So you’re planning an international expansion and need your products or services to be communicated in languages other than English. With international websites there are a number of things that influence your search engine position requiring careful consideration.

Multi-domain or Multi-language?

Firstly – is your current domain country specific or do you have a global top-level domain such as .com or .net? In the case of the former, you may wish to consider acquiring a corresponding domain for the new country or countries and host a separate, translated copy of the website. In the long term, this will deliver an organic search upside. For example, if your current website has a .co.uk address, it’s content will usually be crawled by Google UK. In the same vein, a website on .fr domain would be automatically crawled by Google France.

If you have an established global top-level domain such as .com it could be simpler to keep everything on a single multi-language website. Language options can be set up using sub-domains or subdirectories (such as /fr or /dk). With the right set-up, relevant international search engines will crawl the content, although it is generally accepted that a domain focused on a specific country will provide a stronger longer-term benefit in terms of SEO.

Get a native speaker to translate your content

The next step is to ask your web agency to make a full copy of your site and put it on a staging server. You will also need a full list of the names of navigation, buttons and CTA’s as well as the main content in a single document for your translators. In addition to content, meta-titles and descriptions will also need to be translated. Assuming your original content was produced with a keyword strategy – then translated keywords and phrases should be widely identifiable in the body copy and reinforce your SEO.

When selecting a translation agency it is important to choose one that employs native speakers. It’s also highly desirable these speakers have a background in your industry. If anyone at your company (or anyone you know) speaks the language of the new market, then it is always advisable to get a second opinion to sense-check the language and phrases used. The objective of human translators is to avoid the deficiencies of machine translations. Therefore, it is important to ensure that the translator has used the right tone of voice, and common words and phrases used by your target audience.

Find an International agency that sweats the finer details

When translations are approved your web agency can start the process of populating the site. Some languages will have a higher word count, which may require the agency to tidy up paragraph line breaks. Testing on different devices is important to ensure visual impact is not tainted by the responsive design.

Onsite technical SEO should be implemented with the site then ready to Go Live. With a new country specific domain and zero backlinks the new website may take some time to rank in search results in the new country. A multi-language website with a global top-level domain may rank faster. Notwithstanding, with proper investment in link-building and off-site SEO, the country specific domain should outperform a global domain in the longer term.

International expansion can be challenging, but with the right team supporting you it can be surprisingly achievable and affordable. Sheer are specialists in international and multi-language websites. Contact us today to discuss your requirements – we are happy to advise and provide a non-obligatory proposal to make your digital life easier.