SEO challenge: regional search results for global brands

By Ash Terry

Are your global ambitions stifling your search visibility? Can’t get the right content to appear in the right territories? Here’s why and how to fix it.

Whether you’re new to the Australian market or Aussie born and bred branching out into new territories, global ambition is a regional problem that goes beyond understanding market and brand dynamics.

Without getting too technical, Google is a global platform that is delivered on a country-by-country basis.  In short, Google wishes to deliver content that is relevant to the country or language of the user.  But this can be tricky when content from a brand is naturally very similar across territory domains – it may be that the principle difference is whether a price is on dollars or pounds and delivered under a ‘not so categorical’ regional URL, such as the difference between .com.au, .com and .co.uk.  Not only are domains not always that clearly demarcated, these examples have the added complication of sharing a language.

While it may seem obvious that Google Australia should deliver a .com.au result in preference to a .com or .co.uk result, there are far more factors at work when it comes to how the algorithm determines the ‘authority’ of the content.

Duplicate content can result in the algorithms throwing out all of the content and demoting all sites.

In particular, the search engine is confused by ‘duplicate content’ and unable to determine which is the most relevant result. Which is why it can be difficult to ensure the correct content is displaying in the correct territory.  Rather than working hard to detect the nuances across a multi-regional structure, duplicate content can result in the algorithms throwing out all of the content and demoting all sites.

So let’s imagine you’ve invested time in creating different content by territory, it is still possible that Google will deliver .com.au content to a user who should be receiving .co.uk content, or vice versa. The outcome here is either no click through at all, or a click through to the right thing in the wrong territory, meaning the user hasn’t quite got what they were looking for.

A higher bounce rate is a problem as Google uses this metric, along with click through rates, to determine how user friendly a site is.

So off they go to try again, resulting in an increased bounced rate.  A higher bounce rate is a problem as Google uses this metric, along with click through rates, in its algorithm to determine how user friendly a site is.

All of which conspire to a loss of rankings, poor user experience and likely reduced revenues. Not the intended outcome.

The good news is that Google has a number fixes available for identifying content by language and territory, plus ways to ‘hide’ pages that are conflicting.

A key fix is to use the ‘language tag’ hreflang.  Using this piece of code across all domains informs the Google algorithm which content is relevant to which territory, giving each page the correct ‘authority’.  It’s essential that pages that are directly related to each other, e.g. the same product in a different territory give authority to each other.  This means that the crawlers will understand that content is deliberately duplicated for international purposes and is not due to poor site structure, which would be penalised.

Consideration must also be given to sites that are not territory specific, particularly when in a portfolio that includes territory specific sites, and similarly content that has no corresponding page elsewhere.

It’s essential any technical SEO proposal presents a strategy that takes account of the range of options.

Hreflang tagging an entire site or estate is a time consuming pursuit, so it’s essential any technical SEO proposal presents a strategy that takes account of the range of options.

As always in SEO, there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution and good strategies come from lots of experience and being on top of how the algorithms are working right now, considering the investment dynamics of all of the options, not just in your agency but overall, and continued testing and monitoring.

If you’d like to know more about how to make your sites work optimally across regions, drop us a line to [email protected].

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Ash Terry
The author

Ash Terry

SEO Analyst

Ash has been at Jaywing since 2016. Prior to that she held a role as a social media strategist for a leisure company. With a thirst for learning, Ash loves nothing more than challenging herself to create new ways of achieving both personal and SEO excellence

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