International SEO: Three French Hens

December 12, 2011
By Danika Atkins in SEO

Even with a background in Cultural Anthropology, I occasionally catch myself thinking about SEO from an ethnocentric point of view. For the most part, the clients I work with are focused on a domestic audience, and so I may only need to account for slight differences in accessibility and keyword phrasing. But upon taking a cross-cultural comparison of online buying behavior, you’ll find that one size does not fit all when it comes to international SEO. Differences in device usage (mobile vs. desktop/laptop devices), language differences, and cultural receptiveness to your product or service all come into play when you are marketing to a specific country or culture.

[This post is part of our 12 Days of SEO series where we’ll be publishing a different nugget of knowledge related to the sounds of the season. We’ll be updating the 12 Days of SEO page as new posts are published.]

So, on the third day of SEO, Outspoken Media gives to thee – three French hens, in the form of international SEO advice, of course.

Keyword Research

A wise SEO wouldn’t only optimize a site for “cell phone” without doing keyword research for the most valuable variations. Similarly, you wouldn’t only optimize the French version of your site for “téléphone cellulaire” just because it’s a textbook translation of the word. Research variations such as “téléphone portable” or “le portable,” keeping country-specific colloquialisms in mind. For example, although “téléphone portable” has a greater average monthly search volume in France (18,100), “téléphone cellulaire” is the most widely used French term for search in Canada (1,300).

If you do create multiple versions of your site in different languages, consider creating the non-English versions in subfolders of your main domain (i.e. – This will allow all links to the non-English versions to contribute authority to the whole domain. Keep in mind that all content, including meta data, must be in the target language to avoid any duplicate content problems.

Gauge Your Mobile Presence

If you’re ignoring mobile optimization, you might be missing a large segment of your target country. According to Cisco’s Visual Networking Index, the number of mobile-only internet users globally has more than doubled from 14 million in 2010 to 31.9 million in 2011. If your audience is in the Asian Pacific region, you can expect the number of mobile-only internet users to jump from 6.8 million to 20.5 million in 2012. This not only includes users who may abandon laptop and desktops altogether, but those adopting internet-enabled devices for the first time.

Research the most popular mobile OS and handsets in your target countries. Cindy Krum’s search and handset emulators are great tools to help you visualize your site and rankings on various handsets.

YouTube Optimization

Marketers have long known the power of YouTube videos. They can be an effective, sneaky way to “dark horse” your way into the top 10 search results. The key is effective YouTube optimization, keeping the basics in mind, but also paying special attention to your subtitles.

You don’t need to have a French video to rank for French terms. YouTube allows you to add closed captioning to videos by uploading your own transcription. Not only does this make the video more accessible to your target audience, but it allows Google’s crawlers to scrape the content of the subtitles for keywords. YouTube users can search for videos by the content of captions, so it’s especially important to enable closed captioning for keyword rich videos. For more information on how to create and upload closed captioning, see YouTube’s guide to adding and editing captions and subtitles.

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