Previously, I wrote on five best practices for global SEO that every organization should apply to their multinational websites including migrating to ccTLDs, developing 301 redirect strategies, leveraging in-language URLs, localizing content, and using appropriate character encodings. As promised, this post will continue exploring five additional techniques to ensure your website is optimized from a global SEO perspective and allows for increased visibility to drive traffic and conversions and ultimately "business value."
Utilize multilingual markup tags. There are several multilingual-specific HTML tags that should be leveraged across each of your country sites. The first is the hreflang tag. Search Engine Watch has an article explaining how and when to use this tag. The hreflang tag allows you to specify for each page what the language and intended country audience is; similar to how you can control these settings within Google Webmaster Tools (covered below).
Implement geo-specific schema tags. The second set of HTML tags is the geo-specific Schema.org tags. For those unfamiliar, Schema.org provides a collection of tags that webmasters can use to mark up certain content elements with structured data that Google, Yahoo, and Bing all recognize and use to better understand the intent of the content. There are many geo-specific schema tags that can be leveraged to further send signals as to which audience the content is intended for including organization names, addresses, phone numbers, geo-coordinates, etc. In addition to sending these signals to the engines, the data is now being incorporated into the search results pages for relevant queries. Not only does this improve the user experience, but it also helps attract a searcher's attention to your content and will likely increase click-through rates. To find out which tags are available and how to implement, visit the Schema Documentation page.
Create webmaster accounts for each country. Google Webmaster Tools provides in-depth information into many different elements of your website and allows you to control certain aspects around how Google indexes your content; in particular, the ability to set up geo-targeting by country. A webmaster account should be set up for each country site regardless of whether the content is located in subdirectories, on subdomains, or on a ccTLD. Once the account is created, ensure that you set up the geo-targeting rules by accessing Site Configuration>Settings and selecting the appropriate country in the Geographic Target drop-down menu.
Set up Google Places listings. In addition to leveraging the Schema.org tags to associate your content with the right countries, if you have brick-and-mortar locations, you should submit their information to Google Places and claim ownership of the listings. Places pages can be optimized using traditional SEO techniques to help them appear in organic listings and can also be used to funnel traffic back into your main site through backlinks. Furthermore, once the maps are created, you should embed the maps alongside your address information on your main site.
Engage in local link building. Link building, whether through traditional efforts such as outreach programs or guest blogging, social media, and leveraging partnerships, will always be one of the strongest ways to obtain more favorable rankings. In addition to helping with rankings, the search engines will look at the origin of the links to help determine local relevance. For example, a Chinese site that has a large number of links coming from other China-based sites will have a stronger authority within the local China search engines. Having quality links coming from within the region will in most cases be slightly more beneficial than having them come from sites from other countries.
Following these five best practices for global SEO in addition to the five previously provided techniques will go a long way in helping your site minimize potential penalties and increase visibility with the most relevant audiences. Are there any other strategies that you've found to be beneficial when optimizing content across a multinational website?
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.