Multilingual SEO Best Practices – Website Geolocation

by oskarokupa on June 19, 2011

The usual question I get asked when someone was to undertake a truly international web project is how to be truly global. Are there any multilingual seo guidelines to follow? What are the multilingual search best practices?

From my experience, both in-house and on the agency side, there is not one-strategy-fits-all multilingual seo standards. The question that usually arises is: how to be truly global? In my mind,  there are a number of things you can do to internationalise your business through the web. These are some ideas:

  • Create a multi language website and undertake a thorough process of multilingual seo
  • Launch an International PPC campaign with or without localised landing pages
  • Lay out a global PR strategy by using native agencies or liaising with a multinational firm
  • Tie all up with a good global analytics package, that can support different character sets

However, if someone were to ask me for a simple “step by step” tutorial on multilingual seo, to get things started quickly, I would go down to the basics. Without having nailed down these basis, any other, more sophisticated endeavours can be futile otherwise. So let’s get started with that:

 

Website Geolocation

In order to target a specific market in a specific language the site needs to be deemed local enough by the Search Engines. Google and other search engines have been giving us some tools lately that help to overcome this issue, however the signals that these tools provide might not be strong enough for a site to rank in a local version of the search engine. The website geolocalisation checklist would be:

  • Country specific local domains terminations (TLDs). Local domain terminations are a very strong signal to indicate that a site is targeted to a particular national audience. Matt Cutts recently created a video where he explains what I knew all along: CCTLds are the strongest signal for rankings in local search engines.
  • Define geographic location via Google Webmaster tools. One of the most effective of the geotargeting tools I was mentioning above, could be to set up geographic location on Webmaster Tools. This will give Google a strong signal about whatyour target audience is. However, this only applies to Google, neglecting the local search engines that sometimes have big share markets.  The Russian search engine Yandex, http://webmaster.yandex.com/, and Baidu http://open.baidu.com/, the chinese main search engine, both have similar tools.

 

yandex webmaster tools

  • Local hosting. There is little evidence to prove that hosting a site in the target country helps to improve rankings for those local versions of the search engines.  If the web page domain is a neutral TLDs (.com, .org, etc) and the site hasn’t set up a geographic location on Google Webmaster Tools, search engines might IP reverse lookup the site to find out what the server location is and hence determine geographic bias. However, in my experience I have never seen any particular advantage that would justify the, sometimes, huge cost that entails.
  • Country specific inbound linking campaign and PR. In my experience, all the previous signals can be surpassed by a healthy local link profile. Reason being, that is the signal which is more difficult to manipulate and shape. In order to get links from local TLDs to your new localised site you will need the assistance of a local link expert or to be able to engage in a PR campaign that will attract links naturally. Some foreign markets are not very sophisticated at SEO and it could be difficult to get links.  A local PR Strategy can help but always trying to go beyond just sending press releases through local wires. There is a need to create content with optimised localised text, syndicate to local image and video news , tap blogs and forums , etc. For all this, you will need a native speaker to help you.

 

These are some of the most significant signals that Google and other search engines will look at when it comes down to determine local intent for a particular site.  As part of these multilingual SEO best practices series, we will talk about optimising multilingual templates and undertaking local PR and link building campaigns.

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