Google rankings change based on the Google domain you search on. These domains mostly represent countries or regions (e.g. Google.cat = “Catalonia”) in their according language. Currently there are about 200 different Google domains.
Usually you would assume that search queries in Google.co.uk are typed in English, in Google.fr in French, and so on. Therefore, a common goal is to optimize a page for a specific market in one language.
What if your target group in a certain market is using different language settings than expected?
Maybe you want to target your English speaking target group in Germany (Google.de) – or Polish speakers in the UK (Google.co.uk). Plenty of expats, emigrants and other decision makers are used to navigate in their native language using the local Google domain.
The SERP they are seeing can be utterly different from the “native” language version. On the one hand, Google will consider different sites based on the language settings. On the other hand, the keyword meaning and, therefore, search context can change based on the language used.
Now, how can you optimize your site for a specific Google domain in different languages?
As always in SEO, preparation is key. Your website must be well prepared for search engines and users. This means no blocking robots.txt, a user-friendly navigation menu URL structure. It is recommended to create market specific subdomain or subdirectory. (Here is what Google says regarding the URL choice for multilingual sites).
An absolute must is localized content. Fresh, useful and appealing content can help your website in many ways. In the age of social media, extraordinary content can spread quickly and boost a site’s visibility. Consider native writers and expert content, otherwise, language dissonances could harm your ranking for certain local search queries see page.
Once your site structure and content are to your satisfaction, make sure that Google knows about the different language versions and doesn’t get confused by using the Hreflang attribute.
|“The value of the hreflang attribute identifies the language (in ISO 639-1 format) and optionally the region (in ISO 3166-1 Alpha 2 format) of an alternate URL.”|
For example: en : English content, independent of region.
We should not forget about the backlink profile either. Local quality (and on-topic) backlinks are still inevitable. A well constructed page with useful content will often lead to relevant backlinks from the target market by itself.
Country targeting is widely used to target a specific market. When it comes to websites in multiple languages, the focus on one market (Google domain) could be a conflict. For example, you wouldn’t want to target Poland for the Polish version of the website. The reason behind this is that you might lose rankings for queries in Polish on Google.co.uk). Therefore you have to make sure that Google Search Console is not set to target specific markets (please also see image below). Otherwise it is difficult to rank on Google SERPs outside your targeted location.
Follow the recommendations above and you will have good chances to show up for different languages (Google settings) and according queries on the targeted Google domain.
The most important points summarized:
Do you have any market specific experiences? Can you think of other ways to positively influence the SERP in this scenario? Please share in the comment section below.