International SEO and Geolocation: top 10 factors

Written by Davide Corradi

The Search Engines are providing more and more locally relevant results and in this “Era of mobile Internet” having a multilingual, localised online presence is becoming necessary.
Even though a complete International SEO strategy should consider a number of unique variables this list of the top 10 factors to consider when planning a multilingual SEO campaign for a multilingual website is a good start.

1 – Content
Be sure that your content is correctly localised. This is the first and basic action to take. If your content is not localised your chances to rank in a local search engine are really little. In some case are equal to zero. The difference between “Translation” and “Localisation”, duplication issue and other content related factors will be the subject of another post.

2 – Title tag
Page title is of paramount importance for the search engines to understand the subject addressed in your web pages. This is even truer if we are talking about multilingual websites. Be sure the title tag of each page of your website is targeting unique localised keywords.
Some languages have some specific requirements: if for titles written in western languages is widely accepted the limit of 69 characters, for some languages using double bytes characters (eg Chinese) this limit should be considerably less, around 35 characters. As usual, make sure your important keywords occur early in the page title.

3 – Description Meta Tag
A good description is likely to appear in the search engine snippet: Be aware that a copy that may works well in one geographic location may not work as well in another. it’s important to catch the attention of your local potential visitors: different cultures may require different writing styles.

4 – Language Meta Tag
Not the most important factor to consider in your on-page optimisation but one of the easier to implement.
eg: page in English in UK:
<META HTTP-EQUIV=”Content-Language” CONTENT=”en-GB”>
Here is a listing of the ISO 639 2 letter language codes

5 – TLD/Sub-Domain/Sub-Folder
Probably the most frequently asked question ever about multilingual SEO.
There are basically 3 different possibility to indicate the geolocation of your site:

Which one is the better? There are different factors to be considered:
- with the Sub Domains or Sub Folders solution you have the possibility to concentrate your link building campaign on one main domain (normally .com).
- The local TLDs gives you a considerable advantage in penetrating a local market. Personally I find more effective this second solution.
In case you are going for the Sub Domain or Sub Folder solution remember to specify the geographic location in the Google Webmaster Tools.

6 – Geo Selector
No matter if you are using a local TLD, a Sub Directory or a Sub Folder solution: having a cached, crawlable Geo Selector it’s a must. Try plain text links instead of images and javascript. Cookies based Geo Selectors where you have different languages sharing the same urls or system that automatilcally detect and select your language are really not the way to go.

7 – Hosting Location
Quoting Vanessa Fox:
“For domains that are not country-specific (such as .com or .tv), search engines use the geographic location of the server where the site is hosted to determine country”. No need to add anything.

8- Localised Files Name
It is a best practice to localise and possibly to insert some localised keywords in the files name with some important exceptions: you got to take into account that writing urls with Chinese, Arabic, Cyrillic characters many people using non-Chinese or non-Arabic non-Cyrillic keyboards will not be able to use your website.

9 – Local Contact Information
whenever is possible include in your website a physical local address and a local contact phone numbers. Search engines might use this information to determinate the area you are targeting.

10- Local Incoming Links
All links are good, some links are better.
On Site optimisation is important but Inbound links from local TLDs website or directories would increase the overall prominence of the site and would give it a competitive advantage in that particular local market
To find out how many links are coming only from a particular TLD you can use the expression:
link:your website site:.TLD


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