International SEO – Can I rank Internationally?
When beginning an SEO campaign, the priorities are to make sure you are ranking 1) regionally if that is your preference for your campaign and 2) on a national level.
But what do you have to do to ensure you have the best possible strategy for ranking on an international level?
Firstly we have to think of the domain of the site. In an ideal world, one domain would be all we need with content in different languages and different content. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case and we have to think about domains and what route we would go down when it comes to choosing these.
The first option would be to go with a root level ccTLD (country code Top Level Domain) which means building separate domains in a different language. So if you had a domain pointing to .com, a ccTLD would be the same domain name pointing to each specific country i.e. www.domain.fr or www.domain.de
The second option would be to have a subdomain, a good idea of a company who utilises this is Wikipedia where the url would look like this: en.domain.com, fr.domain.com or de.domain.com. A subdomain can be used to split languages and also use country targeting. However, it is difficult to inherit the domain authority and trust by using a subdomain compared to a site with a single root domain.
The third option is to have a subfolder to your url. This is pretty much a folder within the domain and companies like Apple use this. An example is www.domain.com/fr or www.domain.com/de. The .com domain name gets the domain authority and this then passes through to the subfolders of each specific country. With options 2 and 3 a ‘hreflang’ attribute would be needed within the coding of the site which is basically a way of telling search engines that the specific page is a different language version of the main page.
One of the biggest dilemmas when it comes to performing on an international level is the language barrier. Now, it would be really nice if everyone in the world were multilingual and this whole scenario wouldn’t be an issue but unfortunately that’s not the case. Using Google Translate is NOT the way to go about things. The language has to be translated by a human and not a machine. Having country specific content on your site goes a long way especially when you are getting visits from people all around the world.
Language also becomes a bit tricky when it comes to international linkbuilding. Linking to and from sites within the same country is particularly difficult when you don’t speak the language and you’re trying to rank on Google in that particular country. A way around this is to possibly outsource your linkbuilding to the country where they speak the preferred language but this can be an expensive way to go about things.
Make sure each one of your sites is set up with a different xml sitemap and these are registered to search engines. If you go down the subfolder route from above, make sure a different sitemap is set up for each folder and a different geotarget is designated in Webmaster Tools.
Whilst getting all of the onsite things right with your meta tags and geotargeting, most of the authority does come from offsite, so utilising things like social media is a good idea whilst you’re trying to figure out your language barrier woes!
Ultimately, it does come down to how serious you are about your international campaign and if you do have the budget in order to see the whole campaign through. Taking into account your company, visitors and budget is the first step in looking to see if implementing SEO on an international scale is worth it for your business.