Website localisation, from an SEO perspective, refers to the process used to communicate to search engines where in the world your business does business.
Whether you are a large retailer looking to branch out into international markets, or the village patisserie hoping to bring people in your area into your store, localising your business online can greatly assist potential customers in finding your services.
In this post, we will review some of the basic steps businesses should take in sharing their location with search engines before moving on to some more complex opportunities for international targeting.
Let’s start small.
Imagine we are an independent chain of coffee shops with three stores in the Manchester area. Our aim is to gain search engine visibility to anyone searching for ‘coffee shops in Manchester’. We know that Google shows local map listings for this query, and would like to be shown within the map-pack.
Onsite & offsite
To achieve our goal in communicating with search engines that we have a local presence in Manchester, we will need to perform a number of onsite and offsite tasks, including;
- Add Local Business schema for all local sites published on our own website
- Ensure our site is localised to “en-GB” (written in English for a British audience)
- Register all three locations as local businesses in Google Maps (done via business.google.com)
- Register all three locations as local businesses in Bing local (top tip – ensure you type your addresses identically everywhere you submit them)
Next, we can begin the process of local SEO. There are a number of metrics which contribute to how our business ‘ranks’ in the local area, including data aggregation, location, and reviews; to influence them we can:
- Confirm our location on international business directories (yelp.com, yell.com, etc)
- Confirm our location on local business directories (eg, directory.manchestereveningnews.co.uk)
- Gain (positive) Google reviews of our coffee shops
Other considerations include;
- Ensuring our website is responsive – 57% of users say they won’t recommend a business with a poorly designed mobile website
- Creating useful, informative content – for example, we may create local pages for each store and ask staff which their favourite coffee blend is ala Hotel Chocolat
- Assessing other content elements such a title tags, page copy, site hierarchy and internal linking
Ultimately, how our business performs locally depends on how competent our competition are in relaying their own information to search engines in comparison to our own efforts, in addition to the location of the physical searcher.
Business is expanding
Our coffee shop was a hit.
Business is booming, and we have received requests from international investors who would like to take our brand into their territories. Before we pop the champagne let’s take a moment to consider how this could affect our website visibility in search engines by asking a couple of key questions;
- Would international investors wish to open their own local versions of the brand website?
- How will this affect our own data in terms of cannibalisation and duplication?
- How will they manage their localised content for local languages?
Whilst there is not necessarily any one approach to answering these questions, they are important to consider. As a minimum we always recommend following these steps:
- Setting up a sub-directory or sub-domain for international site versions
- Caution should be taken when adding local addresses to alternative site variations; ensure the address is identical to that used on the local site
- Rel=”alternate” Hreflang markup should be used to identify similar content used for different jurisdictions (more on this another time)
- Copy should ideally be written in the local tongue – from experience, language plugins rarely provide accurate/suitable copy
- If planning to migrate a website to an internationally branded version, put a robust SEO site migration procedure in place
- Follow these steps for each local business – our coffee shop in Paris would need to be subject to the same efforts placed into our Manchester store
Localisation of a business can have a significant impact on its ability to compete with local competitors. Improved visibility online can be a major contributor to real world foot-fall, particularly as mobile search continues to grow. Is your business set up to compete with local markets? Get in touch with our SEO team if you’d like to learn more about website localisation.