• http://www.andrewblackburn.co.uk AndyBlackburn

    I love how you avoided one of the main problem countries… the one with NO official language. Swiss-French, Swiss-German, Swiss-Italian and in 1% of the country, Swiss-Romanian… ohh, and they all speak English too.

    You get used to using the hl/gl Google operators quite quickly when playing around in Switzerland ;)

  • ianeke

    Although your article points out some very valid points of attention in initiating a multilingual SEO campaign, I think you’re exaggerating the cultural and intrinsic linguistic differences. Depending on the search intention, Europeans aren’t that different then let’s say Asians. If you’re looking for a brand new JVC LCD television, you will search on the keywords JVC LCD television, if you’re looking for a relaxing holiday to whatever country you like, you will search on a combination of holiday and a certain geo location. If your looking for some nice running shoes, you will search on Nike running shoes etc. etc

    In my experience the real challenge of a multilingual SEO optimization is simply resources. Are you willing to spend the money necessary for acquiring all necessary TLD’s? Are you willing to write country specific unique (not simply translated) content? Does your budget allow you to execute country specific linkbuilding and link baiting tactics?

    Nice addition to make things even more complex; ever tried to optimized for a specific ethnic population within a certain country?;)

    Note: differences in culture, language, tone of voice etc. are things which need to be taken into account when optimizing for conversions and user experience though. But this is even the case when optimizing for just one country..

  • Dennis Goedegebuure

    Good article Bas,
    What is helping you in Europe, is that you ‘hardly’ would have to optimize for other search engines than Google.
    The Big G is so dominant on the old continent, that whenever you rank high in a certain country on your main keywords, you’re almost done. Scary thought sometimes.

    What is interesting, is that sometimes you can rank high in let’s say Google.be on certain keywords, while you are targeting the NL market with your site. Even when you have the country set up in Webmaster central, you still have the chance of ranking in BE, while not ranking in NL.

    Furthermore, I’ve seen an increase of English language sites on competitive terms in the Dutch market. It’s true that most Dutch are speaking English, but if I’m Dutch, and would like some information on San Francisco, what’s the point in ranking the local newspapers in SF?
    This seems to be a reverse problem what has been described by Vanessa Fox here: http://www.ninebyblue.com/blog/making-geotargeted-content-findable-for-the-right-searchers/

    Cheers

    Dennis

  • Axxando

    A brilliant article. I work for a Swiss real estate online marketplace I could tell you stories on this for hours.

    Maintaining a web site in 4 languages does make it all a little more complicated. You want to add a better warning text? Have it translated! You need to add a feature? Have it translated. Plus the latin languages French and Italian usually have about 1.5 times the length of German –> adopt your design! Customer Service? Employees must speak at least 2 languages –> higher staff costs. Searching for houses with different city names for every languages must be possible. Using price variables in a text? Well the price is to show up in different formats and on different places within the sence for every single language…

    And this is just a national platform. Hard to imaging what it would like to properly do it for Germans, Austrians, Italians, French. We currently use language parameters like de, fr, it and en. Going international would we change it to the official culture codes like de-de, de-at, de-ch, fr-fr, fr-ch, it-it, it-ch,…

    Thanks again for this article – I liked it very much.

  • http://www.thuk.c.o.uk Splinter09

    I’ve doing SEO in Europe now for the past 4 years, mainly in the UK, but recently I started to work for a private client here in Spain. I do speak fluent Spanish and I noticed that even though there 4 different languages here, the majority of the Searches are done in Castellano, prof to that is that we had enquiries from places like Bilbao (Basc Country) and Barcelona as well as from places in our area which is Valencia, and most people speak Valenciano.
    I also use Google KeywordTool and If you add terms in Catallan or Basc, you will see that search volume is not significant.
    My point is despite the fact that there are let’s say 4 different languages spoken here ins Spain, the majority of the Searches are done in the Official Language which is Castellano or Spanish if you prefer.

  • http://blog.teammatelabs.com/ moroandrea

    Completely agree with you. And I also add that Italian are stubborn as well, and also so much stupid to don’t understand at all the difference of a good web site from a worse one, or to invest in SEO (Trust an italian guy :) )

  • http://www.searchcowboys.com Bas van den Beld

    First of all, thanks everybody for all the comments, I’m glad (most of you) liked it.

    Let me start by emphasizing one thing. What I’m trying to say that its not just about language. There is also a cultural aspect in it. Yes, you can have searchers from all over Spain searching in Castallan, but try offering those from Barcelona a patriotic item you won’t sell anything. That is something you have to take into account next to the language issues.

    @AndyBlackburn you’re right, Switzerland is a very good example, I think it would have fitted well in this article, and so would have been Italy for that matter :). I could have added lots more examples I think :).

    @ianeke off course you can feel like I’m exaggerating, but I don’t agree with you on that. I don’t know where you are from, but ask an Austrian for example if they would buy from a German site and most of the times they will say no. As for the search terms: yes, for a branded search you are right, but even in that area you should do research. In Belgium for example they are looking for plasma televisions a lot less than in Holland, while the language is similar. Even within languages you can find differences.

    @Dennis yes, you’re right, we only have Google (which actually is something I would like to see otherwise). That does make it easier! Good point you also make about he Belgian and Dutch rankings, really adds on to what I hoped to explain. The last issue you direct is very much related to the UK SERPS issue I talked about in an earlier post. It seems as if that’s Google’s new policy. But that’s a different discussion, but certainly something to keep in mind.

    @Axxando very good examples again, who said optimizing for one country is easy, let alone the whole of Europe? ;)

    @Splinter09 as I said before, its not just about language, but also about culture. With that in mind a search in Castellan might come from Barcelona, but might have other intentions.

    @moroandrea not just Italians are stubborn, what about the French or the Dutch ;)

  • http://www.semseomag.com sem seo mag

    Hello, this is SemSeoMag.com from France.
    You should just add two tips to your excellent post :
    - Local domain names (.fr,.be,.de etc…) are really better for SEO
    and most important : You have to find a local web hosting for each european countries you are targetting, just because Google love to find Local ip’s.
    Best regards, Thibaut http://www.semseomag.com

  • Igwe Aneke

    @ Bas: We could be neighbours, i’m also from the Netherlands;)
    And don’t get me wrong…country specific keyword research is crucial for your succes ratio. Notebook and laptop for example are classical examples of differences in search trends between Dutch and German target audiences. And underestimating the possible psychological effect of a TLD extension on CTR’s can also be a recipe for failure.

    Nevertheless I strongly believe intrinsic language and keyword differences to be minor issues in initiating and managing an international multilingual SEO campaign. As Axxando already mentioned, the managing and resources part can be challenging sometimes.

  • sm911

    By far the best domain names for SEO is .com whether you are doing a local or a global SEO.

  • http://www.more-qualified-leads.com JenB

    A very good choice of topic Bas. It’s true we have a only a few hours driving in a car before the language changes. Or at least the dialect. :)