Most businesses reside and operate in a single country, and optimisation for that country is (reasonably) straightforward.What happens though when you operate in more than one country? How do you optimise your website for these areas? Is content an issue, domains? Below I hope to give some guidance on both my experience and the experience that others have shared with me.
The most important thing is to set out your strategy from the start because as your site expands into more and more countries it can be very difficult to change path.
ccTLD, Sub Domain or Sub Folder?
The first point to consider with international SEO is where you are going to keep your website. There are three primary options here:
- Country Specific Domain (ccTLD) – i.e. http://www.dantaylorseo.fr
- Sub Domain – i.e. http://fr.dantaylorseo.com
- Sub Folder – i.e. http://www.searchbloggers.co.uk/fr/
So which is the best option? The answer unfortunately is all of them, they all have their positives (and negatives) and I will explain them below.
* other domains may be purchased to protect brand but not necessary.
|ccTLD||Sub Domain||Sub Folder|
Note: Apart from Wikipedia I did struggle to find a credible source for the Sub Domain route, it seems that more and more of the worlds biggest brands are moving from sub domains to sub folders of ccTLD’s.
Note: For the Sub Domain & Sub Folder routes the domain purchased must be .com, .net or .org.
Now that you have decided on your site architecture for the internationalization it is time to decide on the content. Content for each of the international sites (or areas) should always be unique. In countries that do not speak the same language you can directly translate content but I would advise strongly against this.
Best practise would dictate that you have a standard set of pages written for your largest market and then give this content to local writers in the countries that you wish to operate in and have them use it as a base for then to start from. Different countries have different cultures, beliefs and browsing habits – only a local writer will be able to focus the content to your target market. And by using different writers, writing from the same base the content will always have a similar message but will also maintain its own local flavour. This approach also applies to same language speaking countries such as the US, UK and Australia each of the countries speak the same language, English, however have massively different cultures and in some cases completely different meanings for certain phrases/words.
Targeting your content perfectly to your market will be pivotal to both rankings and conversions.
As mentioned in the site architecture area above the amount of link building you will have to do to get the different countries ranking can differ greatly but the basics will remain the same. Here are a few key points to consider:
- When link building from a foreign website do not have the link in a different language – i.e. an English link from a Chinese site
- Building links from sites hosted in your target country to the correct areas of your site can have massive benefit…
- … However a natural link profile will contain links from around the world naturally, so don’t over-focus
- Use local directories as a starting point for targeted links
Initially International SEO can seem like a daunting responsibility, however once you get your planning correct and set up the architecture you are on the path the International success.