There’s no question that English is the dominant language in which web page content is written worldwide. However, it is not the only language; for example, Mandarin is the most spoken language in the world, but is also the second most popular language for web content to be written in.
Interestingly, the most widely used search engines also vary in some countries (that’s right, Google is not the 1st choice search engine everywhere), for example, Yahoo is the leading search engine in Taiwan, whereas in Russia, Yandex appears to be the leader of searches.
If you are intending to reach an international audience, you may require a translation(s) of your content. But more importantly, what may change are the SEO needs for your website. So, here are the six considerations I’ve mustered up for all you ‘World Wide Web’ dominators:
Domains: Local, Internationalised and Top Level Domains (TLD) can all contribute to how you are displayed in search engine results page (SERP):
- Local Domains - e.g. www.mywebsite.co.uk, www.mywebsite.fr, www.mywebsite.co.jp
- Internationalised domains e.g www.私のウェブサイト.co.jp
- Top Level Domain: www.mywebsite.com, www.mywebsite.net
Local domains are a great way to get noticed in the SERPs. By obtaining a localised domain, you are in fact improving your likelihood of ranking internationally. Search engines tend to take locality into account and treats it as a factor when delivering relevant results to users. Interestingly, you’ll experience less competition than you would in another country’s search engine e.g a ‘.ru’ domain name would have more prevalence in Yandex searches than a ‘.nl’ domain name would.
Alternatively, you may want to invest in an internationalised domain – you’ll be appreciated more by your audience as the characters used for the URL will conform to that of their Keyboard’s. Additionally, these domains possess the ability to be ‘translated’; so other foreign keyboard users may manually access the domain. However, the translations are near-to-unmemorable and not very user-friendly.
Moreover, if you already own a website and it is under a Top-Level Domain, you could consider progressively purchasing ‘local’ domains. Once you’ve obtained them, you could eventually build the international counterparts and 301 redirect your users to them from your main website based on their current locations. There is a positive chance you will round up those keyword-rich URLs this way. However, you may want to consider the use of subdirectories or subdomains within this option.
Subdirectories and Subdomains: Subdirectories such as ‘www.mywebsite.com/fr’ are great candidates for internationalising your website. They can be used to deliver content to your preferred target audience(s) and they tend to pick up the page rank of its root within a reasonable amount of time. They are also good for organising content and creating meaningful URLs – I would consider using this if your initial website doesn’t have an extensive number of pages; could you imagine having to create, read through and organise 1000 pages for each target country of your website? If I was instructed to do that, I would have to put a hit out on my managers! (Sam, Ben, Yousaf, It’s a joke, please don’t fire me!). In addition, it would take more time to pass the ‘link juice’ onto the deeper pages.
Subdomains could be described as separate websites; when building subdomains to reach an international audience, you are potentially starting from scratch. Because of this, you cannot internally link to another subdomain; they will be viewed as ‘inbound’ links as opposed to internal. However, they promote easier management when you own a website which is already quite content-rich and again, they can localise quite well.
Text Variations and Dialects: Some countries will use a variation of characters and alphabets within their language. To reach the majority of audience members, you’ll want to conform your web content to the most appropriate character set. Additionally, some countries will use different dialects of their native language and some words may vary across various areas. Quite a factor to take into consideration when targeting particular keywords.
Translations: You could use an automatic translation system on your website in order to provide you audience with content in the format of their spoken language. Even a few browsers have the inbuilt functionality to translate pages such as Google Chrome. But for SEO, this is not idealistic and neither viable. Firstly, translation machines are not adept in grammatically correct translations and you’ll want your content to sound as natural as possible. Secondly, your website is more likely to be flagged up by Google as a non-quality site (and we know that Google Panda’s coming in for the attack). Finally, search engines are unable to ‘turn on’ the translators themselves in order to crawl the page; pages are crawled in their original form therefore, translations are not indexable.
Local Speaker as an Editor: As a solution to the translation issue, you might want to look into bringing a native speaker on-board your project. It will aid greatly with accurately translating, adjusting and spelling those keywords you wish to target. Again, they can also assist with the grammar of your web content and ensure your audience understands what you are trying to promote, portray and explain.
Link Building: Try to link build to websites which reside in the same region as your target audience; but more importantly, you’ll want to seek out ‘local’ websites preferably written in the same language. If in doubt, start off with local directories and later, move onto more relatable content. If you still haven’t scared that native speaker you hired half an hour ago, they could be used as a great source for link building to high-quality sites as proof-readers.
I wouldn’t say I’m a leading expert in Multilingual SEO, but hopefully this will give you a little to think about and a starting point for expanding your reach. Drop me a comment if you have any questions. You can also find me on Twitter.