Optify international-seo-starter-guide

Marketing in Real Time ® International SEO: Starter Guide

Transcript of Optify international-seo-starter-guide

Page 1: Optify international-seo-starter-guide

Marketing in Real Time®

International SEO:

Starter Guide

Page 2: Optify international-seo-starter-guide

International SEO: Starter Guide®

2© 2011 Optify, Inc. All rights reserved. www.optify.net 1-877-2-OPTIFY @optify



Table of Contents:

3 Relevant Search Engines

4 Site Structure Strategies

7 Optimization Principles

10 Localization Guidelines

11 Don’t Translate, Localize!

12 Conclusion

International SEO:Starter Guide

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International SEO: Starter Guide®

3© 2011 Optify, Inc. All rights reserved. www.optify.net 1-877-2-OPTIFY @optify


Think Global, Act Local:

Factors of Successful International Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Expanding your web presence internationally can be challenging, especially without local resources at your dis-posal. But, with the right preparations it can be done. Understanding the basic principles of International SEO will ready you to enter a foreign market successfully without the guidance of a local search agency.

The four considerations, which need to be planned and accounted for prior to implementing an international SEO project, are:

1. Relevant Search Engines

2. Site Structure Strategies

3. Optimization Principles

4. Localization Guidelines

This white paper will cover each of these consideration sets, highlighting the most important questions you should ask and answer before you go global.

Relevant Search EnginesWhen planning an international SEO campaign, first determine which search engines are most popular in the countries you are targeting. Don’t assume the search engine landscape will mirror that of the United States. In many foreign countries, Google’s presence is far more pro-nounced, while in others, a local or regional company dominates. For example, in Europe Google accounts for more than 90% market share. In Russia, Yandex is the most prominent search engine and in China, Baidu is the front-runner.

When considering which search engines to target, take note: unless a user has unique personalized settings, most search engines default to the user’s local browser settings. Meaning, if you are in Germany you will automatically be directed to Google.de. As a result, it is essential to do keyword research as well as rank checking on the local level.

Regardless which search engines are applicable to your desired target market, page optimization tactics will be similar. More tips on optimiza-tion and localization are discussed in subsequent sections.

Relevant Search Engines

Tip A good resource to deter-

mine what search engines are

relevant in your local market is

StatCounter GlobalStats http://gs.statcounter.com/

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International SEO: Starter Guide®

4© 2011 Optify, Inc. All rights reserved. www.optify.net 1-877-2-OPTIFY @optify


Site Structure StrategiesNext, it is important to take stock of your larger web environment and current infrastructure set-up. You can do so by following these five steps:

1. Start by assessing your target market. Are you focused on a region (Latin America), a language (Spanish speakers), or a single country (Spain)? These are important distinc-tions that will impact all other decisions (content, development, etc.) to follow.

2. Analyze the capabilities of your content management system (CMS) with your technical staff. Together you’ll need to assess and plan for various technical issues such as how you intend to handle subdo-mains and directories or if you’ll be able to localize URLs.

3. Review external factors like legal requirements. Other examples of external variables might be whether local hosting is more of a good idea for SEO reasons or a necessity for legal reasons. Or, if specific advertising regulations pertain to your company’s products and/or services.

4. Within the parameters of your technical limitations, choose the site structure that works best for your business’s goals; here are the four structural options to consider with examples of each:

Site Structure Stategies

Tip A word of caution - don’t

rush through the process of

analyzing internal resources and

determining roadblocks and

requirements. Take the time to

fully assess all issues. Future

changes are likely to be costly

and could negatively impact your



Country-code top-level domains (ccTLDs)Description: The strongest level of site localization. These are actual different domains that need to be purchased separately. They can be owned by different people and hosted on different servers in different locations.

Examples: site.de, site.fr

Generic top-level domains (gTLDs) such as .com, .org, .net in combination with subdomainsDescription: The next level of localization strength. The sub-domain can be hosted on different IP addresses in different countries, but lives under the ownership of the .com, .org or .edu parent.

Examples: de.site.com, fr.site.org

Subdirectories with gTLDsDescription: This structure uses the main domain and non-localized sub-domain structure to build content for many markets at the directory level (the level past the .com or .org).

Examples: sports.site.com/de, www.site.org/ca-en/

URL parametersDescription: The weakest of the four options and should be avoided if possible, as it doesn’t provide enough emphasis of the differ-ent language targets, and could be misleading to the search engines and users.

