Global SEO (define) strategy was one of the hot topics at SES London, and global SEO manager one of the hottest jobs. Many companies have chosen to expand overseas with the growing global economy. Multinational companies have launched Web sites in new countries to engage new audiences.
Each multinational must develop a search marketing strategy for each new international market. Each new strategy must fit in a holistic global search strategy.
Advanced global SEO requires more than just keyword research, translation, and localization. Here's a primer on key issues to consider when developing global search engine strategies.
Global Search and Top Level Domains
There are a few common misconceptions about how search engines handle global versions of sites hosted in the U.S. The majority of the problems seem to draw from the need to use a sub-domain for a dot-com top-level domain (TLD). A dot-com TLD resides in the U.S. If a domain doesn't live in the U.S., the only other way a search engine can provide a local stamp is the IP address location of each site.
Providing a local stamp would normally be easy for a small company to set up. Any large company would agree this is no simple pen stroke.
Many large companies typically set up a central hosting system that keeps all domains hosted from the local country. Central hosting is typically a lower cost solution that can help maintain uptime with less staff.
The problem with central hosting solutions? The user experience may not be very good. This can seriously affect the likelihood of a user returning to the site.
If caching is an option for your content, it may make this process a bit easier. For example, if your data can be refreshed once every 24 hours, keep this data on a caching service. That would provide distribution around the world in local data centers. The users and the engines would both see a decent response time and they'd be able to provide the fast experience people expect.
SEOs Argue With Me: Why They're Wrong
Many SEOs argue with me on a regular basis about the SEO value of caching. If caching weren't important why would Google provide this information in Webmaster tools for you to see?
A good example of caching value would be trying to rank for the keyword "cars." That's a very difficult term to rank high for in the SERPs (define). Your Web site wouldn't be able to handle the traffic generated from such a keyword if your site could only handle two queries per second. Why would a search engine show this ranking when the site obviously can't fulfill the amount of traffic needed?
Another issue that can drive your site into the floor: returning "server not available" messages such as "500" range messages: the 5xx Server Error message. According to w3.org, server errors 5xx are cases in which the server is aware it has erred or is incapable of performing the request. These types of errors have response status codes beginning with the digit "5." Typically a 500 error is returned when the Web server is overloaded and can't keep up.
Several applications can be installed in the Apache Web server to fix the problem. For example, Mod Throttle will inspect the user agent of the request. If the request matches a search engine user agent it will only serve content one out of four times.
The search engine in this case assumes users see the same thing (no content three out of four times). The search engines will score the site accordingly. When your operations department feels like they're helping by keep the site up rather than increasing capacity to ensure it's performing well, they're costing your company money.
This is a big problem for really large sites. It will seriously hurt your business in the long run.
Other misconceptions I see from time to time are related to large companies thinking search engines will change for them and not for the good of the entire Web. One of the most common problems is multiple dynamic attributes in a URL. Search engines believe that this is a bad user experience and will not commonly include these pages in their index.
This arrogance will cost large corporations millions of dollars and should not be in the hands of technical people -- rather technical marketing people who understand the value.