International, multilingual SEO

I don't know if this is something you ever think as an objective in your professional SEO consultant career but in my case it is something I found along the way.

Living in Europe it is quite easy to have multilingual SEO projects even working in smaller areas or cities, like Barcelona, of a single country like Spain the probability to have at least two languages (Spanish and Catalan) in many of the web sites is high.

Another factor in equation here is tourism, a big industry in the Mediterranean area and you focus on foreign markets for obvious reasons.

Chances to put your hands on international SEO projects increase even more if you work for relevant agencies having nice clients all over Europe and Latin America.

Sooner or later you have to deal with these kinds of issues so what I know about this particular aspect of SEO is by practise because there are few resources out there to learn from.

Funny thing I discovered during the few months I've been living here in Vancouver is that the mixture of cultures and languages is amazing (I love this city) but international SEO is not such a big thing as it is in Europe and that was the reason I decided to make a presentation for the Vancouver SEM Meetup covering as much as possible all the pillars of it.

I guess the reason is Canada having very few neighbours, in fact just one in practical terms, and sharing with them part of their young history culture and language makes the border blur a lot, especially at Internet territory.

In sum:

  • Responding to cultural differences is absolutely fundamental
  • Localization of languages is a must
  • Take the right decision about domains / directories strategy and forget sub domains
  • Match local links with the right ccTLD or directory
  • Web analytics is your friend, segment by region / country / language and you will discover very interesting issues to evaluate your SEO efforts.
  • Do not assume Google is the only search engine out there, Yandex in Russia, Baidu in China, Naver in South Korea, Yahoo in Japan to mention just some.

Multilanguage, multicountry SEO presentation, Ani Lopez

It must be a great challenge to work on a Canada/US project, I hope I can have this opportunity and put my brain to work hard to sort out this international but-no-so scenario.

For example, .ca domains have in average 3% of traffic from US, acceptable, but in some cases it goes up to 19% not so good rate if you only want to focus in Canadian market. Google does pretty good job differentiating countries and languages not so Bing, Yahoo, and the rest. I'll write about this particular issue.

Feel free to download the SEO for International Multilanguage projects presentation in PDF

Before finishing this article I want to show this pearl I found here searching for related sites or articles.

if someone is not willing to communicate with you in English this person is not really a prospect for your business.

Doing business with foreigners is not about doing business in their language but rather encouraging them to do business with you in English

I haven't seen so bizarre advice in ages related not only to multilingual SEO but also to business in general. Of course you will feel more comfortable making business in your language but if you are a real competitor you want to sell no matter the language. Would you put your SEO stuff in the hands of this guys? Not me.

All the people I wanted to thank are listed at the end of the presentation but there are two I want to do it in special manner here: Jose @joseuonline Uzcategui (thanks for the pics of the SEM Meetup), local SEM agitator and relevant SEO in Vancouver for his brotherhood to a newcomer like me, and Guilian @SEOmom Muessig for her patience reviewing the presentation and effective advice.

Mar 28, 2010
Written by:
Filed under: SEO

Mar 29, 2010
Posted by:
Jim Rudnick #1

Hello Ani...and thanks for this posting! Made much sense to me as we too have been involved in SEO Campaigns for a host of clients over the past 9 years and have also found that many of your points are spot-on. Concerning your %'s of traffic from the US however, in many manufacturing channels, the %'s are considereably higher. For instance in window manufacturing B2B channels, we've found that almost 60% of our clients traffic comes from the US formenting the thought that a builder's buying agent is much more aggresive than our cancuck ones....

So thanks! I've added your blog to my daily reading list and hope things SEO-wise are great in BC!

Jim Rudnick

Mar 29, 2010
Posted by:
Ani Lopez #2

Hi Jim, thanks for come and comment.
I have not a lot of experience in 'Canadian US cross border SEO' but trying to get stats and guess how it goes by sectors or channels.
In any case, if search engines decide your site is relevant in other country there must be a reason, or a bad SEO campaign or a good business opportunity :)

Jun 09, 2010
Posted by:
Rob #3

Thanks for the useful presentation. (followed here from the Google webmaster blog)

Nov 18, 2010
Posted by:
Patrick #4

Thanks a lot Ani, this is the most thorough and useful post I've ever read about multilingual SEO. I found your presentation when I was googling for the best way to tackle a multilingual project taking into account the following approaches: domains/subdomains/folders.

I'm working in Barcelona as webmaster in several projects and, as you mentioned before, Spanish and Catalan are widely used, but the most important thing here is reaching a world wide audience in their own language, goal to be achieved through an effective multilingual SEO implementation, and here is where your presentation comes into play.

Thanks again and count me from now in your readers list.

My best regards,

Nov 18, 2010
Posted by:
Ani Lopez #5

Thanks Patrick, it is my pleasure to share information.

Jul 12, 2012
Posted by:
Gio #6

Hi Ani,
great points.
But I'm in doubt about the ing language page.
What if this page (in noindex,follow) is served via 302 when the client has not preferences cookies ?

Don't you think it would be convenient both to bots and users rather than a language/IP redirection?


Jul 12, 2012
Posted by:
Ani Lopez #7

Hi Gio, my apologies but not sure to understand what you mean. Regarding how to solve redirections, cookies and user preferences I would like you to take a look at that article I wrote: Handling Multilingual Sites for Humans and Search Engines
Let me know if that helps.

Aug 19, 2013
Posted by:
Kelly Watt #8

Hi Ani,
I agree totally on removing the county ion, that we should do it server side. The more intuitive the site is, the better experiences users have. Agree also on Google Translate. What is your experience with ranking sites in Yandex for Russia? Could you direct me to some helpful resources on how their algorithm works? I have a new project that a client was requesting optimization in Russia.

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