SEO on a Global Scale

March 23, 2011
By Lisa Barone in Internet Marketing Conferences

Hello, hello, hello! We are back and it’s time to talk about how to do search engine optimization on a global scale, which BASICALLY means we’re in for a world of accents. This should be fun. Up on stage Anne Kennedy is moderating speakers Patrick C. Price and Guillaume Bouchard.  Five bucks says Guillaume starts his presentation off in French.  I promise I won’t cheat and edit this later, too.

Anne starts off saying good morning and people basically grunt at her. C’mon, people, it’s 11am, WAKE UP!

First up is Patrick. He immediately starts speaking in some language I don’t recognize. I think it’s German.  Anna introduces Patrick as being “kind of a big deal in Europe” because he publishes 30 blogs. The guy next to me mutters under his breath that he’s from Europe and has no idea who this guy is. Heh! I sit next to fun people.

Patrick reminds us that Bing normally is not Bing in countries other than the UK and parts of Germany. The Bing results are based out of the MSN index and you can’t really optimize for that. Either way, the traffic you’d get from there is so significantly small that he says not to even worry about it.  The market share that Google loses to local players is significant.  He’s going to talk about the multi-lingual issues.

Switzerland is a small country but has four official languages. In Switzerland, Google will offer you four different languages to choose from in which Google will display its results. The same as if you go to Canada, you can have Google in French and English. In South Africa you have a variety of different languages. In most of these countries, Google will have one index per country but they’ll vary the results dramatically based on the language you choose.

How to start a multi-lingual site?

Google tells you to choose different URLs for each country. Example:

  • ichlieberucksackreisen.du

The problem with this is that your domain is most likely already taken in those other languages. Even if not, it will not solve multi-lingual issues you’ll have with your brand domain. You can go to Google Webmaster Tools and set the international location. That will get you into the index.

Options for multi-lingual sites:

  • Get the country level domain name: You may not be able to get it for each of your countries.
  • Get subdomains: Easy to set up, can use Webmaster Tools, but users may not recognize them when entering.
  • Use subdirectories for each language: What most people are using.
  • Use URL parameters: Google says not to use these.

Unifying content under multilongual templates

Google now supports a multilingual tag – The problem is Title and Description tags are not supported.

He mentions Google’s post on working with multi-regional Websites. He says to ignore all this (I think?).  Your language issues should not be solved through a subdomain or a subdirectory. You want to be able to have your content indexed and be able to translate it in the future to a local domain name. If you go with language structures, then you won’t have the ability to easily switch those back and forth because the same language tag may not work for all the countries.  I’m so confused. Are you getting this? I hope so.

Set language tags appropriately for each even though they’re not officially supported. He’s seen improved ranking improvements.

For country Start-page: Use a language parameter ONLY for the start page because all the links you’ll be getting will be going to Most people will not choose the specific directory you’ve chosen for your URL structure.

  • brand.tld (main language)
  • brand.tld?lang=fr
  • brand.tld?lang=it

Do not set rel-alternative (yet). But do in the future when it supports Title- and Description tags. From there, go with user-friendly URL structures rather than search engine-friendly URL structures.  If you have ccTLDs that are not in use, consider 302 redirecting them to your gTLD domains local page (use link=rel-canonical on those and use the ccTLD URL).

Don’t worry about hosting, if you are using a ccTLD or have attributed to a country in Google Webmaster Tools (this goes against what we heard in yesterday’s Global session).  Patrick says it won’t affect anything.  If you want to go to Russia or China, then get a local hoster and a local SEO. In most cases, it won’t be of large significance to your rankings. Focus on getting the local TLD and getting good content and localizing the content. There are a lot of words that vary per country, even if they’re in the same language.  Focusing on the mother tongue is more important than where it’s hosted.

Don’t go and try to run international SEO out of the US. You might be basing your SEO on an international site based on your assumptions of what’s important to US SEO. Empower your team there.

