Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting with Motoko Hunt, President & Search Marketing Strategist at AJPR. I took it as an opportunity to ask her a few questions about multi-lingual and multi-regional SEO that she has enviable knowledge about.
1. Welcome Motoko. Let’s start with a little background. How did you end up in the search marketing industry?
Hello, Navneet. Thank you for having me.
It's a long story how I got into the search marketing industry. I don't think you have time for that, so I'll give you a short version. I was doing Japanese translation and localization work in the mid 90's, and pulled into the search marketing world when the customers wanted them to rank well in search engines. In the beginning, it was mostly directory listings, and the meta tag optimization – the good ole days. There was no Google, and the engines weren't yet offering paid placement services. Boy, I feel old!
2. What is the optimal site architecture for international SEO? How relevant are the tens of country domains that businesses had to maintain?
The best practice is to use ccTLDs for each country. But that's not always an option for the business, especially if you have tons of country sites without the budget to support them. In that case, you'll have all the country sites under one domain separating each countries content using country sub directories. Either way, you want to think of the way to implement scale the site management and maintenance efforts. By using the same CMS system, the same site structure, and the same web page template, you can save a lot of cost and other IT resources.
If you decide to put all country sites under one domain, you don't want to put the international sites as a children directory under the main site. You should set up all including your main country site at the same level.
Having many country sites can be challenging, but there are some plusses, too. You can create a good linking ecosystem using each country site as a relevant link opportunity.
3. When you combine multi-regional and multi-lingual SEO, duplicate content becomes one of the most perplexing issues. What is the most effective way of addressing that?
If the site is localized completely, you shouldn't need to worry too much about the duplicate content on the multi-lingual website. With the multi-regional sites that have multiple sites in the same languages, that is when the risk of duplicate content is greatest – English and Spanish are the most common. Now days, there are number of ways to send the right signals telling the engines which specific market the site and pages are targeting. Be sure to take the steps to tell the search engines where the site is designed for, from the geo targeting setting in the webmaster tools, to schema tags, to the information on page body such as address and the currency. Getting the quality links from local sites helps, too.
4. Christopher Semturs, the Googler behind recently asked for feedback on hreflang Attribute. What’s your experience and opinion of the attribute?
It actually works quite well when implemented correctly. If your France page is out-ranking English page in US, or your US page is out-ranking Japanese page in Japan, the hreflang shouldn't be used as a solution. There are other problems to be solved first. It is the optimal solution If your UK English page is out-ranking your US English page in US. By using the the href alternate language functionality, I prefer using the XML site map version, you can tell Google there is a US version of the page. In my experience, this works well for same language pages. If it doesn't work well, it's usually because there is another problem with relevance, links, the XML site map is corrupt or the site has a bigger issue.
5. Given that ccTLDs and language versions will require certain amount of resources, how viable are they for small businesses?
I have always advocated owning the ccTLD for strategic purposes, local print or display marketing. While maintaining multiple domain sites can be a big task, by organizing the task and reducing the duplicate efforts, you could simplify the site management which offers resource savings. When you have multiple sites under one domain, you are still dealing with the same amount of pages and the content, you are adding other potential issues to handle such as the duplicate content issue. So, having one domain isn't always the easier option even for the small businesses. Take all points into the consideration before you decide to go with ccTLDs or one domain for all sites.
Motoko Hunt will be one of the speakers at SES, New York to be held from 25th-28th March, 2013. We will be covering the event intensively and bring you more interviews and everything else that you need to know. Stay tuned.Effective strategies for multi-regional and multi-lingual SEO: In conversation with Motoko Hunt!,