Why You Should Optimise Your Website For Global TrafficKenneth Nel
As native English speakers, we can be very arrogant. No, it’s true. I’m the first one to put up my hand. No matter where I go, I expect people to speak my language. Hello, it IS English after all. It’s like the only language that matters, right? What do you mean you don’t parlay Anglais? This is France! That’s, like, in Europe! Which is basically in England. So, what the heck, Dude?
And what is it with website pages that aren’t in English? I’m trying to book a flight on Air France and the darn website is in French! How crazy is that? Surely the Internet is only made up of English speakers? No one outside South Africa, America, Australia and New Zealand is even online, are they?
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It’s okay if this sounds embarrassingly familiar.
Yes, English is the lingua franca of the Internet, but English as a whole is only the fourth most spoken language in the world. Even in America, over 50 million people speak Spanish as their first language. In fact, there are more Spanish-speaking people in the States than there are in Spain! Globally, there are twice as many Mandarin speakers than there are English speakers (over one billion versus about 510 million).
The point I’m making is this:
If you’re looking to attract global customers, you need to optimise your website for global traffic. One of the big ways to do this is to make it available in a language other than English. This doesn’t, however, automatically mean translating it into Chinese. If Chinese people aren’t your potential market, this is just a huge waste of money. The language, or languages, you choose should be based on your target audience demographics.
What is International SEO?
Think of international SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) as a kind of geotargeting. But this time, instead of optimising your website to attract traffic from a particular province or city, you’re optimising it for different languages and countries.
Moz defines it as “the process of optimising your website so that search engines can easily identify which countries you want to target and which languages you use for business.”
But why would you want to do this? It just sounds like a complicated and expensive exercise, right? Why not just carry on doing what you’re doing and keep your website in English? Well, you could. No problemo. Or you could capitalise on the power of the Internet to expand your business (virtually-speaking, at least initially) and attract customers from all over the world. Who knows, your brand might become an international sensation! Globally famous for its quality and all-round awesomeness! Hey, it happened to Coke, it could happen to you.
Or you might just build up a loyal, international group of customers who love your product and order from you regularly. And that’s pretty cool too.
So, if your Analytics reports are showing you that a biggish percentage of your website visitors come from countries other than the one in which you’re located, it’s definitely time to think about optimising your website for global traffic. You want to create the best possible user experience for all your customers, so this means catering for your international visitors in as many ways as you can.
How To Optimise Your Website For Global Traffic
The first thing you have to do is check your English-speaking culture at the door. Most of your expressions and jokes will, at best, sail over the puzzled heads of your overseas visitors. The worst-case scenario is that they will actually cause offence. And that, dear reader, is how you lose customers right there. Do not pass go, do not collect R200.
You also have to reign in that arrogance we were talking about earlier. Blog topics, for example, that might be interesting and relevant to Western, English-speaking readers might be completely boring to a wider, international audience. Remember the golden rule of any website is to write about things that interest your audience, not about the things you want to sell.
So, providing culturally relevant content in the native language of your target audience is a huge first step towards globally optimising your site. It’s not, however, enough. Here are a few other, extremely important areas you need to look at:
Use Local Servers For Hosting
Hosting websites on local servers means they load much faster. Speed is always a huge concern with websites, particularly when you’re trying to attract users from global markets. Depending on their geo-location, some users might have no problem accessing a page at optimal speed, while others might struggle to load the exact same page.
Yes, you could use a CDN (content delivery network). This uses a global network of servers, selected according to the user’s geographic location and the origin of the webpage, to deliver content at much higher speeds that is possible without a CDN. But for optimal website loading times, hosting on a local server is without a doubt your best option.
Use Domain Extensions That Are Country Specific
If your website has a domain appropriate for the region you’re targeting, it is pretty much guaranteed to appear in local searches in that region. For example, if your users are searching from a French IP address, they will probably see a list of .fr websites. They are more likely to trust websites with a local domain they recognise.
Localise Content and Identify Location
When you optimise websites for global traffic, what you’re basically doing is identifying the geographical location of a user, and adapting (or localising) your content accordingly. If you have multiple versions of your website for different regions, you can redirect users to the version appropriate to them by redirecting the IP address. You can also offer the option for users to select their preferred version, after which they are taken to the sub-site within the same domain.
Track Performance Using Multi-Location Monitoring
When multiple servers serve websites across many different regions, downtime and performance issues are common. It’s important to track the functionality using a monitoring service that has multi-location monitoring. When these monitoring servers are placed in different locations around the world, it’s easier to analyse and fix any downtime issues that occur.
How Can I Standardise Performance Across All Markets?
So you’ve taken the plunge and done what you can to optimise your website for a global audience. But you’re frustrated because you rank really well in some markets but, quite honestly, suck in others. Now you’re tearing your hair out wondering how you can fix this.
Fortunately, because I’m such an awesomely helpful person, I have the answer for you! Well, to be completely frank (even though my name is Kenneth) I have found someone who has the answer for you.
Aoife McIllraith, Director of Global Search and Marketing Services at Lionbridge, has this to say:
“The reason most brands do well in their source market is that some level of SEO strategy and effort was applied to that market. But when the sites are localised, you can’t expect to see the same results. It’s just not that simple.”
Because language and search habits differ from region to region, she advises devising a customised, data-driven SEO strategy for each of your markets.
“But this doesn’t mean optimising your entire localised website,” she says. “The 80/20 principle applies – on average, 80 percent of traffic goes to 20 percent of your pages. So put your effort and budget into proper on-page optimisation for that 20 percent.”
It’s important to remember that any optimisation should be done according to the best practices defined for the top search engine in that particular market. This means not only considering Google but Baidu for Chinese markets, Yandex in Russian markets, Yahoo in Japan and Naver in South Korea.
“It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach,” says Aoife. “Each search engine has its own multilingual SEO requirements.”
So Here’s The Bottom Line
Okay, so technically, here are the last few lines above the bottom line, and the bottom line itself, but you know what I mean! Optimising your website for global traffic is a multi-pronged approach. You can’t just get away with translating your content – although that is an awesome place to start!
You also have to look at the way in which your website is coded, for example. Get that wrong, and you’re really going to struggle to rank not only with search engines but also on app stores and other places people might otherwise discover your brand.
If you’re looking to expand your brand appeal to a wider, global audience, and would like a little help getting the ball rolling, chat to the Digital Coach. We know all about optimising your website for global traffic, and we’re super excited about sharing this knowledge with you. So, call us, send us an email, or (and this is our very favourite way to connect with our customers) pop in personally. We’re really friendly. And we know how to get you more global traffic. Why are you not here yet?