02.06.2023

SEO & Paid Media

The role of localised content in international SEO

16 min read

Jim

The role of localised content in international SEO

This article aims to provide an overview of some of the SEO considerations to keep in mind when expanding your website into a new region or language. When companies expand their reach into global markets, it is critical they also adapt their digital strategies to connect with local audiences effectively. A crucial part of this is implementing an effective international SEO strategy, with localised content a key component to its success.

When targeting diverse markets and cultures, providing content tailored to specific regions and languages is essential to hitting your marketing and SEO goals.

Many don’t realise that localising content goes beyond simple translation; it involves adapting your website, messaging, and user experience to resonate with local audiences. On top of this, localising content with SEO in mind also comes with its fair share of challenges, particularly on the server side.

Does your website CMS support international SEO?

Optimising the “back-end” of your website involves several technical aspects, such as:

  • Implementing proper hreflang tags so search engines know which pages are for which region 
  • Managing XML sitemaps so content can be easily crawled and indexed by search engines
  • Structuring URLs for different languages and regions to provide an organised structure
  • Providing seamless language switcher tools for users, to improve CX
  • Grouping content in your CMS so it is easy to find and make add or change specific regional or language content
  • Segmenting your reporting to compare different regional/language content

These challenges have historically posed significant obstacles, especially when working with content management systems (CMS) lacking built-in solutions.

While there are CMS tools with the capabilities to localise content, finding a solution that combines these features with an intuitive interface isn’t so straightforward. 

How the HubSpot CMS supports international SEO

As a HubSpot partner, we work closely with the HubSpot CMS and have been working with its multi language content tool since it launched in 2016.

This tool is personally one of my favourite features in the HubSpot CMS. 

Having worked in SEO since 2013, I’ve come into contact with a lot of different CMSs - from enterprises using AEM, SiteCore, and Drupal to smaller companies using WordPress, Squarespace, Webflow or even a bespoke custom system.

HubSpot was the first time I had seen a built-in solution that didn’t require custom development, specialist training, installing a plugin or paying an additional cost. It just simply works. 

With its comprehensive features, this HubSpot multi-language tool streamlines the process of backend SEO concerns and allows your marketing, SEO, and content teams to “set it and forget it” and focus on other priorities.

In this article, we will explore the importance of localised content in international SEO, delve into the challenges associated with back-end optimisation concerns, and highlight the value of the HubSpot multi-language content tool as a pivotal solution. 

By understanding these fundamental aspects, you can unlock the potential of international markets and foster meaningful connections with diverse audiences.

The importance of localised content in international SEO

First, let’s consider why companies should be building out separate pages for their audiences using different languages or located in different regions. 

Creating separate website pages for international markets enables companies to engage with those local audiences, but is only truly effective if it contains content that is personalised and relevant. 

Imagine the frustration of looking up information about a product, only to find that while basic information is available in your language, the price has not been localised, requiring you to do the conversion manually. This could all be avoided with properly localised content.

When potential customers visit a website that speaks their native language, reflects their cultural values, and addresses their specific needs, they are more likely to trust the brand and engage with its offerings. This fosters a stronger connection and increases the likelihood of conversion.

Additionally, localised content helps companies overcome language barriers and effectively communicate their value proposition to international audiences. 

By speaking the language of the target market, companies can convey their message accurately, showcase their expertise, and build credibility. This linguistic alignment establishes a foundation of trust, positioning the brand as a reliable and relevant solution for local customers.

But localised content also plays a vital role in search engine optimisation. 

Search engines, including Google, consider relevance a crucial ranking factor. When businesses optimise their website with localised content that incorporates target keywords in the local language, they increase their visibility in search engine results for relevant queries. 

They are widening the scope of keywords for which the site could potentially rank, giving them more sources of generating organic traffic. 

When the content is in the language of the keyword search or talks specifically about the region being searched from, this especially increases the chances of attracting organic traffic from those geographical regions and driving valuable leads. Furthermore, localised content improves the user experience by providing content that is familiar, relatable, and culturally appropriate. 

It considers local nuances, preferences, and customs, ensuring that the website resonates with the target audience on a deeper level. A positive user experience leads to increased engagement, longer browsing sessions, lower bounce rates, and higher chances of conversion. 

And if you’re keeping the users on your website instead of them returning to the search engine, you are likely to be rewarded with higher rankings for that search next time. 

Back-end website optimisation concerns in international SEO

While creating localised content is essential for international SEO success, you must also address various concerns in the back end to ensure your website is properly optimised for global reach. 

These challenges can significantly impact search engine visibility, user experience, and ultimately, the success of international SEO efforts.

How many localised pages should I create? 

The first thing to realise is that you’re going to need to build out separate pages for each region or language you want to target

It’s a misconception that similar results could be achieved in “quicker” ways such as:

  • Having a plug-in or tool serve a translated copy of your pages automatically based on the IP of the user
  • Creating alternative translations of content on the page and delivering it via smart content based on the IP of the user
  • Or relying on users having their own browser plugin to automatically translate websites for them. 

The problem with these approaches is that search engines only see the primary, English language version of the page, and ignore the translations. Or the search engine would see all the different language variants of your copy on a single page, which would be very confusing indeed!

Only building out a handful of pages for your most important content

The issue here is that it doesn’t provide the best user experience. Either you end up creating a mini-version of your main website that doesn’t offer all the features and helpful information of your main site, or worse you have a mix of translated and untranslated content, leaving users flipping between different regional content and severely disrupting their experience. 

So, although it will take more time and effort to build and manage, our recommendation is to have your regional sites match the layout and structure of your main site, by creating a regional version of each page. 

Deploying hreflang

One critical aspect of international SEO is implementing the hreflang attribute. 

