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June 4, 2008

International SEO

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Jeffrey K. Rohrs is moderating. Our speakers are Andy Atkins-Kruger, Managing Director, WebCertain; Kristjan Mar Hauksson, Director of Internet Marketing, Nordic eMarketing; Cindy Krum, Senior SEO Analyst, Blue Moon Works, Inc.; and Ian McAnerin, CEO, McAnerin International, Inc.

Ian McAnerin will present first. Internationalization revolves around domain, language, culture, and geolocation issues. Geolocation is the identification of a Web page as belonging to or being relevant for a particular country. Country code Top Level Domain (ccTLD, including .ca, .cn, .uk, .mx), IP address and link analysis are all aspects to consider in International SEO efforts.

If you have multiple domains connected to a single page, Google’s only going to choose one domain to display. The way it chooses which to display is the link weight on the page, opting for the page with more links. If you want to be geolocated for a particular country and your site is .com, have your site map point to the ccTLD, but make links within the site .com. Display URL tactic: the key is to use a park and not a redirect for your multiple domains.

Language and culture issues include local terms, different types of spelling, popular culture references, translation issues and vocal culture issues (for example a Japanese company called Up the Creek). When translating copy, consider language issues and follow the Symantec Expression Equivalency Document (SEED):

Original English > English SEED > Chinese SEED > Chinese Document

The original English must be broken down into dry bullet points. This is translated into the second language. That document is turned into marketing copy by a marketer working within the second language, in this example, Chinese.

Linking issues:

  • Too many links. For example, Asian sites are often full of links because there are many characters required for content.
  • Nofollow, first anchor text counts
  • Strategic internal linking is an excellent way to deal with multiple languages
  • Language switching:
    • No surprises
    • Clear indication of target
      • Same page, different language
      • Different language site

Andy Atkins-Kruger is next and says he has a personal interest in languages. Some of the most important search engine brands outside the U.S. are Rndex, Baidu, Seznam, Naver, Najdi.si, and NetSprint. He says he’s got ten important factors in international SEO to share.

  1. Have your site coded in UTF-8 (Unicode). This allows your site to be translated to languages from around the globe. It is backwardly compatible with Ascii. It encodes up to four-byte characters.
  2. Don’t translate your Meta tags and page Titles. Make them all individually planned to adjust for plurals, prepositions, special characters, etc.
  3. Adopt a global PR strategy. There are many PR portals for different languages. It generates links and helps build your global presence.
  4. Manage your 301s. Some problems include: the typical global site has hundreds of links going to “page not found”, domains around the globe are incorrectly set and several meta-refreshes are present.
  5. Keyword URLs can be an issue.
  6. Source local links.
  7. Use a smart geo-selector. The bigger the site and the more countries and languages to deal with, the more likely to be issues.
  8. Expert keyword research. What do you do if there’s no direct translation?
  9. ccTLDs (Ian covered this)
  10. Language and content – content is king. It’s important to have enough content on the page. The process is: Spidering > Language detection > Language dependent processes > Indexing and query response. Have good, clean language and make sure you’re using the write character sets.

His closing thought is that international SEO has risks so it’s always good to start with a low-cost pilot.

Jeffrey says that Kristjan Mar Hauksson went to a school that had gates to keep out polar bears. Awesome! He’s up next to dazzle us with his Icelandic accent. Along with ccTLD, IP address and link analysis, he lists inbound links are the four elements to consider in the “concept of region.”

Americans often think of Europe as one country, but that’s obviously not the case. He says that “glocal” is localizing the global marketing. He says that it’s important to understand the impact of culture, like the unlucky number four in Japan. ccTLDs can be purchased at Europeregistry.com. There are sometimes rules specific to countries. For instance, in Norway a company can only own 20 domains. He says it’s good to remember that Google is growing in market share in Europe.

The impact of languages and culture should not be underestimated. By understanding culture and languages you can adapt better, succeed in your efforts to localize, get more sales and respect. Showing an interest in communicating in the native language boosts interest in your company. Inbound links are also very important. If you are targeting Germany and you have no German inbound links, this takes away a big part of your regional credibility.

The engines are getting better at localizing and understanding the impact of culture. At the end of the day, though, it’s a question of ROI. All of his company’s studies have shown that taking seriously all four elements of the “concept of region” has had significant returns.

Cindy Krum is talking about the challenges to multinational brands and how they can be addressed with site architecture. Different languages, currencies, measurements, seasonality, search engines, e-commerce laws and marketing aesthetics are all issues.

Three architecture options:

  • One site – sub-domains and subdirectories
  • Multiple sites – a site for every country
  • Blended

The one site approach can be grouped by language or keyword.

Benefits:

  • Easy to set up
  • Links and traffic point to one domain
  • More pages in the index
  • Flexibility with messaging
  • Grouping by language prevents duplicate content
  • Country specific hosting option

Disadvantages:

  • Home page in wrong language = confusing
  • Home page only ranks in one language
  • Grouping by country risks duplicate content

If you take this approach:

  • Specify target country for each in Google Webmaster Tools
  • Redirect country specific domains to appropriate sub-domain or subdirectory
  • Internal and external links should be language appropriate and with country specific domains
  • Language Meta tag, HTML language and local address

The multiple site approach means you have a separate domain for each country.

Pros:

  • Low start up costs
  • Add sites one at a time
  • Rank well in multiple country specific search engines
  • Country specific hosting

Cons:

  • More sites = more sites to update
  • Multiple sites = multiple SEO efforts = harder to rank in .com
  • Forced to target countries instead of languages

Some tips for this approach include:

  • Target country in Google Webmaster tools
  • External links should have appropriate anchor text and country specific domains
  • Link your multiple country sites carefully and logically
  • Language Meta tag, HTML language and local address

If you have an international site on the .com, you can use a blended approach.

Advantages:

  • Most realistic for world wide presence
  • Can start with .com and build country specific sites as needed

Disadvantage:

  • Most costly to create, maintain and update

Tips for implementing the blended approach:

  • Specify countries in Google Webmaster Tools but not the international site
  • Link your multiple country sites carefully and logically
  • External links should be logical. Keep the international on the international site and country specific on country specific sites
  • Let users know you are taking them to another site
  • Use Java translation and IP sniffing on the home page
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