In the world of SEO, the only constant is change. With Google continually fine tuning it’s algorithm in order to provide increasingly relevant search results, a week in search is a long time. With so many variables to consider, optimising a website and implementing a link building strategy for long term effectiveness can seem like an overwhelming task at times. Gone are the days of trying to outwit the search engines through link farms and poorly spun content. SEO in 2012 requires creative thinking and is becoming increasingly enmeshed with traditional marketing and PR. If you then add the task of trying to optimise a web site to compete internationally, you are then greeted with the complex beast that is International SEO.
If your company needs an international web presence, there are a few key points to consider:
Choosing a domain
Ideally, if you wish to target customers in a specific country, you should choose a country specific Top Level Domain (TLD) such as .de for Germany or .co.uk for UK. The main reason for this is Google’s focus on producing the most appropriate result for a search query. All other things being equal, a .de domain will carry more weight than a .co.uk domain with Google in Germany as it will be more relevant to users there.
It is worth noting here that Google is not the primary search engine everywhere. In China the most popular engine is Baidu and in Russia it is Yandex.
Geotargeting Settings In Webmaster Tools
If for some reason you are unable to choose a country specific TLD and have a generic TLD such as .com or .eu, set the Geotargetting settings in Google Webmaster tools to indicate you wish to target a specific country. Note, this isn’t needed if you have a country specific TLD.
Choose a local hosting provider
This is also a factor in relevancy of search results as search engines will look at the IP address of the web server to determine geographic location.
Use a human to translate
Sticking your English content into Google Translate won’t get you very far when it comes to providing an accurate translation. Google Translate and other similar tools provide approximations and will fail to understand the subtleties needed to engage non-English speaking customers. Would you buy from a website which was written in Pidgin English? I thought not. Have your international content written by a human translator who also understands the cultural nuances of the country you are trying to target.
International Link Building
Links are still of paramount importance whether you’re targeting customers in Thailand or Timbuktoo. The obvious stumbling block here are the language difficulties. Although submitting your site to country specific web directories can be relatively straight forward, other link building tactics such as content syndication can prove to be difficult. It is important to make sure your content is written by a translator, and is relevant to the culture of the market you are trying to target.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of tasks when optimising a site for a foreign country, but it should give you a good idea of what to consider when targeting global customers. Although the internet has transcended national boundaries, language and cultural differences mean online success abroad has to be tailored to the specific market.
Alastair Kane is a freelance writer who supplied this article for Strategic Internet Consulting, a company which provides international SEO services, based in Horsham, UK.