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The growth of the internet has led to the world becoming more connected than ever before. One of Google’s goals is to make the world’s information accessible to everyone-- and while they’re not there yet, they have certainly gone a long way towards achieving that goal.
This has led to massive growth online with businesses expanding to new countries to attract new customers. Companies are doing business without physical locations in every country they serve, and are making their products and websites accessible to customers who speak a wide range of languages.
From an SEO point of view, however, things aren’t that straightforward. Remember, Google needs to figure out which results are best for the user. In order to do this, they need to work out whether a website is targeting a particular language (or multiple languages) and if it is targeting a particular country (or multiple countries).
This means they need to distinguish between multi-lingual websites and multi-regional websites and even websites that are both.
This presents a challenge, as Google has to figure out, for example, which websites should rank when a user searches in Spanish but is in France, or searches in English but is in Italy. The results Google shows need to be relevant to the user at that precise moment, so Google has a lot of work to do in order to show the best results. It simply can’t show the same results to everyone without considering their location or language.
There are also subtle cultural differences too, which means that the same word, even in the same language could have different meanings depending on where the user is searching from. For example, if someone in the UK searches for [football], then it would make sense for Google to show results related to the English Premier League. However, if someone searches for the same word from the US, it would make more sense to show them results related to the NFL.
All of this has larger implications for business: If we want our business to show up when users in other countries search for our products, then we need to help Google as much as we can by sending them the right signals. More than that, we need to take user experience as seriously for other languages and countries as we do for our native languages and countries.
Remember though, that you also need to deserve to rank in other countries and for other languages. The same principles of regular SEO will apply and your website needs to be strong enough. As we’ll learn later, just rolling out your website in another language isn’t necessarily enough to make you rank, even if you rank very well in your existing languages.