Examples: site.com?loc=de, site.org?country=germany















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ccTLDsexample.de example.fr

Subdomains with gTLDsde,.site.comfr.site.com

Subdirectories with gTLDssite.com/de/ site.com/fr/

URL parameterssite.com?loc=de ?country=france









PROS(not reccommended)




geotargeting from the URL alone (is “de” the language or country?)


geotargeting from the URL alone


URL is difficult

geotargeting from the URL alone

Tools is not possible

International SEO: Starter Guide®

5© 2011 Optify, Inc. All rights reserved. www.optify.net 1-877-2-OPTIFY @optify


Site Structure Strategies (cont.)

In addition to server location and other local indicators like local website hosting, local addresses, phone numbers, and links, the structure you choose will affect search engines’ perceptions of your target market. These inferences will, in turn, impact your search engine rankings in that country.

If you have a site focused on customers in Spain, you should consider using a Spanish ccTLD, site.es. This sends a clear signal to search engines that your website is geo-targeted to the Spanish market and will help improve your rankings on Google Spain.

If you do not have the resources to procure ccTLDs for each of your target countries or if someone else owns these domains, you should manually geo-target your subdomains or subdirectories. This option is a feature only avail-able in Google Webmaster Tools.

If you are targeting a region or a language, rather than a country, manual geo-targeting is not a good option. The tool only allows you to target one country, not entire regions or languages, per subdomain or subdirectory.

There is no absolute “right” or “wrong” in terms of the different set-up options. What’s right for a global enterprise in 20 different countries may be not be the best option for a small business looking to attract Spanish speakers. That said; try to avoid URL parameters if possible. They tend to confuse both end-users and search engines.

Source: Google Webmaster Central Blog, “Working with multi-regional websites”, March 12, 2010.


Site Structure Strategies

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Site Structure Strategies

International SEO: Starter Guide®

6© 2011 Optify, Inc. All rights reserved. www.optify.net 1-877-2-OPTIFY @optify


Site Structure Strategies (cont.)5. Lastly, when developing your site structure strategy, determine if you want a consistent look and feel

for all your target markets or if you’d prefer variations in terms of images and wireframes.

Cultural and linguistic differences should drive these decisions. As an example, an image of a tall, blond wom-an may be right for a women’s magazine in Germany yet seem out of cultural context for Japan. You’ll want to be mindful of these cross-cultural differences when selecting images.

Language localization requires advanced planning. Without it, your translators might encounter a space problem. Depending on the language, text may be significantly longer or shorter than in its original version. For example, on average, German words are 30% longer than English words. Changing script sized for dif-ferent languages can leave users with a negative visual impression, specifically when the design is otherwise the same across all languages and the content is accessible within the same domain. To avoid this misstep, determine if you plan to keep wireframes consistent across all languages; establish specific guidelines for style, script size, word or character count.

For additional localization tips, see the Localization Guidelines section.


» Some languages require additional characters when compared to English (e.g., German). The length of URLs, title tags, meta-descriptions, etc. should stay within recommended parameters to avoid truncation.

» Don’t use special characters (e.g., ö, ä, ü, etc.) or punctuation in URLs

» Don’t forget to optimize pictures and videos with localized captions, headlines, and alt-texts. Image optimization is another source foro local traffic and is relatively easy to implement.

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International SEO: Starter Guide®

7© 2011 Optify, Inc. All rights reserved. www.optify.net 1-877-2-OPTIFY @optify


Optimization PrinciplesAs with any SEO strategy your keyword focus will be the cornerstone of your success, followed by page optimiza-tion, link building, and elimination of duplicate content. The essential principles of SEO remain the same across the globe. However, when expanding your online presence internationally, you may encounter a number of SEO pitfalls that aren’t obvious.

Standard SEO tactics with an international approach:

» Keywords

» Page Optimization

» Duplicate Content

» Link Building

Keywords are critical to international SEO success and you’d be wise to advocate for allocating proper local resources for keyword research. After all, your website will not drive quality organic traffic if it’s optimized for terms users aren’t actually searching for. As you research strategic keywords, be sure to perform your analysis and search volume assessment on a local level in order to understand which queries are most relevant for your market.

Using your target language consistently, rather than mixing English with other languages, will not only help the search engines define your local focus, it will also ensure a consistent experience for the user.

While you should steer clear of mixing languages on a page, some keywords are considered universal regardless of language. Especially in highly technical fields, the English keyword may have a higher search volume and rel-evance to your field than the localized version.


