Many large organizations that operate on a global scale struggle with organizing SEO strategies across content owners within each country. Oftentimes, businesses will opt for what's easier and host their country-specific content on one main domain instead of what's most effective for SEO due to the many different moving pieces at play. Instead of falling into the norm, give visitors all over the world a passport directly into your content with these five tactics that can and should be applied to any multinational website.
1. Migrate to country-coded top-level domains (ccTLDs). Country-specific search engines place a higher priority on websites that are hosted on local domains, in particular if the IP address where the domain is hosted matches the country, as they are deemed more relevant to the audience. Furthermore, migrating to individual domains will allow you to immediately eliminate the strong possibility that you have duplication across your pages where multiple countries speak the same language. For example, the U.S., U.K., and Canada are just a small sampling of countries that speak and search in English. At my company, we recently consolidated our global and U.S. sites for just this reason. In addition to a higher level of relevancy from the search engine's point of view, visitors from within the country will have a higher level of trust from local domains and will be more likely to convert at higher rates.
2. Develop a 301 redirect strategy. When migrating to ccTLDs, you will be starting over in terms of domain age and authority. Developing a 301 redirect strategy prior to the migration is absolutely critical in order to transfer the organic ranking and inbound link authority that your country-specific content has undoubtedly amassed. A 1:1 301 redirect is preferable if all pages are going to continue existing on the new ccTLD. If pages will be retired during the process, it's important to still redirect these to the most relevant pages that will continue to exist.
3. Leverage in-language, properly localized URLs. More often than not, URL structures on sites that host country-specific and in-language content follow the same naming conventions with the country identifier switched out at either the subdirectory or subdomain level. Because URLs play an important role in organic ranking, take the time to also localize the keyword-rich URL string to the appropriate language for an even higher level of relevancy and keyword targeting.
4. Localize the content, don't just translate it. If your country-specific content is a direct translation of one version, likely the English version, then you may be missing out on opportunities to rank for keywords that are more widely used in different regions of the world. Targeting local nuances such as differences in terminology or in some cases the English version of a word being more popular than the translated version will significantly increase not only the quantity of traffic, but also the quality. Take for example the word for a cellphone in Germany: "handy" - not even close to the actual translation!
5. Use appropriate character-encoding designations. Character-encoding designations are pieces of code that are placed at the top of the source code in the header of every page on a site. Character encoding instructs browsers (and search engines) which set of characters are necessary to correctly display the content. Ensuring that the appropriate character set for your content is provided in the header of all pages will further identify the region that it is targeted toward and may assist in more accurate indexing of your content.
In my next edition, I will follow up with five additional tactics, including HTML tagging, local link building, and more, that are critical for success with global SEO. In the meantime, I'd love to hear your thoughts around pros and cons of migrating to ccTLDs. Has your organization done or attempted this? Or have you opted to stay with a subdirectory/subdomain structure instead, and why?
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Crispin Sheridan is the Senior Director, Global Search at SAP. As part of the digital team, he established and leads the search and testing practices at SAP. Crispin is responsible for paid, natural, and mobile search and all online testing. Search and testing at SAP are fully centralized and globally funded and run under a hybrid in-house and agency model.
Crispin has proven that search learnings and keyword insights work hand in hand with social media marketing and together can effectively drive B2B lead generation. Furthermore, the development of the SAP.com Test Lab has contributed significant success to SAP's digital marketing efforts.
A frequent guest speaker at conferences, including SES New York, San Francisco, Toronto, London, Delhi, Shanghai, and Hong Kong, Crispin was appointed to the SES Advisory Board in December 2009. He has also been a guest speaker at the e-Metrics Summit and ad:Tech, and is a member of Google's B2B Technology Council. You can follow him on Twitter at @crispinsheridan and read his monthly SEO column on ClickZ.
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