Search engine optimization can be divided into two broad categories: on-page optimization and off-page optimization.
The on-page stuff is reasonably straight-forward, in that the optimizer has full control over what they write and what is uploaded to the website. In the simplest possible terms, they have to incorporate key search phrases into the main copy of their website so that Google – and other search engines – can match the site to searches made by the world’s internet users.
The off-page aspect of SEO, however, isn’t so straight forward as it’s often not possible to have full control over the related optimizing activities, as too much depends on the cooperation of external parties.
According to Google, link-building determines around 80% of a website’s placement within its rankings. But it’s all about quality rather than quantity for modern-day optimizers. Whilst there was a time when ‘link exchanges’ were commonplace between website owners to boost their search engine rankings, this is no longer enough. Links must form part of a broader piece of content that is useful. Isolated links have little value, especially on a website that isn’t ‘trusted’ by Google.
So a link from CNN, BBC or Reuters will have considerably more impact than a link from a low-level website at the bottom-end of the Alexa ranking scale.
With international markets, the ‘how tos’ of link-building are much the same as domestic markets, but there is a few additional issues worth considering.
For example, keywords and anchor text go hand-in-hand. So a business that ranks highly on Google for, say, ‘car insurance’, will more than likely have a number of links placed around the Web with ‘car insurance’ linking back to the company website.
When the business launches its foreign language website to target new international markets, there may be a temptation to translate the keywords directly. But even a correct translation by a professional, native-speaking translator might not be what people use to search for ‘car insurance’ locally. Indeed, a quick search of Google’s keyword tool for France reveals that people tend not to use the (correct) translation ‘l’assurance automobile’ to search for ‘car insurance’, they tend to use the abbreviation ‘assurance auto’ or even the variant ‘assurance voiture’. So, a little research can avert a major link building travesty.
As with domestic SEO techniques, there’s no substitute for quality content with your foreign link-building initiatives. Fresh, relevant content with a liberal smattering of industry keywords will be rewarded by Google.
Organic link-building is the dream of any optimizer and if you produce fantastic, useful text on your foreign-language website, other blogs and website owners will link to you naturally with minimal effort from you. A good example of this is software developers Adobe. You’ll notice that many websites link to the free Adobe reader, which is necessary to view PDF documents. As a result, Adobe has one of the highest in-bound link counts of all websites, more than Microsoft and runs through the directories. And their Alexa ranking isn’t all that bad either.
For businesses with domestic and international operations, PR is perhaps your most powerful tool in getting quality, organic links. If anything newsworthy or quirky happens within your business, shout it from the rooftops. It’s free to send out press releases to all the top news publications and if they pick up on the story, the chances are they’ll provide a link to your website. It might even be worth hiring a PR guru for a couple of months who can help identify all the newsworthy aspects of your business and who can then pitch this to domestic news sources. If it works, then you can have the press release translated and dispatched to international publications too. A good PR consultant can even identify and tailor stories specifically for international publications.