Best Practice Global & International SEO
Many of our clients, particularly those that have offices across the globe, or operate in industries that don’t have geographic barriers, such as cloud-based products, have reached out to us to discuss taking their business to the International Market with a Global SEO strategy. So we thought this would be a great opportunity for creating a guide that examines common International SEO strategies and highlights best practice Global SEO.
Expanding your SEO to a Global/International Markets
Going Global is an excellent opportunity for reaching new customers and expanding into international markets. However, like any SEO strategy, if it’s not done right at the start it can cause lots of problems down the track. Below is a summary of the most common methods we’ve seen clients use when going global, and the advantages and disadvantages of each approach. So let’s get to it and hopefully you’ll find some handy tips for setting up your Global SEO Strategy.
Methods of Going Global
COUNTRY SPECIFIC DOMAINS – searchfactory.co.uk
The most common practice we see when brands go Global with their SEO in a selected region is the registration of a new website in that specific country (eg. Search Factory UK: searchfactory.co.uk).
It’s a well-known fact that websites that have a country-specific domain generally perform better in that country’s search engine (e.g. a .com.au in Google AU). But thanks to Webmaster Tools, this is no longer best practice with multiple websites.
With Webmaster Tools you can designate any domain, subdomain or directory, and all directories that are nested below, to be targeted to a region. So the primary PRO can be achieved without registering a country specific domain. After explaining this to clients, we usually find this was their primary reason for picking this option, but they’re not aware of the other challenges involved.
First and foremost, when you start a new website, it takes a big investment in SEO to get authority up and running. For competitive markets, this can take several months on a $5000+ campaign before you start to see substantial results. When you’re early on in this campaign, explaining this to management can be a challenge.
Generally, a company has a set amount of budget they can spend on SEO, regardless on how many sites their targeting. By building three new websites, you’re effectively reducing the amount you can spend on each; dividing your SEO budget by three means achieving a third of the results that a single site with a full budget could achieve.
If you’re an ecommerce website and have stores for each region, you not only dilute your link building budget, but you’re essentially competing against yourself for brand terms. For example, if we were 3 months into an SEO campaign for searchfactory.co.uk, and a user performed a search in Google UK for Search Factory, the Australian site would most likely come up in first position as it has a higher domain authority. This would cause confusion with clients and potential clients as they would expect the UK site to rank first.
When clients create a new website, it’s often a case of reposting relevant content and altering contact details. This is worst practice SEO as your new website will be rife with Duplicate content issues and Google will realise this straight off the bat! Regardless of the application, all site and pages need unique content!
SUBDOMAINS TARGETING – asia.seachfactory.com
The other method we see a bit of is Geographic targeting of subdomains (e.g. asia.searchfactory.com). While this is much better than creating a brand new country specific URL (e.g. searchfactory.co.uk), it’s still not best practice. Let’s see why:
Subdomains have the benefit of accessing some of the main website’s domain authority, but not all of it. We’ve seen many cases of a client starting up a subdomain and ranking well for target terms in a short amount of time, but there hasn’t been confirmation from Google as to how PageRank flows through subdomains. From ranking results, we can assume that this does have benefits, but as Google haven’t confirmed how much PageRank flows through to subdomains, and as Moz do se parate subdomain rankings from the main domain, it’s likely that subdomains don’t get the full benefit that a subdirectory would.
Internal Linking is a great way to pass authority from a page that has a good amount of authority to a page that has little. As a subdomain, internal linking can be used to pass authority through from pages with high authority to the targeted subdomain to generate authority.
Subdomains can be more complicated to manage as they are Domain Name System (DNS) alias, instead of organising more content under your main site’s structure. Matt Cutts briefly spoke about subdomains vs subdirectories
, from his comments it’s recommended that pages about the same topic should be in subdirectories (e.g. searchfactory.com.au/brisbane/
) and subdomains should be used for parts of the site that are completely different from the main site (e.g. maps.google.com or news.google.com)
Matt Cutts said subdomains should be used for services that are completely different to the main domain. While subdomains can indeed access the main domain’s authority, there is little to suggest how PageRank flows through to a subdomain and, as a result it can be limited and often require its own link building budget, similar to a new country specific domain registration.
SUBDIRECTORIES WITHIN MAIN DOMAIN – searchfactory.com.au/brisbane/
This is the approach we see the least, it’s the best practice for Global SEO strategy and highly recommended. Here’s why:
It goes without saying; if you can get full access to you main site’s authority, ranking is going to be much easier than building from scratch, and that’s exactly what this approach achieves.
This works best because you’re not only targeting the Geographic Location via Webmaster Tools, but improving the search engine’s understanding that this website is about a specific region. By setting the language to “en-au” and Geographic targeting to Australia you are saying not only is this to be targeted in Google AU, but this website’s language is for English (Australia).
When you’ve already got the main site’s authority behind you, all subsequent link building can be used to strategically target your subdirectory folders for better performance in search engines. (e.g. searchfactory.com.au/brisbane would have blogs targeting it’s Brisbane SEO Services, from reputable Australian blogs).
The most beneficial part of this approach is that while you build links to the subdirectory, it contributes to your overall site authority, and link building to the main site can contribute to the subdomain through internal links.
While every page needs to be unique, you can still include content that has been replicated for reuse in this subdirectory, to enhance unique content. An example for this is you’ve created a Service landing page that is targeted to that location (e.g. SEO Services in Brisbane) and supplementing that page by adding a duplicate of Our SEO Services
so you keep the focus on the subdirectory, instead of sending them to the main site. These would all use Canonical tags to credit the original source and, as such, would not appear in the search results.
Before moving ahead with this strategy, it’s always best to check with your web developers to see what CMS each site is built on, and if these sites will support being nested under subdirectories, or how much work it will take to make the site compatible. There’s nothing worse than doing all that planning only to find out that you can’t do it, or there are extra costs involved.
Regardless on how you look at it, you’re always going to need unique content, so this isn’t really a disadvantage, is it?
Other Important Factors
Reviewing industry trends is an essential practice that should be done prior to launching in an overseas market. Finding out whether specific industries are controlled by gatekeepers or specific companies are exclusive contractors to stakeholders is an essential feasibility step. There’s no point in spending all your time and effort on SEO if you’re not going to get a return on investment!
Just because you have good search volumes here in Australia, doesn’t mean this will be the case in overseas markets! Keywords can also be highly competitive in US and EU markets, so it’s best to do full keyword research analysis to ensure an appropriate SEO budget is created. There’s nothing worse than jumping into a campaign and realising half way through it’s not appropriate for competiting in the market. If you’re thinking of taking your SEO Global, talk to Search Factory and we’ll make sure you’re set up the right way and leverage your SEO for best results!