in kilos or pounds?
Did you include local addresses and phone numbers so they can contact you?
Do you need to list your business hours in different time zones?
These are all small things you can do to make sure your website remains useful to potential customers in different countries. They are also signals to help search engines understand your content is relevant to international markets.
Beyond language and localization, you can help search engines understand the country (or countries!) you are targeting.
For instance, if your website has a country code top level domain name—ccTLD for short—it’s a strong indication that your site targets a specific country. An example of a India site with a ccTLD would be www.supergiftshop.co.in. For Germany, that site might be www.supergiftshop.de.
And if it doesn’t? What if you have a generic domain such as www.example.com?
Search engines may use a number of factors including where your website is hosted, its IP address, and information on your web pages. You can still help your site and its content be more visible to international prospects by using country targeting tools such as those found in Google Search Console.
And there you have it. As you start promoting your website in other countries, keep three things in mind: language, localization and country targeting.
If you do, you can adjust your website and SEO strategy to make your website an international success. Want to learn more? Be sure to check out our lessons about International Marketing and Export.
- country targeting.