This guest post is by Christian Arno
SEO: the three magic letters no online marketer can ignore.
Trying to get your site into the first pages of major search engines is no easy feat.
But there’s no doubting its benefits.
One study by Optify, found that the top ranked site on Google gets a click-through rate of 36.4 per cent.
This drops to 12.5 per cent for the one in second position, falling further after that.
The SEO battle can be hard enough for web sites competing in just one market. But it becomes tougher when you want to launch international websites. Here are a few tips for successful search engine marketing across borders.
GOOGLE OR NOT GOOGLE?
It’s obviously a wise move to focus your efforts on Google, the largest search engine in the world by far.
But that doesn’t mean it’s the top dog in every country. If you’re thinking of targeting major markets such as China, Russia, Japan or Taiwan, you need to consider other players.
Baidu is the favorite search engine among China’s 400 million web users – more than the whole population of the United States.
Other big markets where Google isn’t number one include Russia, which prefers Yandex. In Japan, Yahoo still rules, while South Koreans prefer Naver and Daum.
These search engines use different algorithms from Google. In some cases, they favor social media sites and user-generated sources rather than official sites. Keyword density preferences also tend to differ.
While Google prefers a density of around 2 per cent, Yahoo! Japan prefers a higher density of up to 8 per cent. This higher level would almost certainly annoy American or European users!
There’s plenty of research showing the vast majority of web users prefer local or national sites to foreign ones.
This is especially true when it comes to buying goods or services online. Use native-speaking translators to ensure the language is flawless, and don’t forget details such as currency and cultural references.
SEO STRATEGY BY COUNTRY
The best way to target a specific country is to have a country code top-level domain. This is an Internet domain generally used or reserved for one country.
The second best option is having a sub-directory, such as mycompany.com/de.This is better than simply a sub-domain of your main site, such as de.mycompany.com.
A local top level domain will help your website rank better in that country’s search engines, than the equivalent .com version.
In addition to the domain extension, search engines like Google also take into account the IP address location of your server.
Being hosted on a local server helps increase your ranking because the search engines consider your website more relevant to that country.
SEO STRATEGY BY LANGUAGE
If you’re translating your website into a widely-spoken language such as Spanish, French or German, then you have another choice.
Do you have a single site to cover several countries, such as France, Switzerland and Canada, or localized ones for each market?
The best option is country-specific sites for several reasons.
The first is linguistic. We all know American and British English have some big differences in word use and spelling. The same applies to Spanish in Spain and Latin America, and French in various countries.
The last thing you want is to end up with keywords that have different meanings in different countries!
Another main disadvantage of this “by language” SEO strategy is that it will make it much more difficult to get ranked well on national search engines.
Google, in particular, prefers results that are close to the user geographically. And it’s quite easy to understand why.
When typing in “locksmith” in New York, you don’t want to find a good, cheap shop that’s located in Scotland!
Localizing your websites for a specific country isn’t a quick and easy option. But it’s the most effective strategy in terms of SEO.
Researching search engines, gaining a top level domain name and translating your content all take time and effort. But they will help you appeal to users and win customers around the globe.
About the author:
Christian Arno is the founder of professional translation services provider Lingo24. Launched in 2001, Lingo24 now has over 160 employees spanning four continents and clients in more than 60 countries. In the past twelve months, they have translated over forty million words for businesses in every industry sector, including MTV and World Bank. Follow Christian (@l24ca) and Lingo24 (@Lingo24) on Twitter.
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