A Reader’s Response to Our Geo-Location Questions

Following on from our recent post where we asked various SEOs from around the world questions on geo-location one of our readers Sean Carlos emailed me asking if it was alright to leave quite a lengthy comment which included a few links to some articles he's written. I thought the content was good enough to be worthy of it's own blog post so here you go!

Sean Carlos:

Very nice post – oh so many complicated issues when considering locali[s|z]ation issues!

On point 1, when considering accented characters, I try to use numeric html entities to ensure my text is compatible with xml feeds used by blogging and other CMS software. The XML standard only recognizes 5 character entities (", &, ', <, >), one of which, ', is not even part of the HTML standard. More detail can be found in my article Accented Characters in HTML Documents: Considerations for Search Engine Optimization.

Point 7 is rather complicated. There are three main ways to distribute language variants of a site:

  1. folder, i.e. apple.com/uk , apple.com/it
  2. top level domain, i.e. apple.com, apple.co.uk, apple.it
  3. sub domains, i.e. uk.apple.com, fr.apple.com, it.apple.it

Google is very good at dealing with any of these approaches – especially if it is easy to recognize content language. As mentioned in the post, server geographic location and incoming links are additional clues search engines can use.

The "best" solution really depends on the client's market and future plans. For a site in Italian, the language market is limited to Italy with some "overflow" in neighboring countries. So a .it domain is a no brainer. Yet what about Switzerland? There are four legal languages. Add English to the mix in the case of many multinationals. Three of the legal languages are used extensively in neighboring countries (French, German and Italian).

Once consideration is the need to avoid shooting myself in the foot with duplicate content issues and dispersion of incoming links across multiple domains, i.e. .ch, .de and .at or .ch, .fr, .be and .ca. Yet some solutions may get me multiple listings (= more real estate, good!) in search results. Some top level domains are difficult to register if you don't have a physical presence in the country (i.e. .fr). So, unfortunately, the answer is "it depends".

In addition to the points mentioned in the post, I would insure language clues are inserted where appropriate in the html. Search engines are very good at automatically recognizing languages, using clues such as the domain, hosting location and incoming links. Text pattern analysis is probably decisive. Using the "lang" attribute on html tags and specifying a content language http header or meta equivalent can assist this process. More details can be found in my How Search Engines Detect HTML Document Human Language.

I met Sean at the Manchester SEO meetup last year and he was a pleasure to talk to. He works for Antezeta SEO Company in Italy. Thanks for stopping by Sean :-)

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