We all know there are many different strategies and tactics that can factor into generating more traffic to your website. And there are even more to consider if your business targets an audience that spans multiple countries, because you'll need to create a global SEO strategy for your website, too!
But going global can be a daunting task, and you may not know where to start. That's why we've created an international SEO guide compiling all the best tips international marketers should know. That being said, it's also important to know about the biggest global SEO mistakes international marketers typically make so you know to avoid them. So without further ado, here are the 9 worst ways to do global SEO:
1. Translate All Your Content Using Google Translate
Want to make your website sound like a complete idiot and undermine your company's credibility to an international audience? Just take all the content on your main website, run it through Google Translate, and paste that into your foreign language site. It will sound totally Google Translated -- in other words, robotic, unnatural, and in many cases, completely nonsensical -- to anyone who speaks the language natively. Want to avoid sounding like an idiot? Get help from someone who is fluent in the language you’re creating content for.
2. Avoid Language- or Country-Specific Sites for Fear of Duplicate Content
You might have avoided setting up a .co.uk counterpart for your .com site for fear of Google deeming this as “duplicate content,” since there’s not much of a language difference. However, Google now supports using the rel=“canonical” link element across different domains. This means you can have similar content on both the .com and .co.uk extensions of your site, and use the canonical link element to indicate the exact URL of the domain preferred for indexing. This will make duplicate content a non-issue. Also, keep in mind that this is not required when using different languages. Google does not consider foreign language translations to be duplicate content. But keep in mind that it is something to consider for multiple locale sites in the same language.
3. Neglect Your Google Webmaster Settings
According to Trimark Solutions, many webmasters will simply keep one single sitemap for their entire website, which is not nearly as efficient to maintain and update. Google Webmaster tools allows you to submit multiple sitemaps, so you can submit one for each country or region you are targeting. Note that this is only necessary if you’re using subdirectories for each of your locale sites.
In Google Webmaster tools, you can also geographically target certain websites or sections of your website to certain locations. You can find these settings by logging into your Webmaster Tools account, looking under 'Site Configuration,' and changing your geographic targeting in the 'Settings' tab.
4. Assume One Keyword List Will Work for All Countries
If you create one keyword list and assume it will serve your SEO purposes across all the countries you target, you definitely won’t be targeting your audience in those countries effectively. Different keywords may cater to different audiences depending on location, so as an international marketer, you need to identify which keywords are most popular in each country you’re targeting, and optimize the pages on that country’s section of your website accordingly. In addition, remember that even a correct and accurate translation of a keyword or term may not be what people actually use to search for a product or service locally. To help you identify international keywords for your global SEO strategy, the advanced option in Google's free Keyword Tool enables you to choose keywords by country and/or language. Just enter one of your keywords, choose the language and/or country(ies) you wish to target, and Google will provide you with a list of keyword ideas and their associated monthly search volume.
5. Make Your Different Locale Sites Hard to Find
Even if you’re taking all measures possible to send website visitors to the right domain or website section, such as auto-detecting their location and redirecting them to the right web page, there will be people who are traveling, or simply slip through the cracks and end up on your main .com. So make sure your different locale sites are easy to find. If you have several versions of your site in different languages, add visual cues linking to your multilingual content in or near your top navigation. For example, you can use flag icons to link to each country or language’s site/website section. You can also add links to each country or language site in your sitewide footer.
6. Add Multiple Languages to a Single Web Page
Generally speaking, you shouldn’t mix languages on the same web page. You might think that doing this will help your website visitors understand that your website caters to them even though your company is based in another country, but in reality, it will not help your website's overall user experience. You’ll only be making your page confusing to sift through, as your visitors might not understand the content at the top of the page, leading them to immediately click the back button. Instead, refer back to #5, and use your website's top navigation or footer to link to sections on your site dedicated solely to that country/language.
7. Build Inbound Links Only to Your Main Homepage
Generating inbound links is one of the most important elements of SEO, no matter what countries you're catering to. The more inbound links you have from external websites, the better your site will rank, and the more visibility it will have in search engines. However, when you guest blog or request inbound links, make sure your homepage isn’t the only page getting linked to. You should aim to increase inbound links to each of your locale sites from sites of the same country. In other words, get sites in the UK to link to your co.uk extension, sites in Ireland to link to your .ie extension, etc.
8) Make Cultural Assumptions
As you’re designing your website, you might think your sleek white layout will have a positive connotation for website visitors around the world. After all, in most of Europe and the Americas, white is associated with purity and marriage. But did you know that in Japan, China, and parts of Africa, white is traditionally the color of mourning? The same cultural assumptions might hinder your SEO strategy. If your business targets customers in countries foreign to yours, learn about the different countries’ cultures to understand what appeals to them versus people in your country.
9) Forget to Take Local Competition Into Account
If you’re located at your primary headquarters, you know who your local competitors are. But when doing global SEO research, don’t forget that your competitors in different regions may be different. Just because you’re an international business, doesn’t mean that all businesses abroad are also global. In other words, there might be some competition that you don’t even know about yet! Take that into consideration when you're identifying keywords to target in each country so you can compete for search engine ranking positions local searchers may be using to find products and services like yours.
Do you have anything to add to the list? Add your #10 in the comments below!
Originally published Jul 11, 2012 3:00:00 AM, updated February 01 2017