This is a guest post from Christian Arno, of Lingo24.
Most of us put a lot of effort into SEO for our content in English, but it's every bit as important to get this right for your foreign-language content too.
The good news is that the basics are the same in every language. Using the right keywords and key phrases lets the search engines send you relevant traffic. And relevant traffic is key to sales conversions or simply building a following.
So how do you go about this?
SEO by language
One strategy is to do your SEO on a language by language basis. It certainly has its advantages:
Optimising by language, rather than by country, is usually a more cost-effective option.
For example, a single Spanish website will reach browsers in Spain, Central and Latin America. In fact, even only using the top 5 world languages would open up your content to much of Asia and the Middle East, plus most of the Americas.
SEO by language is budget-friendly. If you are optimising for foreign-language web traffic, you will likely need native-speaker input at some point. Fewer languages will help your translation and localisation budget go further.
You won't need to buy as many domain names. Instead, you can use generic top-level domains such as .com and .biz.
So what's the drawback to this approach?
Search engines will be less likely to include you in 'local' results, so you could lose out on some web traffic.
With languages that are used around the world, you will have to choose a regional variety. This risks alienating speakers of that language in other regions.
SEO by language also presents localisation challenges if you need to deal with regional differences such as national holidays, currency conversions or even quoting the current time.
A Country by Country Basis
Doing foreign-language SEO by country means a greater investment of time and effort. However, in the long run, this could pay off for you.
By dealing with countries you can identify yourself as 'local' for queries. This is becoming ever more important for major search engines, which like to offer local results and will send you more traffic.
You can also fully localise content. If you use the appropriate spellings, turns of phrase, units of measurement, and so on for a particular country, your content will seem more relevant and trustworthy to those readers.
So that's a win both for search engines and for human visitors.
Of course, there are disadvantages:
Doing SEO on a country basis is time-consuming. For example, it would be far easier and quicker to deliver content to South America in the two major languages used there, rather than tailoring it to each individual country.
It also risks duplicating large amounts of content where there are only minor linguistic or local differences. Duplication is not looked on kindly by search engines, which may demote your results page ranking as a result.
You would need separate domains and possibly even separate social media identities for each country. Bear in mind, too, that not every country is monolingual.
Foreign-language SEO: Best Practice
Instead of trying to conquer the world, focus on your key global markets to make your time and money go further. Doing the following will also be helpful:
Geotarget your content. This tool from Google lets you identify particular webpages with a specific country. The benefit is that you can appear in local results without needing to buy the top-level domain for that country.
Research your linguistic markets. Find out where regional differences and global distances will matter most.
You may find doing SEO by language works well in countries that share borders, but that you need to do SEO by country for communities spread around the globe.