Advice for multilingual SEO. Part 1

Consider all the possibilities.

Living as I do on the conjunction of three countries, that is Belgium, Holland and Germany, can make search engine optimisation (SEO) quite a challenge. Just in the surrounding area of the village I work from are four spoken languages so if you extrapolate that out to every possible combination of search terms, browser settings and computer language settings then you begin to see the scale of the problem.

Leaving aside the differing search terms and therefore your various sets of keyword targets, each different language user will have their own set of computer and browser language and preference settings that will give completely differing search results.

As a quick example try searching –
management consulting Liege
– on Google.com and Google.be-fr.
OptimaGest Management Consulting is 2nd out of 392,000 on Google.com and 24th out of 291,000 on Google.be-fr. (Don’t worry, I’m still working on the Google.be rankings)

So here are a few tips that I have picked up to make your job a bit easier.

First setup your browser for multilingual searches.

Arm yourself with a browser that has configurable profiles. Firefox springs to mind.

Set up a profile for each required language so that your preference language and search engine preferences can be configured.

For Firefox installed with the installer:
Make sure firefox isn’t running.
Then open the Windows “Start” menu, click “Run” (or Windows key + R) and then type:
firefox.exe -profilemanager or firefox.exe -P

If that doesn’t work (it doesn’t on my machine) then you need to type the full path to the firefox.exe surrounded by quotes and then the switch in the “Run” box. e.g.

“C:\Program Files\Mozilla Firefox\firefox.exe” -profilemanager

For Mac OS X launch the Terminal
(Applications -> Utilities -> Terminal) and enter:
/Applications/firefox.app/Contents/MacOS/firefox -profilemanager

If that doesn’t work then include the -bin switch e.g.:
/Applications/Thunderbird.app/Contents/MacOS/thunderbird-bin -profilemanager

The profile manager dialogue will open and I recommend that you keep the “default” profile as this will preserve all your current settings. Click on “Create Profile” and follow the instructions. You should create and name a profile for each language and then make sure the “Don’t ask at startup” option is unchecked. Now when you start Firefox normally the profile manager will open and you will be able to select your required profile.

As you start each profile for the first time go to “Tools” then “Options…”, “Advanced” tab and then click the Languages “Choose…” button. Here set the language that is required for that particular profile and remove the default en-us.

Then open each search engine e.g. google.be in turn and specify in the preferences the required language etc so mirroring as closely as possible the actual setup your target audience will have.

Now you can quickly check your search engine rankings without having to re-configure your browser settings each time for each target market.

Now the multilingual keywords problem.

Of course before you can monitor your success you must first develop your keyword strategy and that is not as straight forward as it would seem. We must research carefully our target keywords in each of our target markets. It is pointless OptimaGest Management Consulting being number one on Google.be-nl if the chosen keywords are never actually used in dutch.

My native language is english with a passable knowledge of german and the small beginnings of french so I am dependent on my translators for french and dutch. But web designers are not in the business of producing perfectly grammatical and vocabulary correct sentences such as translators delight in. We are trying to pack an optimum number of relevant search terms or keywords into our copy while keeping it on message and readable.

In our native language we can, with a bit of research and practice, produce web site content that just “glows” with pertinent keywords and phrases leading on to mega search results. But where do you start in language 2, 3 or 4?
That will be the subject of my next article.