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How Do I Structure A Global Site With Country-Specific Content?

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How Do I Structure A Global Site With Country-Specific Content?

This Ask an SEO question comes from Dan from Melbourne, who wrote in:

“What is the best site structure for a content/news-based website that wants to be international but also country-specific?

E.g., You want some content to be shared to the U.S., U.K., Australia, Hong Kong, and Singapore, but then some separate content that is mainly for U.K. or Australia.

Is it best to have main domain level site (.com) for global content and then also use sub-directories (.com/au/ or .com/gb/) for country-specific?

Do you also then have a separate home page for each country?”

Hey Dan, the good thing about this question is there is truly no wrong answer.

While international-based websites might be confusing and expensive to implement, you generally have the freedom to go about it however you feel best.

Occam’s Razor applies more than we like to think when it comes to SEO.

So yes, to answer your question, I think that’s the simplest approach, though it depends on the type of content you produce.

For example, suppose you’re uploading international news stories in English that will be read across the globe.

In that case, having a generic top-level domain (gTLD) will be the best route with subdirectories for each separate country you wish to target.

However, if you want to create localized content and appeal to specific audiences in different countries, then there are perks to using ccTLDs and subdomains, which I think warrant discussion.

Which URL Structure Is Right For Me?

Ultimately, I think two options will best suit your website, so the choice is up to you of which you think is best for your news organization.

gTLDs With Country-Specific Subdirectories

If you use a blend of international and localized content, investing in a top-level domain with subdirectories for different countries would be the easiest option.

Each country-specific landing page could have its own unique landing page with limited navigation that deals with specific content to that country, such as .com/au or .com/uk.

The benefits of this approach are that it’s incredibly easy to set up, and all domain authority will be shared across your entire website. Additionally, you could have the same team managing your local and broad-focused content.

Unfortunately, there are two drawbacks to this approach.

First, your subdirectories won’t have as much local feel, which could slightly impact UX.

However, the bigger concern is that your website architecture could become messy, especially if each subdirectory has its own navigation categories.

For example, many news organizations often feature top-level navigation bars that deal with specific issues related to that country.

Take this basic website structure from CNN as an example:

Image from CNN, May 2022be careful that all content falls under the URL structure

Be careful that all content falls under the URL structure: https://example.com/us/newsstory and not separate subdirectories within your country-specific subdirectory, like https://example.com/us/covid19/newsstory.

This will help you avoid navigation issues and make your website more manageable.

Benefits

  • Easiest to implement.
  • CMSs offer easy multilingual management.
  • Minimal upfront costs.
  • Easy navigation.
  • Link equity is shared across domain.

Localizing Content With Subdomains

On the other hand, if your primary focus is on localized content, and that’s where you want to dive in, then hosting regional webpages on subdomains may be a good option.

Ideally, you would have a broad gTLD with international-based content for your parent brand.

Then, you could create subdomains for specific countries that appeal to that demographic audience.

So your gTLD might be an English-speaking news site that people from the EU, AUS, and US could enjoy (if that’s your primary audience), while you might host a separate domain for each of these countries if you were dealing with specific topics related to that country.

Unfortunately, there are many drawbacks to this approach.

  • Hosting content on separate domains could be challenging to organize.
  • Subdomains cost more to implement than subfolders.
  • Branding could be difficult to maintain if multiple teams work on your website.
  • Link equity will not spread evenly across your domain.

However, if you have separate teams that work on content for specific regions worldwide, there is a strong case for hosting location-specific content on a subdomain.

Benefits

  • Localized UX.
  • More efficient geotargeting.
  • Content is more organized by region.

Extra Considerations

Language vs. Geotargeting

Now, a lot of what we’ve discussed so far primarily focuses on geotargeting for specific countries/regions.

However, what happens if these countries have a large population of multi-lingual speakers? How do we optimize for that?

For example, what if you’re writing international news stories in English but want to create the same article in Spanish and feature it on your homepage?

Whether using a subdomain or gTLD, you can implement hreflang tags to help you create multilingual content for both broad and local topics.

A basic hreflang tag is an HTML tag, such as <html lang=”en”> and signifies that the web page is written in a specific language to search engines.

So if you wanted to create content in English for people in France, you would add a tag like this in the head of your HTML:

<link rel=”alternate” href=”https://fr.example.com” hreflang=”fr-fr” />

There are several ways to implement hreflang tags for multilingual speakers in different countries, but the easiest method is to create a folder with all of your hreflang tags and submit them in an XML sitemap.

Keyword Research

Clearly, your website will not encompass every country and language.

So, before you spend dozens of hours setting up a new subdomain, implementing hreflang tags, and hiring multilingual content creators, you need to research and determine which countries are worth targeting.

International keyword research is a great strategy to discover which markets will have the most engagement with your website. For example, Semrush provides tools that allow me to filter keyword trends and results by country in English:

research and determine which countries are worth targetingScreenshot from Semrush, May 2022research and determine which countries are worth targeting

Additionally, tools like this provide me with a baseline of the global volume for each keyword.

Similarly, you could conduct the same keyword research in different languages to identify which countries have the most engagement in Spanish or German.

Since your website is focused on news and current events, your research will differ a little bit.

However, conducting keyword and competitive research using tools like Semrush, Ahrefs, and Google Ads can provide a good idea of which countries/languages will be the most profitable investment.

Content And Translation

Finally, if your website focuses on regional content, you’ll need to invest in local content creators to provide visitors with an authentic news experience.

