Multilingual SEO: targeting by country VS by language, which one to choose?
You are wishing to export your business outside Belgium? In this case, it implies developing your visibility on search engines abroad, and therefore, implementing a multilingual SEO strategy that will allow you to offer the right version of your site, in the right country and with the right associated language. Building a multilingual website is a complex project and it is easy to get lost in the multitude of existing approaches: should you opt for a country-specific extension? Which URL structure should you choose? How to be sure my website will be visible in the targeted countries and languages ?
In this article, we help you get a clear idea and pick the best solution while taking your goas and resources into account.
Language targeting VS country targeting: what are we talking about?
In international SEO, we must distinguish between targeting by language and targeting by country. But what does it mean exactly ?
Let’s imagine that your website is in French. There are two possibilities:
- You want to target all French-speaking countries, everywhere in the world: in this case, you offer the same services and/or products for all countries and you do not target users geographically. The main focus is on the target language: it is language targeting;
- You only want to target French speakers in certain countries such as France and/or Canada (Quebec) for instance: in this case, it means that you probably provide exclusive offers to these markets. Your targeting is much more precise and brings a secondary difficulty, since you need both to target a language and one or several specific geographic areas. Here, we are talking about country targeting.
It is not uncommon for sites to target both a country and multiple languages. For example, you could target Belgium or Canada using the local languages of each country; i.e. French, Dutch and German for Belgium, and French and English for Canada. While it may seem ambitious, this is actually easily achievable because Google will naturally try and choose websites depending on the user’s location. On the other hand, language targeting without taking the country into account is more difficult: a local website will get the priority, and as we will see further, the same language can have several regional variations.
The URL structure
When developing your multilingual SEO strategy, the domain you pick will have a big impact on the results. You have three options: the TLD (Top-Level-Domain), the subdomain, or the subdirectory. Let’s take a closer look at each of them.
A domain name with a country extension (Top-Level-Domain)
website.be → Belgium
website.fr → France
website.us → United States
Creating a unique domain for each country you are targeting is the most direct way to tell Google which country your website is targeting. Moreover, the origin of your site will be clearly identifiable and reassuring for the visitors of the targeted country, who will be more inclined to trust you. Finally, if one of your domains is penalized by Google, the others will not be impacted.
However, this solution has some difficulties. The use of the Top-Level-Domain requires developing a very distinct seo strategy for each country. When targeting a new country, you will need to create a domain specific to that country, and you won’t be able to benefit from the authority of your already existing domain. Hosting and maintaining the website will also be more expensive. This solution requires the ability to reserve a domain name in all targeted countries and to ensure regular content updates on each version. In short, using one domain per country will prevent you from taking actions that will improve your SEO globally.
The TLD is often used by large companies where the products and services offered may be different from one market to another, and where each has its own strategy and teams. The TLD is often used for country targeting.
One subdomain per language or country (Subdomain)
be.website.com → Belgium
fr.website.com → France
us.website.com → United States
Another solution is to use sub-domains for each country in which you are present. Thanks to subdomains, you have the possibility to indicate the targeted country and the search engines will distinguish them as different websites. But it also means that the authority of these different sub-domains (or entities) will be less than if everything was gathered in one global authority, under one domain.
What is the fundamental difference with the first solution? This solution is easier to implement and less expensive. This is a good solution if your resources are more limited. But you’ll probably take longer to rank using a subdomain rather than a domain extension.
One subdirectory per language or country
website.com/be/ → Belgium
website.com/fr/ → France
website.com/us/ → United States
With the subdirectory method, each language is integrated into a directory such as /be/, as you can see here above. All international versions of the website are attached to the main website and belong to the same domain. Thanks to this, you will save money, but also time, because whatever SEO actions you take will be reflected in each of the subdirectories. However, you will be forced to use a unique geographic server location.
Which hosting to choose?
When choosing your hosting, consider the loading speed of your website, especially when you are developing a multilingual SEO strategy and targeting different countries. The further the server is from your user, the longer your web page will take to load, which means a poor user experience.
If you have chosen the domain name solution for each country, we advise you to rent the hosting through a server located in the country you want to target.
In the case of subdomains or subdirectories, the hosting is the same for all of them, so you will not be able to change the hosting per country. Is there a solution? Yes ! You can use CDNs (Content Delivery Networks) to store a static copy of your website in servers located around the world. Thus, a different copy of the site is delivered depending on the user’s country, the loading speed will be higher and the user experience will benefit.
