A Beginner's Guide to International SEO

Thinking of targeting the international market? There’s a bit more you need to do than simply translating your pages to ensure that your site ranks well in foreign search engines. We’ve compiled a quick guide to getting started with international SEO.

1. Have your site professionally translated.
It may be great that your neighbor’s kid studied Spanish or German in high school and still remembers most of it, but that won’t cut it for translating your website. Use a professional translation service that employs native speakers working or living in your target region. They have the abilities and resources to make sure your pages read well for your intended audience. Spanish in Mexico is not the same as that in Spain. There are regional differences in vocabulary and use for most languages, including English. Translators that specialize in medical or technical translations are another good step to consider based on your website’s content.

2. Get a Country Coded Top Level Domain.
A ccTLD will give your site better visibility in searches for your targeted region. A domain for Germany will end in .de, while one for India will be .in. Search engines will search based on location and relevancy, and an engine in Germany will consider a page with .de to be more relevant to the searcher’s needs than one with .com or .us in the address.
If you can’t afford a ccTLD, Google’s Webmaster tools now offer the ability to create subdomains for your site, like china.yoursite.com. You’re then able to optimize those subdomains for different regions. It’s not as desirable as a ccTLD, but will get you started.

3. Get a local IP address. Search engines and visitors will be able to see what the IP address of your domain is. Although it may be more expensive to have your site hosted in the target region, a local IP address will increase your relevancy in foreign searches. They’ll consider a site hosted in Germany, for example, more relevant to a German user than one hosted in Canada. Be sure to ask your web host what they do in terms of foreign hosting and whether or not they have hosting ability in your target region.

4. Put your local contact information on the site.
If you have international contact information or regional representatives, advertise that on your site. Search engines like Google can read your address information and consider that when indexing pages. It will also be beneficial to your foreign searchers to see local contact information when possible.

5. Research your foreign search engines. What standards do they require for sites? Does your entire site have to be translated or only one region-specific page? How many keywords or characters are allowed? Questions like these should be considered when creating, optimizing, and submitting sites for inclusion to foreign search engines. Just like Google and Yahoo! in the US, they have standards that should not be ignored. For example, yahoo.de requires your entire site to be translated into German for inclusion in their index. Japanese and Korean websites will consider the numbers of key characters your site has, not number of keywords.

6. Get links from foreign sites.
Just as you link build on your home site, you should do some link building on your foreign site.
The only difference? Get Australian links for your Australian site and Japanese links for your Japanese site. These increase your relevancy in foreign searches and will help open the door to you in other countries. Be sure to link your regional site to your home site so visitors know they’re connected, but don’t over do it. As with all link building, international link building should be done thoughtfully and well.

Getting into the international market is a big deal for any company, and implementing the appropriate SEO can seem daunting. But once the basics of establishing a local presence are taken care of, international SEO can be fun and exciting. It opens your site up to a world of new customers and ideas!