5 Multilingual SEO Tips & Best Practices

rank-above-ceo-mayer-reichA lot of different factors contribute to a successful transition into a new market, whether on the ground or online. A company’s ability to adapt to culture, language, geography, and consumer behavior all influence whether their foray into a new market will prove a profitable move.

Companies that operate online have special concerns. How can you ensure your site is technically sound and optimized for search? Are you creating duplicate content issues? Over the past year, we’ve investigated different global SEO challenges and offered suggestions as far as multilingual keywords, hreflang and canonical issues, and more.

In this post, RankAbove CEO Mayer Reich offers a few more tips and best practices for global SEO. Israeli-based RankAbove developed the Drive multilingual SaaS search platform for managing international SEO processes. Here are his tips for marketers entering or growing in the international marketplace.

1. Optimize Your Website for UTF-8 Characters

“Everyone company has their own localization issues; you really want to make sure your characters can be picked up properly in different locations,” Reich said. He notes that translation is one thing, but localization might mean changing a company’s messaging and grammar, as well. Taking text and dumping it into Google Translate just isn’t enough.

Discrepancies in character recognition and missing or misused keywords in titles and image alt tags, for example, can affect a site’s ability to rank in their target market.

2. Optimizing for Google Isn’t Sufficient

If you’re looking to rank your French site in France, make sure you’re tracking localized search engines, he notes. “For example, in China we need to optimize for Baidu, in Russia it would be Yandex. You have to see who the big players are there and optimize for them,” Reich said.

Last week, we learned about the huge opportunity in alternative search engines,often overlooked by marketers. In the US, a third of all daily search queries happen outside of traditional core search engines like Google and Bing. The statistics may differ, but the principle applies just as much in other countries as in North America.

Reich recommends having people familiar with local search sniff out alternative search opportunities and ensuring the site is optimized with balance to appeal to a broader range of engines. Failing to do so is a missed opportunity in maximizing visibility and leaves money on the table.

3. Understand Local Buying Culture and Mentality

“User behavior in Russia, for example, is so different than what American and European companies are used to,” said Reich. “It’s all cash on delivery there, so conversions and sales processes and metrics are different.”

In other markets, they might make the decision to buy online but then call the 1-800 to complete the purchase; Reich uses Israel as another example. In the Israeli travel market, call centres are still the primary driver for actual sales, even though consumers are still doing their research online.

Companies may offer web discounts for online buyers to try to get them to complete purchases online, reducing labor costs and overhead. Understanding how consumers are used to completing purchases can save a lot of frustration and missed opportunity.

4. Competition May be Far Different in Other Countries

Companies need to focus on their niche and build out their business according to that, says Reich. In the U.S., you might have 15 or 20 major players, while in other countries, competition may be nonexistent.

“I just spoke to a company in Brazil and they have absolutely no competition,” he said. “As a result, they’re able to dominate and build out their brand through organic search.” Knowing the competition helps companies make better business decisions and allot budget appropriately to different channels.

5. Markets Outside of the U.S. are Less Savvy in SEO – Agencies May Dominate

“In other countries, it can be more institutionalized and less like the Wild West,” Reich said. The significance of this is that marketers need to understand whether the areas in which they plan to sell are agency-dominated.

“It’s so important to have representatives on the ground. In Japan, for example, it’s notoriously tough to break into that market. It’s a cultural issue; companies have succeeded by setting up a company with local Japanese representation, so it’s less about search and more about the business culture there and how to operate,” he explains. “You really need the capital to get people in that country working for you.”

In terms of software, it’s a matter of thinking about the software from a different perspective. Foreign markets typically have very little representation with SEO software and there are very few enterprise tools in those markets, said Reich; where there are, they are more apt to be English SEO software solutions modified for translation.

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