If your company does business across borders this post about international SEO (search engine optimization) is an important read.
Naturally, a global company will want their website to be found by search engine users in all of their target countries.
When it comes to international SEO, what you need to know is that search engines, such as Google, have a few indicators they look for to determine what country your website is targeting.
If search engines classify your business as targeting a specific country, versus having global appeal, this will help your ranking in that country – but hurt your global reach.
There are a few things an international business needs to know about SEO to ensure the broadest reach possible for their online content.
|| International SEO, What You Need to Know:
Search Engines, such as Google, use the following elements to determine what country your website is targeting:
1. Your Top Level Domain Name
You have one of two types of domain names. A generic Top Level Domain (TLD) such as company.com, .net or .edu; or a Country Code Top Level Domain (ccTLD) such as .au, .uk or .de.
Country Code TLDs signal to search engines that your website is targeting that specific country. A ccTLD will improve your visibility and ranking in that country….but hurt your global reach.
Generic TLDs, on the other hand, do not target any particular country and help you rank globally.
If you are a UK company with a company.co.uk domain name, and you plan to expand into North America, it is wise to create a separate version of your website on a generic top level domain – mainly company.com.
OR – use this Google-approved alternative for creating separate versions of your website to target different countries. Start with a generic TLD (.com is recommended) and use subdomains (ex. de.yoursite.com), or subdirectories (ex. yoursite.com/de/) to host country-specific content.
According to Google, there is no need to worry about the fact that each website will have the same or similar content. As long as it is for users in different countries (as indicated by the two different domain names or subdirectories) your sites will not be penalized for having duplicate content.
When you would run into problems is if you had content for the same country located at more than one URL (such as: de.company.com and company.com/de/).
There’s more; here’s what else you need to know…
2. Country Specific Content
In additional to your domain name, search engines also use indicators such as the addresses, phone numbers and currency posted on your website to determine what country it is targeting. Obviously the language of your website is included here as well.
If I land on your website and see that the phone number for your company headquarters looks something like this – 416.555.6602 – I could easily guess that you’re located in Canada.
If your pricing page indicates euros I could guess that you’re located in Europe. Search engines have the same ability.
If your company headquarters is in North America, but you have an office serving clients the UK, I recommend securing a .co.uk domain name and mirroring your website…with a few changes to contact details, local language nuances and any other country-specific information.
This not only helps your search engine rankings in the UK, it will give your global business a more local feel to potential clients on the other side of the Atlantic.
3. Your IP Address
The IP of your website indicates where your website is located (or more specifically, where the server that hosts your website is located).
If your company is located in the UK, but your market is in Australia, you should have your website hosted by a company with servers in Australia.
The easiest way to do this is by using an Australian web hosting company and verifying that your website will be hosted on a server in Australia.
Handy tool: if you’re wondering where your IP is located right now, DomainTools.com has a look up tool. Just enter your domain name. The results page includes information on the address of your website’s IP address.
4. Websites That Link to Yours
People will share really great content…they’ll share it via social media, email or through a link from their own company website to yours. Google can see what websites link to yours…and they notice the geographic location of those websites as well.
Another indicator search engines use to determine your target audience location is the location of websites that link to yours. If a majority of those links are coming from websites in Australia this becomes an indicator that your website targets an Australian audience.
To recap, when it comes to international SEO, global companies need to know that the following elements all effect how your website ranks around the world:
1. Your Top Level Domain Name
2. Whether You Have Country Specific Content
3. Your IP Address
4. The Location of Websites that Link to Yours