» Get insights on the regional level and see trends over time. Google Insights for Search http://www.google.com/insights/search/

» Use keyword research tools that provide local search volumes. Google Adwords Keyword Tool https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal or Yandex http://wordstat.yandex.ru

» The best Chinese keyword research tool is Baidu.com. They occupy more than 65% of the search market (note: only paid PPC advertisors on Baidu can use the keyword tool) Baidu http://index.baidu.com/

Optimization Principles

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International SEO: Starter Guide®

8© 2011 Optify, Inc. All rights reserved. www.optify.net 1-877-2-OPTIFY @optify


Optimization Principles (cont.)Page Optimization basics apply regardless of whether your site is targeted towards the French market or the United States.

Drive page optimization by inserting your target keywords in five strategic locations:

» URL, for example if your keyword is “seo-help” you might use the URL site.com/seo-help in the U.S. or de.site.com/seo-hilfe in Germany

» Title tag, which display at the very top of the browser and are critical for the search engines interpretation of the content of the page

» Meta Description, which normally displays in the search engine results page with your listing and is a key contributor to click through rate

» H tags, which are section headers within the site’s code

» Page content, ensure your page content is rich, compelling, relevant, and aligned with what you are offering

Don’t forget to optimize pictures and videos with localized captions, headlines, and alt-texts.

Duplicate content is an issue you may encounter when expanding internationally. This means having the same or very similar versions of a page with different URLs. As a result, your page authority could be diluted. You may encounter this issue within a site (e.g. within your Spain site) as well as across markets (e.g. between your Spanish and Mexican site). The path to resolution depends first on which type of duplicate content scenario you are experiencing.

1. Duplicate content within a site: Just like on your U.S. site, duplicate content can be an issue within a separate country, region or language specific site. By having duplicates such as company.fr and company.fr/index with the same or very similar content, you’ll diminish the authority and search recognition of both pages.

To resolve this issue, your best option is to set up a 301 re-direct. By doing so, the redundant page will be automatically re-directed to the other, rendering the duplicate obsolete. The link-authority of the two pages are then combined.

If you are unable to implement a 301 re-direct, you can choose to add a “rel=canonical” link element in the page header code. A canonical page is the preferred version of a set of pages with highly similar content. In this case, you will have two similar pages in each locale. The two locales will continue to exist, but the search engines will combine and attribute the authority to only one page, the preferred page that you specify.

IMPORTANT NOTE: while Google and Bing understand and respect the “rel=canonical tag”, some internation-al engines, like Yandex, presently do not.

Optimization Principles

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International SEO: Starter Guide®

9© 2011 Optify, Inc. All rights reserved. www.optify.net 1-877-2-OPTIFY @optify


Optimization Principles (cont.)2. Duplicate content across markets:

If you are unable to provide unique content for different country audiences that speak the same language (e.g., Germany and Austria), your best option is to use the geo-targeting feature in Google Webmaster Tools. For example, target your company.at site to Austria, and your company.de site to Germany. This option will also work for subdirectories and subdomains. It is neither necessary nor recommended to implement re-directs for duplicate content across markets.

Translations are not considered duplicate content (however, if you have the resources to provide unique content for your different target markets consider doing so). The more compelling and culturally relevant the user experience, the stronger conversion you acheive. You should also consider localizing the English, French, Spanish, German, etc. to each region as the spelling and phrasing may be different..

Link Building to your site from other locations on the web is crucial to any SEO campaign, regardless of which global market you are trying to capture. The more quality links pointing to your website, the higher your recognized authority by search engines. Aim for link diversity, and try to gain links from high value sites in your field. Avoid utilizing link farms or purchasing links; these practices are frowned upon by search engines and are widely con-sidered unethical. If a search engine recognizes you using these tactics, you’ll likely experience an adverse reac-tion and your site could be negatively affected for an extended period of time.

To gain authority in your target country or region, focus on inbound links from local sites. For example, try to obtain links from French bloggers and newspapers if you are targeting France. As with link building any-where, the more interesting and relevant your content is, the greater your chance to earn a link.

Optimization Principles

Tip If you are able to influence

anchor texts (the text that is

hot-linked to your content) of

inbound links, make sure they

are localized and contain the

keywords you are optimizing for.

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International SEO: Starter Guide®

10© 2011 Optify, Inc. All rights reserved. www.optify.net 1-877-2-OPTIFY @optify


Localization GuidelinesCustomers expect you to deliver content in their language. However, this can be expensive and difficult to implement. Determining how to approach this task can be challenging. Similar to other areas of Interna-tional SEO expansion, planning ahead and thinking through the different localization options will determine success.

