The term ‘SEO-friendly’ has evolved over the years but most often it is used to refer to the process of optimising a website so that people can easily find it via search engines such as Google or Bing. With the ease of access to international markets more and more businesses are looking to expand their services to a new country and new audience. According to research from Common Sense Advisory, 75% of global consumers prefer to buy online in their native language, so having a website that is tailored to your target market can bring great returns.
When launching a multilingual or translated website there are a number of considerations to make to ensure it is SEO-friendly, we have listed 10 of the most important below.
1. Multi-lingual keyword research
When creating content in one language, it is often assumed that the same rules apply after translating the content into another language, unfortunately that is often not the case for target keywords. When translating content it’s also important to check that the same keywords translate well into your target language, and they have a healthy search volume with search engine users. A good way to check this is to use the Location targeting options within the Google Keyword Search Planner.
2. Competitor Reviews
You should never underestimate the importance of competitor analysis, especially when targeting results in another country or language. Building on the keyword research, it is important that competitors are also analysed to ensure you are not targeting an overly saturated keyword, or a key phrase that is overly competitive – without strong external signals it will be difficult to compete with the larger, well established authority websites.
3. Geographic Hosting
Often overlooked due to the technicality aspects, hosting your website within your target country can have countless benefits. Not only will your end users get a quicker, more responsive website when browsing, but search engines will often prioritise websites that are hosted locally so you can see a ranking benefit from it too.
4. Hreflang Tags
As one of the smartest search engines, Google can often determine which language your content is written in but this is not always accurate, using Hreflang tags on each page of the website helps ensure that is information is correct and all search engines understand the target language and locality for the content you are publishing. Hreflang tags are often preconfigured in the majority of CMS systems but it is always best to check this before launching your website.
Example Hreflang Code:
<link rel="alternate" href="http://kwintessential.co.uk" hreflang="en-gb" />
5. Content Localisation
Localisation can be easily overlooked when running an international marketing campaign; even some of the biggest companies have encountered the negative effects of getting it wrong. When Coca-Cola first launched in a Chinese market their brand name was rendered using characters pronounced ‘Ke-ke-ken-la’ which means “bite the wax tadpole” or “female horse stuffed with wax”. It’s best to check that the message you are trying to portray is maintained even after the translation has occurred.
6. Don’t Just Focus On Google
Internationally, Google is not always the preferred search engine of choice for users. Although Google has an 85% market share within UK search this is not often the case with foreign countries. For example, if you are looking for success in China then this is completely reversed with Baidu seeing an 85% market share within Search. Similarly, in Russia you need to start considering the optimisation requirements for Yandex as that is just as widely used as Google.
7. Earn Local Backlinks
Earning backlinks is seen as one of the most effective ways to boost your search engine optimisation and this shouldn’t be overlooked when targeting a foreign market. For additional benefits, credibility and social shares you will want to ensure your website is getting traction within its foreign market and getting backlinks from blogs and websites within that country is a great way to achieve that.
8. Language and Country Specific External Links
Regardless of what country you are targeting with your newly launched website, it is important that any links included are kept within the same language. This not only helps search engines with determining relevancy, but also ensures that your audience does not hit a language barrier when they start to explore some of the external links and resources cited within your content.
9. Test Regional Variations
If you are looking to launch a multilingual website then commonly scripts are used to detect the users location before serving the relevant content to them. Using a proxy or VPN service can be useful in testing the functionality of these scripts and making sure a user from China ends up viewing the Chinese language website – and for usability, just remember to include a way for the user to specify their own language.
10. Consider Web Design
When going international a lot of business owners stop after the thought of translating the content, completely leaving the website design to stay the same. From a branding perspective this can help an audience with familiarity but there are pitfalls to this approach. An international audience can rely on visual aesthetics much more than a local audience and if this is not considered you can harm the user experience for a large number of new users. For example, when launching a website for an Arab language audience it would be best to reverse the navigation and layout elements to be arranged and read from right to left as opposed to the traditional Western style of left to right.
There are many pitfalls a business may encounter when looking to succeed in an international market, navigating them can be difficult but can lead to great success opening up an international audience.