International SEO Part I: Google’s Global Faces

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Canadian companies are in a unique position in that they must often target multiple markets online. Either they target both Canada and the US, or both English and French Canada, or the US and English and French Canada. This can complicate a brand’s web strategy on a number of levels. After all, when brands target different national markets offline, they often have separate strategies for each market, including distinct branding, packaging, and messaging. Well, online markets are no exception. And when it comes to ranking in search engine results pages (SERPs) in different languages and countries, it’s best to have an SEO strategy that reflects each country you’re targeting.

The Many Faces of Google Search

Google has built a reputation as the preeminent search engine because of its ability to deliver the most relevant search results. Well, when it comes to national or linguistic markets, Google geo-targets its search results at two levels. First, Google has its country specific portals, such as Google.ca and Google.co.uk. Each of these are the default engines for users from a specific country, and show search results that are more localized and tailored for the country in questions. So just as SERPs from Google.ca will differ from Google.com, SERPs from the French version of Gooogle.ca will differ dramatically from Google.fr. Then, there is Google.com within the US and Google.com abroad. Basically, if I go to Google.com from Canada, I’ll be forwarded to Google.ca; but I could then still click through to Google.com if I want to. But that doesn’t guarantee that I’ll get “US” or “international” or “objective” search results. Rather, I’ll get results that blend results from the country I’m in with “international”. So if your brand targets multiple countries, it must monitor rankings in several places. First and foremost, it will need to rank on the versions of Google specific to the countries it’s targeting. But it will also have to monitor its standings on Google.com for searches done from those countries. In the next installment of this series, we’ll take a look at what factors Google uses to determine what to include in different localized SERPs.

To follow Part II (The Elements of Local Rankings)

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