International SEO from SMX Seattle

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There are two main options to decide upon when creating a site for international presence and audience. Then once you’ve decided which method you’ll use, then it’s time to optimize on-site and off-site. This panel did an excellent job covering the basics and then some, all along providing one of the most entertaining and interesting sessions the past two days.

Cindy Krum from Blue Moon Works provided a great overview of the three different options on structuring your international site. The first option she covered was hosting translated pages on your current site by using a subdomain or subdirectory. The pros of this option is that it’s easy to set up, you’ll benefit from the current inbound links pointing to your site, you’ll have more pages in the index, and duplicate content will be reduced if certain locations speak the same language. The cons, and big ones in my mind, are that the home page will likely serve as the jumping off point for the various sections and therefore visitors will have to click one more link, but more importantly the home page will most likely be in one language and will only rank for that language. You can still buy up your country specific TLD’s but be sure to 301 redirect them to the appropriate subdomain or subdirectory for that country. And don’t forget to add translated title and meta tags, along with local addresses and let visitors know you are taking them to another site or page.

A few other tips where given with this method: use a smart geo selector or pull down menus for countries. Another great tip was to remember that flags don’t mean language. Many sites use flags for the geo selector and forget that many countries have several dominant languages.

The other option is to create a country specific, multiple site approach by creating separate sites for each country using dedicated TLDs. The cons are that you’ll have more sites and links to manage, but the upside is huge. The rest of the panel covered this method in depth. Kristjan Mar Hauksson of Nordic eMarketing mentioned a registry site he uses – EuropeRegistry.com. And remember that each country has their own rules when buying domains. For example in Norway, a company can only buy 20 domains max.

When creating a dedicated country site, be sure to start by hiring a firm to do the keyword research and translation for you. A good rule of thumb is that you shouldn’t try to do keyword research if you don’t speak the language. The audience later asked the panel what keyword tools they use when doing research, and the panel said they use the same US based keyword research tools, but that the best method is to use a local (person). The other tip is to use country targeted geotargeted Pay Per Click to test keywords once you get them from the translator.

Other considerations when translating include adapting to the local culture and language: local terms, spelling, popular culture references, translation and cultural issues of that particular location. And to consider if it’s easier to translate a purely informational page rather than traditional marketing or brochure-type copy. Take off the marketing and emotional copy and use bullets where possible.

The money tip of the day was from Ian McAnerin of McAnerin International when he said not only to make sure you host your site in the country you are targeting but go a step further to ensure they aren’t renting space from some other location. He’s uncovered this problem, where the host is from one country and the actual server is in another. Another tip once you optimize and launch the new site is to be sure to get local inbound links. And finally, SEO fundamentals for US sites apply to international sites. Make sure you use keywords in your urls, copy and tags. Great session – thanks!

About the Author

Hallie Janssen is Vice President at Anvil Media, Inc., a search and social media marketing agency. Janssen also teaches a social media class with the Online Marketing Institute in conjunction with Wharton Interactive. Contact Hallie at 503.595.6050 x221 or Twitter.com/Hallie_Janssen.

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  1. Great post. I am most interested in the content piece, specifically about localization and international SEO. Many people we speak with are trying to figure out how international seo and translation come together. They have traditionally been separated and the providers (translators and SEO consultants) have been separate. Should they now be brought together? If so, how would it work? We’ve built an “international seo maturity model” that helps people figure out the right approach for them. Does this model make sense to you? What do you think is missing?