SEO can be very challenging, there is a lot of things to consider when embarking on this kind of projects and a lot of which can go wrong. Of course there are some basic principles and considerations but what I’m going to talk about in detail today are some of the biggest challenges you are likely to face when working on SEO projects.
As with many situations in Search Engine Optimisation you will be faced with multiple choices and there will be no single straightforward answer. There will be no such thing as the “right answer”. In fact, the answer you will hear most often will be: “it depends’.
Subdomains vs Folders vs Separate Domains
One of the main considerations will be the structure of your website. You will need to decide which format will be best for you, not just best for SEO but best for the users and what’s most important best for the business.
So let’s imagine we have an eCommerce shop operating in Germany, UK and Italy, your structure can look like so:
There is a number of pros and cons to this solution, the main disadvantage from the SEO perspective will be that subdomains do not pass the links juice as well as subdirectories. In fact they can be considered as a separate websites.
On the plus site, I think it makes it quite easy for the users to understand which version of your site they are on. Subdomains are also quite easy to set up
There are even easier to set up than subdomains and have a big advantage from the SEO perspective when it comes to benefiting from inbound links. Links coming to pages in subdirectories will pass on the link juice to the domain as a whole.
The cons of subdirectories are that they are no as user friendly as the ccTLD or a subdomains.
So in this scenario you are using different country specific top level domain for each version of your site, for example:
The advantage here would be user experience, your visitors will clearly see which version are they on. Having a separate domain for each county could also positively affect your click through rates as it definitely add credibility. When I search, especially when it comes to shopping, I will almost always choose .co.uk(I live in UK). The disadvantage of this solution is that it would require the most work to implement and maintain the SEO campaigns. You will effectively have three different websites to do SEO on.
So which one should you choose? There is no simple answer to thus question. You will need to consider all the factors and the choice will depend on your unique circumstances, and resources.
Translation & Localisation
This will be by far the most time and resource consuming challenge of international SEO, especially when it comes to big eCommerce sites. Just imagine translating 10,000 product descriptions.
Cutting corners and using automated translation software will be terrible for user experience. Poor grammar and unnatural text is not going to help with user experience. This is why getting a proper, high quality translation is important, the best way is to get a native speakers to work on your project. Someone with a local knowledge can also help with localisation.
Local rankings and local search engines
Depending on which market will your website be located you may find yourself working with a different search algorithms.
The way things work on the .co.uk version of Google may be slightly different to Spanish or Bulgarian versions. If you talk to SEO consultants from different countries you will quickly realise that different techniques can be more or less efficient there. You will also notice that some of the techniques considered as “outdated” in one market can be still working in another. To make things even more complicated in some countries you will find that users are using a completely different search engine, like Baidu in China for example.
So the first challenge is working with a different algorithms which may require you to focus on a different ranking signals.
This may require a completely different approach to your SEO campaigns. Another challenge is local search ecosystems. Search engines will use a set of different websites from which they gather data for their local search results.
So for example, here you have the local search ecosystem for UK. This can be completely different to the one search engines will use for Bulgaria or Germany.
As you can see, international SEO is quite challenging. A lot of things to consider and a lot of work to do. No wonder we SEO’s have to constantly work on getting better and improving our skills. You will definitely need them as well as additional resources to successfully work on international SEO projects.