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How to optimizing multi-language & multi-region / country websites?

Google analysis shows the majority of users prefer having information / website in their own language. Keeping this in mind; imagine how this will affect sales and conversions for your website! In this post I will be explaining the best 3 ways to optimize multi-language & multi-region / country website.

What the benefits are of optimizing multi-language & multi-region / country websites?

Google says “We are working hard to show users the best possible search results. Many times those are going to be pages that are localized, for the user’s location and/or in the user’s language.” This simply means, if you offer your product in Montreal and don’t have French content on your website; most likely your website will not have good ranks when users search in French!

Preparing for multi-language & multi-region optimization:

There are a lot of things to consider before you take the proper steps to expand your website to multiple regions and/or languages. My advice is to make sure that everything is working properly before you start considering this huge step because any problem you have with your current website will be multiplied when you expand to multiple regions and/or languages pages

Preparing for multi-language & multi-region optimization:

There are a lot of things to consider before you take the proper steps to expand your website to multiple regions and/or languages. My advice is to make sure that everything is working properly before you start considering this huge step because any problem you have with your current website will be multiplied when you expand to multiple regions and/or languages pages.

What are the major factors that determine if your website is Geo targeted to a certain region or country?

  1. Use of TLD (top level domain): generally this is the strongest clearest signal you can give to search engines, i.e.: website.ca is clearly targeting Canadian users.
  2. Google Webmaster Tools’ manual Geo targeting: you can customize your website Google Webmaster Tools account to give Google more insights about your website. You could Geo target a domain, subdomain or subdirectory level to cretin country. Start by visiting Google Webmaster Tools Help Center
  3. On-Page Geo Signals: Search engines are becoming very smart every day; they recognize local addresses and local phone numbers on your web pages. Your URL structure has major impact on helping search engine to understand your content grouping structure for each region and or country.
  4. Off-Page Geo Signals: such as Google Maps listing, links from local sites / directories, reviews from local users. Start by submitting your business to Google’s Places
  5. Web hosting server location (IP): webmasters frequently host their website in the same county they target users in but that’s not the case for other who wants to host their website in other countries that have better web-server infrastructure. Google confirmed that they try not to rely on the server location alone
    What are the best 3 ways to start optimizing your website to multi-language & multi-region / country?

Method # 1 – Use of country code top level domains (ccTLDs):
i.e.: website.ca for Canada and website.fr for France

Benefits What to consider?
Clear, strong geo targeting Multiple the SEO efforts to optimize each separated websites
Server location becomes irrelevant legal requirements (sometimes it’s a requirement to have local office or to be a resident of the county to purchase TLD)
Easy, simple separation of sites and its products / content It could be expensive to run multiple websites
No need to setup Google Webmaster Tool Geo Targeting Requires more infrastructure

Optimize your URL structure to target different languages in the same country:

website.ca/en/ for English speaking Canadians
website.ca/fr/ for French speaking Canadians

Method # 2 – Use of sub-domains with generic top level domains (gTLDs):
i.e.: ca.website.com for Canada and fr.website.com for France

Benefits What to consider?
Easy to setup different sub-domains on your current web server Users might not recognize geo targeting from the URL alone (is “fr” targeting the French speaking users or users located in France!
Allows you to host each domain in different location / country There will be some sort of loss of main domain authority and link juice when transferring to sub-domains
Can use Google Webmaster Tools to Geo target different sub-domains
easy separation of sites / products

Optimize your URL structure to target different languages in the same country:

ca.website.com/en/ for English speaking Canadians
ca.website.com/fr/ for French speaking Canadians

Method # 3 – Use of sub-directories with generic top level domains (gTLDs):
i.e.: website.com/ca/ for Canada and website.com/fr/ for France

Benefits What to consider?
Consolidating all your content on one domain is highly recommended from an SEO perspective. It could be very difficult if you have a complex / dynamic website
Easy to setup (if you have fairly simple/static website) Separation of sites / products could be harder
Can use Google Webmaster Tools to Geo target different sub- directories Users might not recognize geo targeting from the URL alone (is “fr” targeting the French speaking users or users located in France
Less expansive (no need to purchase other hosting services) Single hosting server location

Optimize your URL structure to target different languages in the same country:

website.com/ca/en/ for English speaking Canadians
website.com/ca/fr/ for French speaking Canadians

Which method do I personally recommend?

As I explained above, every method has its pros and cons and I recommend that you consider these factors before choosing any method. But if you have to know what I would recommend if we equalized all the factors; I would totally recommend the use of sub-directories with gTLD (method #3) for the following reasons:

  1. All your content sets on one domain name, that means your website will have larger number of web pages which is one of the factors that could increase your domain authority
  2. All the links juice coming to your website (links to home page or internal pages) will be naturally distributed in a better manner than having separate websites or different sub-domains. In other words; both the inbound (to different region or language pages) and internal links (from different region or language pages to home page or other pages) will favor the entire site.
  3. Google treats sub-domains as its own website “with some association to the main domain”, so this will multiply the optimization and linking campaigns for each sub-domain or separate website.
  4. The more web pages / different regions or language on one domain the more internal linking power you get. Make sure you optimize your internal linking structure to point to your top valuable pages.

Best practices for translating your content to different languages:

  1. It’s ok to start keyword research in your native language and then carry that over to the foreign language
  2. Use real / native speaker of the language you’ve targeted to do your translation and avoid automated translators
  3. Pay great attention to used nuance of the other languages
  4. Make sure your translated copy conveys the same message and gives the same perception in the other culture.
  5. Make sure that all of used terms don’t have negative meanings in the other languages or slangs.
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