Hreflang tags signal to search engines the language and regional targeting of each page, ensuring that the appropriate version appears in search results for users in different locations. 

They also specify the URLs of all the regional variations of the page along with which language and region they are intended for. 

Without proper hreflang implementation, search engines may struggle to understand and display the correct language and regional variations of your content. Or worse, they see your regional variations as duplicate content and don’t include them in the results. 

Hreflang tags can either be deployed on the pages themselves or be managed through XML sitemaps. Our recommendation is to have them on the pages themselves, as it is easier to validate if there are issues or mismatches when comparing pages. 

How should I structure my international website? 

There is a lot of debate over which approach is best

Separate domains per country: 

  • website.co.uk for UK
  • website.fr for France 
  • website.de for Germany etc.

One Domain using separate subdomains per language/region:

  • uk.website.com for UK
  • fr.website.com for France
  • de.website.com for Germany etc.

One Domain using separate subdirectories per language/region:

  • website.com/en-gb/ for UK
  • website.com/fr-fr/ for France
  • website.com/de-de/ for Germany etc.

This infographic provides a great overview of the pros and cons of each approach. 

Structuring a site for international SEO

 

Generally, we recommend taking the subdirectory approach. 

It’s important that your website uses a consistent URL structure with the correct language and country codes that search engines will recognise. By including language or country-specific subfolders in the URL, such as "/en/" for English or "/fr/" for French, companies can effectively categorise and target their content. 

This approach not only helps search engines recognise and index language-specific pages but also aids users in identifying the content relevant to their preferred language or region.

Finally, we recommend that URLs are all in English. 

Whilst this misses out on the tiny SEO benefit you may receive by localising your URLs, it makes it substantially easier to see which pages are equivalent to each other and can make analytics reporting and comparing the performance of different variants at a glance significantly easier. 

We think that’s worth sacrificing a small amount of potential SEO benefit for. 

Providing a language switcher for users

A seamless language switcher tool is vital for optimising the user experience. This allows visitors to easily toggle between different language versions of a website, facilitating navigation and content consumption. 

Implementing an intuitive language switcher tool ensures that users can effortlessly access the desired language variant.

They should be able to access the equivalent of the page they were on in the language of their choice - the switcher should not just divert them to the homepage. But setting this up can require additional time and effort in other, non-HubSpot solutions

The value of HubSpot’s multi language content tool

The HubSpot multi language content tool, a feature of the HubSpot CMS, stands out as an invaluable solution for companies grappling with these back-end challenges to achieving international SEO best practice. 

HubSpot’s tool offers a streamlined approach to address challenges related to hreflang implementation, URL subfoldering, and language switcher tools, essentially enabling all of these features to be deployed with minimal effort from the website manager.

One of the key benefits of the HubSpot multi language content tool is its ability to simplify hreflang implementation. By automatically generating and inserting the necessary hreflang tags once you’ve specified the country and language a page is intended for, it can save you valuable time and effort. 

In terms of URL subfoldering, the HubSpot tool provides a seamless way to organise and structure your content variants. Content is organised with a master page for the main site and the variations are clearly tagged with language and region. This allows marketers to quickly and easily navigate to the correct page to make edits.

 

URL subfolering

 

The framework of the page can be quickly created from the master variant in a couple of clicks, meaning all that’s left to do to build out a page is translate, localise and update the content itself. 

The language-specific or country-specific subfolders within the URL structure are automatically defined when you specify your language and country, eliminating the chance of human error-causing mismatches. 

Furthermore, the HubSpot multi language content tool offers built-in language switcher functionality, allowing visitors to effortlessly switch between different language variants. It will only offer the variant to a user if a page actually exists. 

With the ability to customise the appearance and placement of the language switcher, companies can ensure a seamless navigation experience for users.

This smooth user experience fosters engagement, reduces bounce rates, and increases the likelihood of conversions, contributing to a positive overall user journey.

Let HubSpot’s multilanguage content tool empower your team

Overall, the HubSpot multi language content tool empowers your team to create an international website that follows SEO best practice and maintains consistency and brand integrity across multiple language versions, in an easy and manageable way. 

This allows for efficient content management, ensuring that updates, changes, and additions to the website can be easily synchronised across different languages and regions. 

And the time saved having to develop, deploy and test solutions to achieve these goals, were you to use another CMS, can instead be channelled into making your pages localised, with region-specific content, examples, case studies and other features that will engage users better and drive conversions. 

Finally, HubSpot provides the ability to gather valuable insights through its integrated analytics tools. 

Along with its built-in reporting features, its integrations with Google Analytics and Google Search Console mean you can access even more data on website performance, user behaviour, and keyword rankings specific to each language version. 

These insights enable you to refine your international SEO strategies, make data-driven decisions, and identify opportunities for optimisation and expansion in target markets.

How Huble can help

From the above, it is clear that implementing localised content in international SEO can be complex and challenging. 

The intricacies of language, culture, and regional preferences require careful research, planning, and execution. However, the rewards are substantial, with increased visibility, engagement, and conversions in target markets around the world.

The HubSpot platform certainly helps make this easier, but if you’re using another CMS or have not done this before, it can be hard to know the best approach to take. 

As an expert SEO consultancy, we’re here to help you navigate this intricate landscape and ensure the successful implementation of international SEO strategies.

.Our team possesses the knowledge, experience, and tools necessary to guide you through the complexities of localised content, keyword optimisation, and technical implementation.

At Huble, we’ve helped companies unlock the power of international SEO. Our dedicated team of SEO experts can assist you in implementing a robust international SEO strategy tailored to your unique business objectives. 

Speak with our team today and let us help you expand your global reach and connect with customers worldwide.

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