How to do Multilingual SEO? (2/2)
Yesterday you could read part 1 of "How to do Multilingual SEO?". This is part 2 of my recap of the "International SEO" session at SMX London.
10 low hanging apples for international SEO
The next speaker was Andy Atkins-Krüger who came up with a good and actionable list of 10 tips when doing Multilingual SEO, starting with nr. 10:
10. Use UTF-8 character encoding
Structuring your web site with UTF-8 character encoding (or Unicode) copes with practically any language and therefore ensures that search engines can more easily determine in which language your content is written. Google supports Unicode a lot and every other encoding is first converted to Unicode for processing by Google.
9. Don't 'translate' meta tags and page titles
A mistake which is often made with multilingual web sites is that page titles and meta tags are translated. You shouldn't translate them, but you should localize them. Searchers in different countries and languages search for different terms, so look at things like plural and spell variations and add those often unique terms per country in your page titles and meta tags.
8. Adopt a global PR strategy
To operate global you should also have a global PR strategy. Different languages, countries and cultures need a different approach. Make sure you adopt your PR strategy to reflect the country/language specific needs.
7. Manage 301 redirects
Many global sites have a lot of 404 errors (page not found). Start looking at the links which you already have. Fix them where needed, by pointing 404 pages to working pages with a 301 redirect (permanent redirect), and there's the first quick win.
6. Keyword URL's
Often large international organizations are having trouble with editing the URL structure to filter out parameters and add keywords. However Andy suggests to still advise such organizations to change their URL structure. At least it forces the organization to think about their site architecture.
5. Source local links
A great indicator for a search engine to determine in which country and language a site should be ranking are inbound links from within the specific country and/or langauge. So chase local inbound links for local listings in the organic search results.
4. Use a smart Geo-selector
A lot of global sites have a dropdown or other selection tool to get to the right language and/or country specific part of the site. These "GEO selectors" often aren't good for distributing your internal link value. Therefore Andy suggests to link from page X in country/langauge A to the identical page on site B with a different country/langauge focus.
3. Expert keyword research
As mentioned before search behavior is country and language specific. Therefore it's very important to use native speakers when doing keyword research for a specific geographical market. Also note that different countries/languages can have different input keyboards when typing text into a computer.
2. Country domains and local hosting
As Duncan Morris pointed out (above) it's important to use country specific domains to rank well in that specific country. It's also important to have that content hosted in the country which you're targeting. The advantages and disadvantages of using country specific domains, sub domains or sub folders are discussed above.
1. Langauge & Content presentation
It's actually a "no-brainer" but it's done wrong too often: make sure to present your content in the right language. This is important in the way search engines work.
First a search engine determines the language of the page it is indexing. Next the search engine starts a keyword analysis. The existing character sets are limited, especially for detection of languages. This is because there are many different languages which machines - like search engines - think are identical.
Therefore you should always make sure to present the content in the exact language you're targeting. Language detection is key in Multilingual SEO.
Baidu and Yandex
The final speaker in the International SEO session was Heini van Bergen. He started with the fact that Google isn't the dominating search engine everywhere in the world. For instance in China search engine Baidu is larger than Google and the same goes for Yandex in Russia.
After showing some stats Heini dives into Chinese search engine Baidu. Interesting to know is that Baidu is getting paid to remove negative listings. It's also interesting to know that Baidu mixes up paid search listings and organic listings. The right column of the search engine result pages are paid placements (fixed).
In Russia Yandex is by far the largest search engine. Besides a search engine Yandex is also a web portal (the largest in Russia as well). Yandex separates the paid search listings from the organic listings just like the major search engines.
Multilingual SEO, what's the best solution?
In the Q&A after the session there has been a good debate about using 1 domain (for instance .com) or going for multiple domains (TLD's per country). Both the panel speakers and the people in the audience don't seem to agree to one option.
But there was an agreement that from a relevancy perspective the option of going with multiple country specific domains was the best option. Bu that raises some site architecture issues which are sometimes hard for large organizations to solve.
I think it's up to you now. With the knowledge above extracted from the interesting International SEO session at SMX London you hava enough information to get started. You know the advantages and disadvantages of the different solutions, so pick one and stick with that. That should boost your Multilingual SEO efforts.