True internationalisation and localisation of your website is achieved through translation, technology and the appropriate content. But how do we manage and administer the website piece of the puzzle? Having a global website will be based primarily on these three factors:
- The size of your company
- Your target market/s
- The employees you have (both technical and business)
Please note: the example links below are for illustrative purposes only and are not live sites. The Chamber platform automatically converts domains into live links.
For many small companies offering a product or service that has global appeal, the choice seems simple. Keep the English version of the website and assume most people around the world speak English and will interact with the website accordingly. On the opposite end of the scale there will be companies with multilingual websites and teams of content writers working hard to ensure high search engine rankings in the native language and on multiple search engines in the countries they are targeting. So, where do you fit in and how can you leverage the technology and international marketing to suit your business needs?
Country Specific Websites or One Multilingual Website?
How do we to conquer different countries in their native language? Remember, storing content via your website (website design and build) and promoting content (digital marketing) are two different things and need to be handled separately. There are several approaches to whether you should have one website and one hosting environment or whether you should treat each country as a separate entity. Let’s take a look at three general approaches.
Approach 1 – Creating One Central Website
The first approach would be to have a .com domain name and then create country specific folders. Let us imagine your domain name is ‘www.customwidgets.com’. This would be the main native English site with a .com domain extension, which is often referred to as a TLD (Top Level Domain). Taking the example further let’s assume you wish to conquer the French market. Your French site would be accessed at www.customwidgets.com/france. From a technical point of view this is all relatively straightforward to do. The entire French site, in the French language, and all the French content is essentially in the /France folder on the same hosting platform. All your French marketing, promotions and search engine optimisation (SEO) efforts are then focused on driving people to this area of your website for French speaking users. There are some clever technical things you can do such as redirecting the purchased domain ‘www.customwidgets.fr’ to ‘www.customwidgets.com/france’ without the user being aware. We can also detect the user's language via the browser settings and serve content in that language.
This approach is quite simple to manage on the surface and offers a number of advantages to a company that wants to truly conquer a native market, perhaps one language/market at a time:
- You only have one domain name and one hosting platform which means one domain name to worry about.
- Costs are reduced because you only require one hosting platform.
- It offers ease of maintenance because you or your webmaster only need to access one site and administer the country contents from the same control panel.
- Maintenance, security, backups and administration are relatively easy to do as everything is in one place.
For smaller companies wishing to have a truly international presence, sub folders are a valid strategy BUT there are some caveats. A .com is universal and that can be an advantage, but all things considered, having a .fr domain name with French content hosted in France is going to be a better option in most cases and I’ll explain why further down (approach 3).
The upside of this one website approach is that your search engine rankings and optimisation (and therefore your marketing) is helped by the fact your main site is content rich and ever growing, your ‘foreign’ folders are, in effect, part of the same site. All SEO (search engine optimisation) and promotional efforts are focused on one main domain and hence more easily managed.
From a Google point of view (although this applies to other search engines such as Bing and Yahoo) you are in a strong position because the credibility of the domain grows as does the content as long as you are optimising the content correctly.
Approach 2 - Create Sub-Domains
Another approach is to create ‘sub domains’ on the existing site. In our example we would have ‘www.france.customwidgets.com’. The French content is effectively on what is known as a sub-domain. With this approach the content for France is more standalone than the first approach. The significant difference here is that Google will treat the sub-domain as a separate site which can mean more marketing efforts are needed for sub-domains because the actual sub-domain needs to get credibility from Google (and the other search engines) in their own right. In other words your search engine optimisation and online marketing will be separate for each sub-domain.
Advantages of the sub-domain approach:
- You ‘attach’ a subdomain to your main domain so creating them is straightforward and adds little cost as they are hosted in the same location.
- Each subdomain can have its own marketing and technical team and can be run as a separate entity.
- The separate entity approach makes accountability and the monitoring of important KPI’s very easy because of the segmentation.
Disadvantages of the sub-domain approach:
- Gaining good search engine rankings will be dependent on the efforts of each sub-domain because they are treated in isolation, e.g. four country specific domains with country specific content will require four times the effort in promoting them.
- They are more expensive to manage due to their separate and independent nature.
Approach 3 - Buying and Hosting Country Specific Domains
Here is where you can put together a plan for dominating a country based on your product or service. By buying a country specific domain you are giving yourself quite a handy toolbox with a variety of tools you can use to your advantage. Staying with our example in France. Somebody living in France is likely to be more comfortable with www.customwidgets.fr than www.customwidgets.com/france and it also looks more appealing on any publicity and marketing in the local market.
Once we have our French domain name it makes perfect sense to host the new website on French servers in France. Google can now fully identify that we have a French site, a French domain, located in France and for a French audience. Any online marketing such as creating back links, pay per click advertising, blogs, news items, product updates, video marketing, submitting to local and specialised directories etc. is going to help promote our French website on the French search engines. In other words, we can compete head to head with our French competitors.
Due to the fact that country and language specific websites (other than English) tend to be easier to get higher search engine rankings for, then this could very well be a good strategy for you because you are only competing at a country level. Add this to the fact that you can regionalise your search engine optimisation once you have a country specific domain and hosting, this approach can give you a competitive advantage.
Your situation will be unique, and will no doubt require a hybrid solution, so tailoring a strategy to your unique situation is essential. Any approach must be business based and then we can use technology to meet those business goals. We live in a global community so why not investigate how your product or service can benefit a wider audience?
Mark Field can help with your Internationalisation so call today on 0117 370 0067 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.dminformatics.co.uk for more details.