Next up is Guillaume. And he starts talking in French. I TOLD YOU! He also said his joke was stolen by Patrick since he spoke in another language too.  People need better jokes.

SEO is hard, Global Scale SEO is even harder.  There’s a big need for internal alignment. The big thing people forget about is the momentum. A lot of the problems in SEO come from a loss of momentum.

SEO is hard:

  • You need to align many departments and third parties
  • Need to build and preserve momentum
  • Need to assure a legacy of SEO initiative.

Global Scale SEO is harder

  • Need to align many departments in many countries with tons of third parties
  • Need to assure consistency amongst all countries and regions
  • Need to build and preserve momentum with all countries.

It’s important that alignment is coming from execs, sales/marketing, usability, IT, Editorial, legal and the SEO director.

Build and Preserving Momentum

  • Moment is a key indicator to see if a business can scale and work globally on the Internet.
  • SEO takes awhile to get going, but is even harder to preserve once acquired.
  • Years of effort can be lost over a few weeks.

Bigger events that can lead to a loss of momentum

  • Any Web site relaunch, either worldwide or locally, without proper SEO guidance
  • Losing a key stakeholder within the organization (ie SEO director) without immediate replacement or without anyone else stepping up when the company hires another
  • Changes of AOR
  • Major IT change (servers)
  • Rebranding (ie change in the main or some of the national sites)

Global SEO Director Ideal Situation

  • Based at the HQ of the company
  • Reports to a key decision-maker in the company
  • Has the ability to stop any non-friendly SEO site release (he admits this may be a fairy tale ;) )
  • Has a team who can take care of most day to day tasks
  • Able to visit to many local branches to evangelize the importance of SEO alignment/momentum

Global SEO Director Ideal skill set

  • Intermediate to advanced technical SEO background
  • Highly developed analysis/analytics
  • Communication skills
  • Business sense

Global Scale SEO..on a budget

Keyword Research

  • Inhouse: done internally anywhere the company has SEO qualified and culturally aligned staff.
  • Outsource: Any location where internal resources are not available

Onsite SEO

  • Inhouse: Gatekeeper of current structure and validate and roll out changes and recommendations
  • Outsource: Ongoing site reviews for the hub site

Offsite SEO

  • Inhouse: Develop mechanisms to attract links. Validate links fathered by the SEO agency.
  • Outsource: On retainer with a strong offsite SEO agency

Social Media

  • Inhouse: Ensure that a minimum of creative content is produced for the hub site
  • Outsource: All pushes on social news sites


  • Inhouse: Gatekeepers and evangelist of a global style guide across all countries
  • Outsource: Initial global style guide creation and guidelines

Reporting and Analytics

  • Inhouse:Benchmarking sent internally to all countries and stakeholders
  • Outsource: Support the inhouse team to develop the consolidate dashboard and install tracking


  • Inhouse: Roll out recommendations by the SEO team and choose SEO-friendly techniques
  • Outsource: Evaluate SEO friendliness of technologies and support internal IT team on implementations

10 reasons agencies want to work with in house SEOs

  1. to build and preserve momentum
  2. to overcome internal issues to get things done
  3. to stabilize and preserve the account
  4. to do additional billing
  5. to emphasize the importance of SEO
  6. to help the company save costs on low-value SEO work
  7. To have a clearer view on everything going within the org
  8. To save tons of hours of management time to support the internal IT team
  9. to get better ROI
  10. to be able to get the global accounts by using inhouse SEOs influence

10 reasons why outsourcing some of your SEO is smart

  1. its a specialized expertise
  2. bandwidth
  3. fresh perspective
  4. educational
  5. validation
  6. collaboration
  7. overcome internal politics
  8. to be more proactive and save on R and D
  9. local skill set and culture
  10. gatekeeping of ongoing efforts

Yowsa, that was a lot of info! Time to go find a power source so my laptop makes it through the day. :) See you in a bit.

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