Thanks to the hreflang tags, you can tell Google what page to display to the user according to their language and/or geographical area. Although their implementation looks simple, many mistakes are made at this level. Pay close attention to this when setting them up.
There are three ways to concretely implement hreflang tags:
- In the <head> section of your site (as here above);
- By creating dedicated sitemaps for each language version/country of the site;
- If your site contains non-HTML resources (pdf, doc, etc), the http header allows you to provide equivalent files in other languages.
Once you have chosen your implementation method (XML sitemap, http header or HTML header), index the original page and its variants. Be extra careful not to make mistakes in the language or country code ,…
To sum up, which solution should you choose?
From a purely SEO point of view, a domain name with a country extension is the ideal solution. However, its implementation is much more complex.
On the practical side, we advise you to use subdirectories for ease of implementation. This way, you will be able to develop your multilingual SEO strategy more quickly and without too much difficulty.
But beyond this technical aspect, don’t forget that the most important thing is to offer the most appropriate response to your users, wherever they are in the world. So remember to adapt your keywords and translations according to the countries you are in. Queries can be different from one market to another, and you may not be targeting the right keyword if you don’t perform a separate semantic analysis for each of them. To give you a simple example, we will use the word “smartphone” in France but the word “GSM” in Belgium.
Also consider whether the search intent is still the same in each market or not, and adapt your content accordingly. An analysis of the SERP in each market is therefore essential before posting content.
Need advice on developing your multilingual SEO strategy? Contact the Semactic team.We are always happy to discuss SEO!
A multilanguage website is a website that provides content in several languages. The user can easily switch from one language to another by clicking a clearly indicated button.
A multilanguage website will allow you to develop your business abroad and expand your audience and thus your visibility.
- Choose the domain type and the URL structure: top-level-domain, subdomain, subdirectory
- Choose the hosting type: local hosting, CDN, etc
- Perform a professional translation of your website
- Optimize SEO by language
- Set up hreflang tags
SEO Camp 2022: our summary of the most important conferences
A desire to exchange after 2 years of Covid, a prestigious place – the Palais des congrès de Versailles – only that – , and (almost) all the rock stars of French SEO: it was the promising cocktail of this 14th edition of the SEO Camp Paris which was held on September 22 and 23 2022. The team Semactic was there, super motivated by the desire to take advantage of the latest SEO trends: Google update, automated content, Google Discover, mesh….This is the summary of the conferences that made the biggest impression on us.
Google Discover, press and "poussaclic"
Google Discover is a new feature that offers users a selection of personalized information related to their interests when they open the Google application. This feature, 100% mobile, offers short contents that will be increasingly adapted to the user according to his searches and tastes.
In short, the user no longer needs to do a search: Google offers him results directly.
In the future, Google Discover could also offer shopping suggestions.
You will have understood: from an SEO point of view, these advanced contents represent a new playground to increase its visibility and its traffic in a consistent way.
In his conference, Clément Pessaux (@labisse – Digimood) revealed how to make a place for yourself in these personalized content flows:
We no longer speak of SEO, but of “predictive interest”.
- A site must be fast and efficient; this is a prerequisite, not a booster
- Think first of all of the persona you are targeting when you write: you must respond to their interest
- Offer rich content: structure, videos, social networks,…
- Your content must generate a lot of traffic. This is where we come to the “poussaclic”. Because yes, you have to make people want to click, but not necessarily with dubious subjects. Again, it all depends on your audience. Think like them (not like you) and ask yourself what will capture their attention.
- The timing and the tyrhme of publication are also very important: it It is better to publish early, and at regular intervals, than to publish all your content at once. Think of publishing during breaks (half-time of the soccer game for example)
- In the same vein, the publication schedule should be defined in advance: who is watching, and at what time?
- But above all, your content must generate ENGAGEMENT: this is how Google subscribes to topics and publications
We now have all the keys in hand to perform on Google Discover… But how do we appear there?
- First point that may seem obvious, a news site will appear more easily on Google Discover. However, as Marie-David Tihon of IPM Group (@mad_tihon) explains in her own conference on SEO in the press, it is necessary to educate and train journalists on SEO and its challenges;
- Rely on subscriptions and RSS feeds to boost article sharing and virality
- Think in terms of clicks by opting for shorter titles
- Opt for an original writing angle
The success of the business depends on the target audience: you will find it easier to get a place on the platform by writing on niche topics than on highly competitive people topics.
