Foreign Language SEO

Bob is from United States and speaks English, along with some Hebrew and Spanish. Alice is from Romania and speaks Romanian, English, and some French. Why does this matter? There are concerns— Both from a language angle, as well ad some interesting technical caveats— when one decides to target foreign users with search engine marketing. Here we will discuss about the most pertinent factors in foreign search engine optimization.

The internet is a globalized economy. Web sites can be hosted and contain anything that the author would like to publish. Users are free to peruse pages or order items from any country. There are some exceptions, but in general, to enhance user experience, a search engine may treat web sites from the same region in the same language as the user preferentially.

Foreign Language Optimization Tips

Needless to say, Internet marketing presents many opportunities; and nothing stops a search engine marketer from targeting customers from other countries and/or languages. However, he or she should be aware of a few things, and use all applicable cues to indicate properly tothe search engine which language and region a site is focused on. First of all, if you aim at a foreign market, it is essential to employ a competent copywriting service to author or translate your content to a particular foreign language. He or she should know how to translate for the specific market you are targeting. American Spanish, for example, is somewhat different than Argentine Spanish. Even proper translation may be riddled with problems. Foreign language search behavior often differs by dialect, and using the common terminology is key.

Indicating Language and Region

A webmaster should use the lang attribute in a meta tag, or inside an enclosing span or div tag in HTML. Search engines may be able to detect language reasonably accurately, but this tag also provides additional geographical information. The language codes es-mx, es-us, and es-es represent Spanish from Mexico, the United States, and Spain, respectively. This is helpful, because a language dialect and region cannot be detected easily, if at all, just by examining the actual copy. Here’s an example:

Use ‘<span lang=”es-us”>CONTENT</span>’ to indicate language in a particular text region.

Or:

Use ‘<meta lang=”es-us”> in the header (“<head>”) section of the page to indicate language of the entire page.

A few examples of languages and region modifiers.

English en-AU (Australia), en-CA (Canada), en-GB (UK), en-US (United States), en-HK (Hong Kong)
German de-AT (Austria), de-BE (Belgium), de-CH (Switzerland), de-DE (Germany)
French fr-CA (Canada), fr-CH (Switzerland), fr-FR (France), fr-MC (Monaco)
Spanish es-AR (Argentina), es-CU (Cuba), es-ES (Spain), es-MX (Mexico), es-US (United States)
Japanese ja (Japan)

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