Unfortunately, There Is No Manual For Multinational SEO

That was the response I gave a few hours ago to a packed room of attendees in a full day workshop on Search Marketing here in Delhi India. During the afternoon workshop that was more of an open Q&A site clinic format, the majority of the questions were about multinational SEO.

While I was able to answer most of the questions and had resources on multinational SEO here in Search Engine Land, the reality is there is no manual or primary resource for current and relevant information on the challenges and solutions to multilingual search marketing.

All of the contributors to this multinational search column try to document and explain how to overcome many of these challenges in 700 words but that is not always easy. There is also never a “one size fits all” or even a “one size fits most” answer to these problems.

As I noted in last months column, there have been improvements with conferences adding sessions or now whole tracks as in the case with Andy’s International Search Summit day at SMX West’s and my mini road show here in India and other markets has demonstrated the need for the following:

Convene A “Challenges Of Multinational SEO Round Table”

Not sure how many know but a little more than 2 years ago, SES San Francisco hosted a round table outside of the conference of top Flash Optimization experts, Google, Flash developers from large brands, the Flash Evangelist and developers from Adobe and representatives from Google.

Our goal was to try and understand the challenges of Flash and how the collective community could solve these problems. We were successful, all parties involved, for the first time, really understood what the “real” challenges were and how to collaborate to fix them.

The outcome was the “Google Flash headless player”, the launch of the Adobe SEO Technology Center and an education of the Flash developer community at SXSW and at Adobe’s MAX developer conference.

I propose we do the same thing for multilingual SEO community. We can do it at an upcoming event and bring in folks from Search, CMS, Localization and Webmasters along with the major engines and try to sort this out.

It was the catalyst for innovation, understanding and most importantly education for the Flash challenge and should be able to do the same for the global community. If you have ideas or recommendations for attendees post them below or email them to me. I will keep you posted on how this progresses.

Get Search Engines To Document Best Practices & Recommendations

While Google does have some information on how it handles multilingual sites, most is scattered across a number of posts. While Google support has felt this is sufficient, I can tell you from the wider practitioner community it is not – not by a long shot. I am not bashing Google since they have made an attempt, more than other engines but since they are the dominate engine in many counties that is the only engine some care about.

What I am asking for us an multilingual version of the Google SEO Starter Guide that documents all of the key attributes from each search engines perspective across the key factors of indexing, relevance, language detection and suggestions for challenges for languages such as English and Spanish which overlap between countries.

I would be more than happy to help work on this and as a start I will combine a number of documents I have and my attempt to aggregate recommendations from the engines into a first draft and then leverage crowdsourcing to try to expand the content.

Educate The IT Infrastructure & Development Community

In the session today were four developers from a large outsource Web development company. They work on sites for a number of large brands and their primary reason for attending was to learn how to develop complex global websites, from the first line of code, to be search friendly.

This is one of the few times I have heard developers trying to be proactive about search. It is not surprising since I have seen an increase rise in lawsuits against development companies that have not made sites search friendly.

The challenge for developers of global sites is most of the time they are just not aware of the problems that are created due to language, hosting and many of the ways sites try to serve appropriate content to visitors via detecting language preference or country.

There is no documentation on server configuration issues, language handling, and challenges with using .com vs.  country TLD’s – none of which is taught in any IT or Webmaster formal education program.

Develop Multilingual SEM Tools

A huge frustration and major rant that I feel coming on is the lack of multilingual tools for SEM and especially SEO. Why is it so hard for (especially US developers) to accommodate for international character handling, engine selection or even algorithm compliance scoring factors?

I have been asking a number of tool developers to make them UTF-8 compliant so that you can view the output in Chinese, Japanese or Russian yet none of them are willing – I have even offered to pay for the developer time to make the updates.

The response is the same – we don’t see a market for it and the sad part – none have ever really looked. I struggle with how to convince them to make the investment, which is often a relatively simple update.

Forwarding potential customers to them – many cases large companies wanting to buy a dozen licenses. The result has been the creation of a lot of home grown tools that are not available to a wider SEO community or are in the local language and not been localized into English.

I propose that after the round table and the best practice documents are created we identify a wish list of tools and applications for the global search community make the case for the need. I think we can leverage the SEMPO community to help identify local tools and opportunity’s for collaboration to get some global-friendly applications in place.

Grass Roots Passion & Collaboration

The reality is global is not going away and it is going to take a radical shift in thinking and collaboration on the part of many of the siloed constituents to make the changes necessary to be successful and truly maximize the opportunities on a global level.

If you agree and want to help move this idea forward, let me know. It is going to take the passion and efforts of many from all of the disciplines to make a dent in the challenges but it has to start somewhere.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Multinational Search


About The Author: is currently the President of Back Azimuth Consulting and co-author of Search Engine Marketing Inc. His personal blog is whunt.com.

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  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/jpandian Jey Pandian

    Hi Bill,
    I agree that we should make an effort to consolidate information on multilingual seo. I’d love to help out. Please feel free to contact me.

  • IanHarris

    Bill, we should write one. We have a multiulingual paid search tool, but we use a lot of third party tools for SEO, many of which have limited multilingual support.

  • http://www.loscuadernosdejulia.com Julie Delvaux


    It is great to see this article coming now. I have been looking into Multilingual PPC/SEO since 2007: I am a native speaker in Russian and speak/read in a few European languages, so this was naturally a topic that drew my attention. I can only speak for a fraction of the market, which is Russian, but here goes:

    “The response is the same – we don’t see a market for it and the sad part – none have ever really looked. I struggle with how to convince them to make the investment, which is often a relatively simple update”.

    They evidently feel that there is no point in adapting software for, say, Russian market because Yandex is going very strong and they’d lose money if they tried. While it is true that Yandex is the leading SE in Russia, and most popular because it has extentisively plagiarised on Google’s ideas to adapt them to the Russian language (syntax, for instance), it doesn’t mean there is no room for competition. I have looked at Yandex.Metrics, which is supposed to be akin to Google Analytics, but it doesn’t provide me with half of the data I need, although it also provides with some data that Google doesn’t.

    I absolutely believe in multilingual SEO, partly because of my interest in Semantic Web, which is why I have started writing my own blog in both English and Russian. Since you are someone who wants to push this forward, I am only happy to join forces with you.

    Julia (http://www.loscuadernosdejulia.com/)

  • http://polyanadeoliveira.com _polyana

    Hi Bill,

    Great post! I experience the same problems working in multilingual markets myself.

    I’m based in São Paulo, Brazil, and would love to participate in any meetings you intend to host at upcoming events. Keep us posted!

  • http://dynamical.biz/blog/ Ani Lopez

    This is not a manual, it is a presentation but it covers all the topics about international & multilingual SEO http://www.slideshare.net/anilopez/seo-for-multilanguage-international-projects

    Maybe I should convert it to a manual style document,


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