In summary, to appear on Google Discover and succeed in performing there, you’ll need patience, a good editorial strategy, perfect technique, an engaged audience and virality.
Useful content: the Internet user at the center
How to create useful content? That’s the question many content creators are (or should be) asking themselves. Marc Turkesteen from Develink gave us the answers in his conference “Useful content, instructions for use”.
For content to be useful, its objective must be defined so that it is presented in the right format to the Internet user: does it meet a navigational, commercial or transactional research intention?
- A navigational search intent means that the user is looking for a specific web page: he knows exactly what he wants. It is important to be well referenced on your own brand name so that they find you
- A commercial search intent means that the Internet user wants to make a purchase, but does not know where. In this case, you need to create content that combines SEO and conversion with an optimized customer journey. The content can be a product sheet, a comparative article, a case study, etc.
- A transactional search intent means that the user is close to purchasing and has a clear idea of what they are looking for. The objective here is obviously to facilitate acquisition and increase the average basket. The content must make people buy: detailed product sheets, attractive shopping cart page, reassurance elements, etc.
Once the type of search intent has been identified, the content must be structured. Whether you write yourself or use an external writer, there are several techniques for writing articles:
- The QQOQCP method consists in building its content around the following questions: What – Who – Where – When – How – Why
- The AIDA method consists in making the reader go through four phases during his reading: attention, interest, desire, action.
In any case, a page must be pleasant to look at, must load quickly and must be based on a single keyword. In short, one page = one intention = one keyword!
When it comes to a product sheet, the use of structured data, tag optimization and the presence of editorial elements are important.
Marc Turkesteen also explained the difference between advertorial and editorial content:
- Advertorial content is intended to generate traffic and conversion. But above all, it answers the question of an Internet user: its goal is not to make the Internet user buy directly;
- An advertorial aims to raise awareness and speaks directly about the brand: news, innovation, etc.
There are many tools to help you during the different steps of content creation: planning tools (Semrush, Cocolyze,…), semantic tools (Yourtext.guru, Seoquantum,…), control and monitoring tools (GSC, Kill Duplicate, Screaming Frog,…). Semactic offers a complete SEO platform to help you take the best actions to optimize the content of your website or your clients’ websites.
To conclude, the latest trends in SEO were discussed: artificial intelligence (AI) assisted writing is making its way, in the form of software such as Jasper.ai. If it can help us find inspiration, it is still advisable to check the texts it produces. AI is not yet ready to replace humans.
In her talk on how to make your content strategy take off on a small budget, Morgane Surlenet of Skribix (@MorganeSurlenet) completes the picture by emphasizing theimportance of context, purpose and target in content writing. Sometimes it’s best to “shake up” your editorial calendar habits: it’s better to detect opportunities for topics as they arise than to predict a complete list of articles in advance.
AI, enemy to fight or ally?
In recent years, AI has made tremendous progress in the field of writing. The current AI, GPT-3, allows
content with impeccable spelling and no syntax errors
. Many editors perceive this tool with distrust: AI do will soon be added to an already long list of competitors? Baptiste Guiraud (@tistou80), creator of the Rédac Academy, explains how AI can help
on the contrary
web editors in their daily work.
L’IA must be above all perceived as an assistant
for the writer web: you need to learn how to use it to produce quality content. The “human touch” is always necessary and irreplaceable for understand the context correctly, the customer and his targetand to add a touch of empathy and creativity.as well as to add a touch of empathy and creativity. Nevertheless, theAI represents an innovation innovation thatthat web editors will have to learn to master to develop their business.
- CSR or Client Site Rendering: the site is loaded in the browser. This method has the advantage of being interactive for the user, but also the disadvantage of making the site not very crawlable.
- SSR or Server Side Rendering: it is an “on demand” loading each time a crawler or an Internet user passes on the site. This makes the site responsive, fast and scalable, but it requires more work on the server side
- Finally, the SSG or Static Site Generator: this is a pre-loading. The site is then fast and crawlable, but interactivity is put in the background.
He There is no real ideal solution. However, Adrien Russo suggests two solutions to apply depending on the volume of the website:
- In the case of a small site: a mixture of SSG and CSR. This allows to have a static page with interactive areas: the site is interactive, fast and crawlable.
- In the case of a large site: you can either opt for full SSR, which is very heavy for the server but solves the problems of crawlability; or opt for ISR which is a mix between SSR and SSG
Want to discuss the latest trends in SEO? Contact the Semactic team, we are always happy to discuss SEO!