Most businesses and organizations recognize SEO as a vital part of any online marketing strategy. The closer you are to the coveted Number 1 ranking, the more likely it is users will visit your website. According to a study by Optify, the top ranked site on Google enjoys a click-through rate of 36.4 per cent. This falls to 12.5 per cent for the Number 2 spot and drops rapidly after that.
But improving your search engine rankings isn’t easy – especially when you’re dealing with a global marketplace. It’s important to localize your SEO strategy when targeting foreign countries. And while Google may be the world’s favourite search engine, it doesn’t rule the roost everywhere. In fast-growing markets such as China, Russia and South Korea, people still prefer local competitors. And as you might expect, the rules for optimization aren’t the same.
Choosing the best search engine
Google is not only the most widely used search engine in the world, but the most visited site, period. Many international Google sites rank highly in their own right – for example Google.in is the 13th most popular site in the world.
Since Google overtook Seznam in the Czech Republic last year there are only five countries left where it’s not the market leader. Although this is a small number, these are far from insignificant. If you want to reach the 420 million “net citizens” in China, for example, they can be massively important.
Baidu is the leader in the world’s most populous nation, with a 56.6 per cent market share. In Russia, Yandex is the favourite search engine, while South Koreans prefer Naver. Yahoo! Japan and Yahoo! Taiwan are the most widely used in these countries.
Beyond these five countries, there are other search engines that run Google a close second within their own spheres of influence. It takes a little research to find the best search engine to concentrate your efforts, depending on your target markets.
Adapting Your SEO Strategies
Many SEO rules of thumb still apply whichever search engine you’re targeting. Keywords, for example, are still hugely important. It’s always best to research these for different markets, rather than simply using direct translations. Colloquialisms, abbreviations and other alternative terms might be more popular. All the major search engines have their own keyword tools to help you identify which will work best.
But the preferred keyword density for a web page varies depending on the search engine. While Google prefers a low density of around 2 per cent, Yahoo! Japan (as with Yahoo!’s other local sites) favors keyword-optimized content with a density of up to 7 or 8 per cent. It also sets more store by directory listings, so submitting your site is an essential step. Yahoo! also loves regularly updated content, so it’s a good idea to include a blog (with keyword optimized content of course).
Google’s geotargeting tool, allowing you to associate pages with a geographical location even if your website has a generic top-level domain such as .com or .org. On the other hand, Baidu, sets great store by geographical location. If you’re serious about targeting China, it’s best to invest in a Chinese domain name.
Like most search engines, Baidu uses in-bound links to rate sites. But it pays less attention to their perceived authority, meaning links from a large number of relatively low-ranking sites could be your best strategy.
Yandex also prefers local sites, but has its own geotargeting tool allowing you to set your location. One big difference is that it counts out-bound links to authoritative sites as well as in-bound ones. As well as pursuing a link-building strategy, make sure you include the right links on your own pages. And unlike Google, Yandex ignores links out of web forums, or un-moderated directories.
There are other, often subtle differences, depending on the particular search engine you’re targeting. A little research on these will be well worth the time and effort.
The Advantages of an International Approach
One major reason for going global with your SEO marketing is you can take advantage of a relative lack of content in other languages. While only around a quarter of online users speak English, most websites are still in the language. The number of Chinese, Arabic, Russian and Portuguese speaking users are growing rapidly, but international businesses have been slow to catch up.
This means it’s much easier to climb the rankings for your chosen keywords in other languages. You’ve also got a much better chance of securing a top domain name in a non-English speaking country.
Numerous studies have also confirmed what common sense suggests – namely that multilingual Internet users prefer using and place more trust in websites written in their own native language.
Of course a little local knowledge is the key to success. It’s worth taking the time and effort to research keywords, translate your website, and target the correct search engines for your market. As with all SEO strategies, you won’t get results overnight. But it will ultimately drive much more traffic – and business – your way.