Making the decision to expand your website to a global audience can be challenging, but should not be intimidating. There are many aspects to keep in mind in order to maintain a website that is at an SEO standard. As long as you ensure that your main site is properly functioning, the multiplied versions should follow in its foot steps. Here are some “Dos” and “Don’ts” that we have learned a long the way.
Do: Target your site content to a specific country. There are many options on how to do this; however you will find that there is one way that works best for your website targeting goals. You can use country code top level domain names (for example .fr for France), in order to earn a quality domain for the user and search engines such as Google. There is also the idea of a ghost IP. The server will send a signal that will ensure that the user is directed to the website for their location. Check out Google Webmaster Tools to compare your options.
Don’t: Let the user get trapped. Using a country selector navigation on your main landing page is ideal for user independence. Let the user choose what region they are searching for or at least give them the option to do so after you have already directed them to the site according to their IP address or due to the ccTLD they were directed to. (See an example of the Patagonia.com country selector landing page below)
Don’t: Stress over duplicate content on your multi-regional websites. If you guarantee that your website is properly formatted for country code top level domains (ccTLD), subfolders, have subdomains with gTLDS, or subdirectories with gTLDS then you will be fine. Google is smarter than you think and can recognize that these portions of the site are not duplicated, but are completely different websites all together. We have found that subfolders with geo-targeting work the best in terms of ranking, but this is subjective to the mass of your website and audience (or even your budget).
Do: Submit every XML Sitemap to webmaster tools as a separate website. This ensures that Google indexes all of your URLs and will improve how Google will crawl each site.
Don’t: Put a lot of effort into location meta tags. Google does not read into these geotargeting meta tags and will not affect your search by any means.
Do: Use language meta tags if Bing is the search engine you are really optimizing for. Bing will read a language meta tag for search purposes.
Don’t: Cut corners in translation. If you are planning on making your website translate into multiple languages, Google Translate is not the tool to use. Using a translation tool looses your business’ credibility because it is not always grammatically accurate and will make your content sound unintelligent.
Do: Use a professional translator. Spending the extra money to ensure that your website is properly translated is important. Maintain value to your content and ensure that the language is specifically targeted for the regions you are reaching out to.