International SEO is a complex affair that demands reckoning with questions far beyond the scope of traditional SEO. First, there are the concrete matters of where your product or service is sold, and which languages your company offers customer support in. Beyond that lie more nuanced considerations like the level of locality at which you want to be competitive in search within each country, the extent to which your product (or at least your branding) differs from country to country, and the breadth of geographical distribution of your site’s servers.
These considerations, along with the others that spiral out from them, will inform your optimal web infrastructure, your messaging, and nearly everything else, and accordingly they’ll have to be hammered out carefully over the course of conversations with just about every department you’ve got. [If you’re starting down this road in earnest right now, do yourself a favor and look to this post from Aleyda Solis, by consensus the world’s foremost expert on the subject, on State of Digital, then move on to the checklist post she wrote for Moz as often as you need to.]
Once you’ve gotten those questions answered, and you’ve finally got a site (or network of sites) that covers your entire global customer base, there will be this one last — crucial but comparatively simple — step: setting up your hreflang tags. Introduced in 2010 by the Internet Engineering Task Force, the hreflang tag is an HTML element that webmasters can use to tell search engines what language and country a given page is intended for, and where (if anywhere) its translations or equivalents for other countries can be found. Failure to use them properly could result in Google serving up the wrong version of a page to a particular location, or placing translations of the same page in competition with one another for rankings within the same area. So while hreflang tags aren’t a panacea for international SEO, the efforts you make in addressing all the big-picture concerns from the above paragraph will be fruitless without them. And compared to all of the stuff in the above paragraph, they’re relatively simple. So, in the interest of keeping to my 10-minute promise, let’s assume that you’ve got all that stuff figured out already, and skip to this, your last step. [Read more…] about A 10-Minute Hreflang Tag Tutorial