Guide global B2B SEO
Guide for B2B companies who want to plan and implement the global rollout!
Guide search engine optimization global B2B companies
SEO is the process of optimizing your website for different countries, regions of the world and/or different languages in order to get additional organically generated visitors. This includes creating and optimizing website versions in different countries/languages/regions. This, in turn, enables search engines to identify which countries/languages you are targeting and select and rank the most appropriate content based on audience location.
In this guide, we'll look at how to properly implement search engine optimization for your B2B business. But first...
Evaluate your needs first!
Search engine optimization for a global rollout is complicated and takes time and effort. So before you start investing resources there, you need to analyze your business to determine if you really need to go international.
This analysis is based on bare facts and logic. All you need to do is look at your company, paying attention to the following:
- its size
- the location of your target audience
- Your ability to deliver products and services globally
If your business is small and operates only within the country where you are located, international search engine optimization is unlikely to help you generate more revenue. What good is a page in Chinese if you don't ship products to China?
However, if your business is an international company that supplies customers all over the world, then international search engine optimization will help increase your revenue and outrank your local competitors in search.
If you are only thinking about entering international markets, you should divide your efforts wisely: Sure, international search engine optimization will help you rank better and increase your brand awareness, but it can also be a waste of time if you hit the wrong region/language. To avoid this, you should first conduct market research to find out where most of your potential customers are located and what language(s) they speak.
Once you are done with the analysis and are sure that you need a multilingual website, it is time to develop your international SEO strategy.
Decide on the right targeting method
The way you target your international audiences will determine most of your further international SEO routine, so it is advisable to start with this aspect.
There are two types of international targeting:
- Language targeting - you target audiences based on the language of their search queries, regardless of where they are from;
- Country targeting - targeting audiences based on their location, regardless of the language of the query.
Language targeting is suitable for companies whose business goals and web presence are not so dependent on users' location. For example, you ship goods worldwide from a single warehouse or offer some non-physical products. In this case, the only thing you care about is that users get information in the language they speak.
Country-specific targeting is suitable for businesses that are highly dependent on their location. For example, if your customers need to visit your brick-and-mortar store for some reason. Or if a country's laws force you to change the way you operate in that country (as was the case with Apple in France when French law forced them to put EarPods in iPhone cases).
You can also combine language and country if it makes sense for your business (for example, if you operate in multilingual countries like Canada, the US, etc.).
Choose a URL structure for your international website
There are several options to choose from for the URL structure of an international website:
country code top-level domains (ccTLDs). Example: bosch.de, bosch.it.
subdomains. Example: de.domain.com
subdirectories. Example: addidas.com/fr/, yahoo.com/id/.
general top-level domains (gTLDs) with language parameters. Example: domain.com/?lang=en-us.
For a standard international SEO approach, it is recommended to choose a structure option based on the type of international targeting you have chosen. For example, if you decide on a country-specific alignment, ccTLDs are the best option as they are a unique indication of location. If you decide to go with a language-specific alignment, consider using subdirectories. This way, you can target multiple sites that are connected through a single language.
You can also use a combination of methods if your target audience is a mix of audiences. Imagine you are targeting French-speaking users in Canada. In this case, you have the following options:
- ccTLDs + subdirectory: mysite.ca/fr/
- Subdirectory for regional languages: mysite.com/ca-fr/
- multiple subdirectories: mysite.com/ca/en/
- ccTLDs + language parameters: mysite.ca/?lang=en
- gTLDs + language parameters: mysite.com/?lang=en-ca
- Subdomain + subdirectory: ca.mysite.com/en/
- Subdomain + language parameters: ca.mysite.com/?lang=en
Regardless of which structure you choose, make sure that the hierarchy between the different versions of your website is simple and intuitive to understand, and that it is easy to search and index.
implement hreflang tags
Implementing hreflang tags is the most important part of the international SEO process. Hreflang (or hreflang annotations) is an HTML attribute. It tells search engines in which languages your content is available and under which URLs it can be found. These annotations also indicate country affiliation, so Google knows in which country your pages should be displayed.
There are several ways to use hreflang tags on your website: in the HTML header, in the sitemap, and in the HTTP header. The choice of method is up to you, but each of them has its own specifics.
- For relatively small websites that have a limited number of language/regional versions, placing hreflang information in the HTML header is the best option.
- Placing hreflang tags in XML sitemaps is the best option for large websites with many language versions. (Adding too many lines of HTML code can slow down the site)
- Using hreflang in the HTTP header is best for non-HTML files such as .pdf, .doc, etc.
Best practices when implementing hreflang
To avoid problems, once you have decided on a method to implement hreflang, you must add the hreflang tags correctly.
Link back to the original version of the website
First of all, don't forget to specify the URL that links back to the original version of the website from all language/regionalization alternatives.
Let's say you have a website with the address https://mysite.com, written in English, and alternative versions in German (https://mysite.de) and French (https://mysite.fr). The code for the English (original) page then points to both the German and French pages.
Set your own canonicals for local pages
Although this is optional, international SEO experts recommend canonicalizing local pages yourself. This way, you can dispel the common myth that there is only one main version of your website and that all other language versions are of secondary importance. All language or regional versions of your website are unique pages tailored to specific needs, and they should be properly crawled and indexed and appear in SERPs when they match the search query.
To achieve this, implement self-canonical tags for the localized pages:
International SEO is not as hard as it seems. Provided you have a detailed guide (like this one) and know what you are doing and why. By the way, have you taken your website all over the world yet?