There are a number of solutions for localization, but using software translation services like Google Translate to establish an international presence, is not advised. While such instant translation tools are helpful, the result is unlikely to deliver the desired user experience. In fact, users will be less likely to provide credit card information, sign up for your newsletter, or simply trust you, if their experience is flawed by a less than professional translation. Also, automated solutions do not provide careful keyword selection, nor grammatical and syntactical integrity in translation.

As budget is almost always a limitation, consider the following four factors when determining how to localize your international presence:

» Availability of in-house staff vs. external resources

» General translators vs. experts who have specialized knowledge or familiarity with technical or industry specific terms

» Language differences by country such as French vs. French Canadian

» Translators who are familiar with SEO vs. translators who require SEO training

Your ideal translator would be a native speaker of the new language with a near native command of the original language. In addition, they would have critical subject matter expertise or knowledge of your field and a rudimen-tary understanding of SEO techniques. (Most translators can be trained in SEO best practices.)

Depending on your translators’ levels of expertise and your grade of comfort, you’ll be able to determine how much authority to give your translators regarding final decisions on keywords and copy.

Localization Guidelines

Tip Even if you use external

localization resources, you will

also need to allocate internal

resources to review, edit and

sign-off on localized subject


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International SEO: Starter Guide®

11© 2011 Optify, Inc. All rights reserved. www.optify.net 1-877-2-OPTIFY @optify


Don’t Translate, Localize!For those translators who are not SEO savvy you’ll need to educate them on the fundamentals. Start with the following:

» Review basic optimization elements that help search engines find your page.

» Explain the importance of keyword competition and search volumes.

» Ask translators to think of themselves as prospects entering search engine queries.

A perfect translation may not offer maximum value for search optimization. For example, more colloquial terms frequently have higher search volumes. Using a keyword more than once may be better than using a synonym that is rarely searched for. Striking the right balance between an SEO friendly localization and an eloquently worded translation is key.

If you have the resources to support different content for different markets, consider cultural factors when deciding how to allocate funds. In depth product research may be more important in some countries than in others. China is an excellent example of a market where you may need to spend more resources to understand the nuances of the consumer psyche.

Allocating sufficient resources towards understanding Chinese social, political and historical complexities and how they affect purchasing behaviors, will certainly impact how you position your product online. Remember, cultural relevance and content quality will affect conversion rates.

Tip In some languages grammar

and syntax can change keywords.

Advise your translators to keep

them in the original form and

order whenever possible. For

example, “play chess” vs. “play a

game of chess.”

Don’t Translate, Localize!

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© 2011 Optify, Inc. All rights reserved. www.optify.net 1-877-2-OPTIFY @optify

ConclusionWhen expanding internationally, whatever options you choose for site structure and localization remember these factors for success:

» Plan ahead and always keep the end-user in mind.

» Provide interesting content that is culturally and linguisti-cally appropriate

» Employ the basic tenets of SEO, (keywords, page optimi-zation, link building) but make adjustments depending on the region, country or language you are targeting.

» Win the trust and confidence of visitors to your site by providing a professional, quality experience.

If you don’t have the resources to properly set-up and maintain a foreign language site, you’ll be better off providing a first class English language experience on your established domain.

By systematically following these crucial steps, you’ll achieve SEO success in driving visits to your new global venue.

About OptifyOptify enables business to increase traffic from organic search and social media, convert traffic to sales and share results with easy-to-use, real time marketing software. Optify’s integrated, hosted service enables professional marketers to find and track target keywords, optimize their website for search engines, monitor website visitors, automate Twitter campaigns and track results, and gain insights into which online marketing channels are driving the most qualified leads. Sales teams can automati-cally qualify and score web leads, focus sales efforts with real time lead scoring and alerts, align marketing and sales, and close more deals by assigning the right leads to the right sales person. Optify is simple to set up and includes free phone, e-mail and Web support. For more insights on how to market in real time, visit the Optify Lead Generation Blog.

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International SEO References

Structural Advantages and Disadvantages


Keyword Research Tools

Google Adwords https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolEx-ternal

Google Insights for Search http://www.google.com/insights/search/

Yandex search requests and keyword statistics http://wordstat.yandex.ru

Baidu Search Ranking and Search Index http://index.baidu.com

If you have any questions or would like more detailed guidance about International SEO or additional consultative services to help you maximize your site’s SEO and brand position in international markets, please contact us today via email or call us at 1-877-2-OPTIFY.