April 8, 2009
Cindy starts by listing some things to consider when structuring your site for international markets:
– Design and development costs
– Maintenance costs
– Server configuration and location
– CMS system
– Order fulfillment
– Email and direct marketing
Three Site Architecture Options for International SEO:
1) One Site (Server Side Translation or Sub-domains / Sub-directories)
2) Multiple Sites
1) One Site
The single site solution involves using location detection software to determine where a user is coming from then serving the user data in the appropriate language. Another idea is to put the most likely language on the home page and keep other languages in optimized sub-domains or sub-directories. This approach uses:
– Server side language translation (and/or)
– Sub-domains and Sub-directories
Pros of the One Site Server Side Translation Approach:
– Home page ranks in multiple languages (possibly)
– Robust translation software = lower overhead and more scalable
– Can work with CMS, Back End, XML feeds and DHTML
– Best user experience
– [added by me] Link popularity is channeled to a single site and not diluted over several sites
Cons of the One Site Server Side Translation Approach:
– Harder to set up
– Risk of inaccurate location detection
– Risk of mistranslation
– Risk of duplicate content
– Natural inbound links could be in the wrong language
Tips for One Site Server Side Translation Strategy:
- Always check the work of the translation software.
- Redirect country-specific domains to the appropriate language translation of the home page.
- Allow users to change or specify their location.
- Set a cookie to remember the user’s language of choice.
- Include links to different languages in the footer.
- Buy the country specific domains, set a cookie and redirect them to the appropriate language translation on your single site.
- On the fly translation takes longer so use software to generate static pages instead.
- Consider www.worldlingo.com for translation options.
Pros of the One Site Sub-Domains / Sub-Directories Approach:
– Easy to set up
– Same content in different languages is never duplicate
– Put top keywords in your domain or URL
– Target by country or language
– Country specific hosting option
Cons of the One Site Sub-Domains / Sub-Directories Approach:
– Bad for targeting multiple countries that speak the same language (duplicate content potential)
– Home page only ranks in one language
– Extra click for users / confusing
Tips for One Site Sub-Domains / Sub-Directories Strategy:
- Spell the name of the subdomain or the subdirectory in the appropriate language. For example, www.espanol.website.com NOT www.Spanish.com
- Consider using your top keyword for each language as the name of the sub-domain or directory e.g. www.autovermietung.site.com
- Use location detection software to redirect to correct subdomain or subdirectory.
- Optimize all META data and on-page tags in the appropriate language.
- Avoid things like “choose a language” on home pages
- Use the Regional tool in Google Webmaster Tools to inform Google what regional markets each of your sub-domains and sub-directories are targeting.
2) Multiple Sites
The multiple sites solution involves purchasing regional domains and using a different site for every country, e.g. .com.au, .co.uk etc.
Pros of the Multiple Site Approach:
– Incrementally low start up costs
– Rank better in country specific search engines faster???
– More chances to rank better in SE’s
– Potential link benefits
– Country specific hosting options
Cons of the Multiple Site Approach:
– High maintenance costs
– Harder to rank in .com search engines
– Forced to target countries instead of languages
– Must compete with .coms
– Potential link and duplicate content risks
Tips for Multiple Site Strategy:
- Specify the specific country for each site in Webmster tools
- Interlink different sites carefully & logically
- Use *IP sniff and suggest* to link users to other contry sites
The blended solution involves a combination of one site and multiple sites. Generally you put your international site on the dot com and you have some languages and country specific content on the main site, with the rest on country-specific domains. This can be a transitional situation or strategic.
Pros of the Blended Approach:
– Most realistic for worldwide presence
– Allows testing
– Creates flexibility
– Allows you to strategically segment by region or root language
Cons of the Blended Approach:
– It’s inconsistent and confusing
– Could be perceived as unprofessional
Tips for the Blended Strategy:
- If multiple country specific domains are unavailable, make them part of the .com rather than compromise branding
- Use country specific domains for highest traffic countries and group other countries on single sites by language
- Evaluate countries /languages by traffic and conversions
- Put countries / languages with similar aesthetics on the same site
Cindy’s final advice: *Do Not Distub* signs should be written in the language of the hotel maid!
* Photo courtesy of Andrew Ballard of ReBusiness