International SEO & Using it to Your Advantage
By Hillary Bressler Fractional Digital CMO, PinchHit Partners | January 27, 2012
Over the course of the past few years, I have been approached by hotels that want to attract more international traffic to their websites. They were looking for the easiest way to optimize their sites for each country. Some may think it is simply a matter of translating the site and traffic will come. International SEO is not that easy. Here are a few challenges that companies with an international Web presence face, and some tips for creating an optimal Web presence that can perform well in international search engines. How Many Languages?
In this metrics focused world, most people would like to be able to forecast the results: "How about if I add Chinese? How much traffic can I expect? We do advise that you launch an international site with multiple languages. For instance, if you were to launch with two languages this week, add another, and then add another later, this approach would never yield the same results as if you were to launch a site with five languages simultaneously. In fact, Google and other major crawlers consider sites "global players" if they include five languages or more. This can deliver search engine ranking leverage which is just not available with fewer languages.
Keyword analysis must be performed for each individual language. Start by using your English set of keywords as a guideline for your foreign keywords. This set of keywords should be provided to the foreign native SEO technicians who will conduct your keyword analysis. They will conduct assessments ranging from terminology accuracy equivalents, keyword density factor evaluation, and competition analysis and language dialect and slang nuances. It is important that this work be performed by a qualified native SEO technician and not just by a translator, no matter how qualified the translator might be. Keywords rarely translate literally and slang, acronyms and other oddities are used by native speakers. For example, a literal translation of "Bullet Train" into French would result in a term with a "gun/arm" connotation. The French (who invented the Bullet Train) use the acronym "TGV", which means "Train `a Grande Vitesse" (high speed train). To make it even more complicated, people on the French side of Belgium, such as in Brussels, refer to the high speed train as the "Thalys" since the company operating the Bullet Trains from Belgium is called Thalys. This is only one example illustrating the challenge of International Search Engine Optimization or MSEO for Multilingual SEO. Domains
When it comes to doing things "the right way" for MSEO, it all begins with domain selection. This is true whether it is for one Web site to be promoted in the United States, or for international websites.
For international SEO, we recommend a TLD (top level domain) for each country you are targeting. This is more complicated than you might think. Many countries mandate that you have an actual physical business location in that country before you can obtain a TLD. To gain a German (.de) top-level-domain, for example, you must operate an office in Germany.