2020 has been a year of changes in Digital Marketing. User behaviour changed dramatically in APAC and worldwide, since extended quarantines pushed people to shop even toiletries online, and business had to adapt and expand their digital presence. Moreover, Core Web Vitas will become a ranking factor in May 2021, which has SEO practitioners around the world on tension.
If you are starting an International SEO Strategy in 2021, we have a few suggestions that might be useful to help your rankings in the current situation.
Choose the right URL Structure
When working on SEO for an international website, your team will have to face some complex site architecture decisions. One of the most important is which method will you use to determine your URL structure for each of your countries. Choosing is not that easy and depends on many factors related to your business:
- ccTLD: Use two-letter codes to indicate to search engines and users which country a particular site is registered (e.g., example.uk). This makes special sense for languages that are spoken only in one country or if it has any specific legal requirements (e.g., Ranking in Baidu, China or Yandex, Russia).
- Subdomain: When internationalized content is placed on a separate “third-level domain” (e.g., uk.example.com). This strategy allows to target specific languages or countries but is not very recommended for SEO purposes.
- Subdirectory: The content is placed in a specific subdirectory of a root domain (e.g., example.com/uk).
- gTLD with language parameters: When a general domain is targeted to speakers of a specific language by creating a URL parameter (e.g., example.com/?lang=en-uk)
- Different domain: Creating an entirely different root domain (e.g., exampleuksite.com)
Every the technique has its pros and cons, including the difficulty of implementation and SEO benefits. That is why is recommended to investigate further about them and implement the one that betters aligns with your business objectives.
An Hreflangs is an HTML attribute that tells Google and other search engines that different languages or country versions of the same page are related, so it can serve the right content to the correct users worldwide. We can use this tag to avoid duplicate content across country versions. Typically, an Hreflang attribute looks like this:
<link rel="alternate" href="https://www.site.com" hreflang="ko-kr">
This attribute can be placed in the on-page markup, the HTTP header, or the sitemap, but use only one of those locations. Also, note that Hreflangs does not work with Bing or Baidu, which use the content-language meta tag:
<meta http-equiv="content-language" content="ko-kr">
Focus on Localization
Thinking more locally is a key piece to success in International SEO since it is going to help your business to get a better share of voice, get more quality leads, and increase the revenue.
Make sure you are providing information that is tailored to your user’s language and culture. That includes not only using the local language, timezone, and currency but also localizing the website design and style.
We have seen many mistakes regarding translations and localization. The first one is to avoid machine translation. Plugins cannot understand the nuances of the languages and the copy might end up looking odd or unprofessional for a native reader. In a similar way, creating websites that mix two languages (for example, local language for the main page, English for the rest) is not advisable.
These practices might harm your brand credibility and consumer trust. We recommend making sure that everything from your site navigation, to your content and help contact information is in the primary language of the region you are targeting.
Optimize your Page Experience
Google already warned about it. In May 2021 they will update their algorithm to incorporate page experience as a ranking signal. Start improving your Core Web Vitals and Page Experience Signal before is too late.
These are the main elements that will determine the on-page experience starting from May 2021.
- Core Web Vitals: This measure the visual loading, interactivity and stability of a page when is loading and include three key performance metrics (Largest Contentful Paint, Firs Input Delay and Cumulative Layout Shift).
- Mobile Friendliness: Determinates how easy is to navigate a website from mobile devices, with a special focus on readability and accessibility of clickable elements.
- HTTPS, Safe Browsing and Non-intrusive interstitial.
Analyze the SERPS
SERPS differ widely on a local level when introducing in Google the exact same query. That is why, when you are targeting a specific keyword in your international SEO strategy for several countries, you should start by analyzing the SERPs. The same keyword might also have very different search volumes depending on the region (or even a different meaning). Take this into account when creating your strategy.
International Link Building
If you want to get high-quality links in your multilingual site, it is time to start thinking about an international link building strategy. First, you need great content in the different languages you are targeting, as well as learn which are the most influential websites of your niche in every country. Building links from local resources can help your visibility and organic traffic to grow but beware of black hat SEO link building.