Hire translators and avoid using translator tools as much as possible. Furthermore, try to make your subdomain or subdirectory as unique to that country as possible.

Ultimately, this might involve handing off management of certain parts of your domain to separate individuals and teams to manage region-specific content.

Final Notes

Deciding between a subdomain or subdirectory comes down to your primary business objectives.

While considerations like link equity and backlinks are important, the decision should depend on which approach will yield the best traffic flow and engagement, especially since you are a news-based/blogging website.

Additionally, no matter what strategy you take, you’ll need to incorporate other factors, such as hreflang tags and hiring local content creators to make your content appeal to as wide of an audience as possible.

More resources:


Featured Image: suphakit73/Shutterstock

Editor’s note: Ask an SEO is a weekly SEO advice column written by some of the industry’s top SEO experts, who have been hand-picked by Search Engine Journal. Got a question about SEO? Fill out our form. You might see your answer in the next #AskanSEO post!

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Gen Z Ditches Google, Turns To Reddit For Product Searches

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In this photo illustration, the Reddit logo is displayed on a smartphone screen.

A new report from Reddit, in collaboration with GWI and AmbassCo, sheds light on the evolving search behaviors of Generation Z consumers.

The study surveyed over 3,000 internet users across the UK, US, and Germany, highlighting significant changes in how young people discover and research products online.

Here’s an overview of key findings and the implications for marketers.

Decline In Traditional Search

The study found that Gen Z uses search engines to find new brands and products less often.

That’s because they shop online differently. They’re less interested in looking for expert reviews or spending much time searching for products.

There are also frustrations with mobile-friendliness and complex interfaces on traditional search platforms.

Because of this, traditional SEO strategies might not work well for reaching younger customers.

Takeaway

Companies trying to reach Gen Z might need to try new methods instead of just focusing on being visible on Google and other search engines.

Rise Of Social Media Discovery

Screenshot from Reddit study titled: “From search to research: How search marketers can keep up with Gen Z.”, June 2024.

Gen Z is increasingly using social media to find new brands and products.

The study shows that Gen Z has used social media for product discovery 36% more frequently since 2018.

This change is affecting how young people shop online. Instead of searching for products, they expect brands to appear in their social media feeds.

1719123963 547 Gen Z Ditches Google Turns To Reddit For Product SearchesScreenshot from Reddit study titled: “From search to research: How search marketers can keep up with Gen Z.”, June 2024.

Because of this, companies trying to reach young customers need to pay more attention to how they present themselves on social media.

Takeaway

To succeed at marketing to Gen Z, businesses will likely need to focus on two main things:

  1. Ensure that your content appears more often in social media feeds.
  2. Create posts people want to share and interact with.

Trust Issues With Influencer Marketing

Even though more people are finding products through social media, the report shows that Gen Z is less likely to trust what social media influencers recommend.

These young shoppers often don’t believe in posts that influencers are paid to make or products they promote.

Instead, they prefer to get information from sources that feel more real and are driven by regular people in online communities.

Takeaway

Because of this lack of trust, companies must focus on being genuine and building trust when they try to get their websites to appear in search results or create ads.

Some good ways to connect with these young consumers might be to use content created by regular users, encourage honest product reviews, and create authentic conversations within online communities.

Challenges With Current Search Experiences

The research shows that many people are unhappy with how search engines work right now.

More than 60% of those surveyed want search results to be more trustworthy. Almost half of users don’t like looking through many search result pages.

Gen Z is particularly bothered by inaccurate information and unreliable reviews.

1719123963 785 Gen Z Ditches Google Turns To Reddit For Product SearchesScreenshot from Reddit study titled: “From search to research: How search marketers can keep up with Gen Z.”, June 2024.

Takeaway

Given the frustration with search quality, marketers should prioritize creating accurate, trustworthy content.

This can help build brand credibility, leading to more direct visits.

Reddit: A Trusted Alternative

The report suggests that Gen Z trusts Reddit when looking up products—it’s their third most trusted source, after friends and family and review websites.

1719123963 403 Gen Z Ditches Google Turns To Reddit For Product SearchesScreenshot from Reddit study titled: “From search to research: How search marketers can keep up with Gen Z.”, June 2024.

Young users like Reddit because it’s community-based and provides specific answers to users’ questions, making it feel more real.

It’s worth noting that this report comes from Reddit itself, which probably influenced why it’s suggesting its own platform.

Takeaway

Companies should focus more on being part of smaller, specific online groups frequented by Gen Z.

That could include Reddit or any other forum.

Why SEJ Cares

As young people change how they look for information online, this study gives businesses important clues about connecting with future customers.

Here’s what to remember:

  • Traditional search engine use is declining among Gen Z.
  • Social media is increasingly vital for product discovery.
  • There’s growing skepticism towards influencer marketing.
  • Current search experiences often fail to meet user expectations.
  • Community-based platforms like Reddit are gaining trust.

Featured Image: rafapress/Shutterstock

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Google Clarifies Organization Merchant Returns Structured Data

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Google updates organization structured data for merchant returns

Google quietly updated their organization structured data documentation in order to clarify two points about merchant returns in response to feedback about an ambiguity in the previous version.

Organization Structured Data and Merchant Returns

Google recently expanded their Organization structured data so that it could now accommodate a merchant return policy. The change added support for adding a sitewide merchant return policy.

The original reason for adding this support:

“Adding support for Organization-level return policies

What: Added documentation on how to specify a general return policy for an Organization as a whole.

Why: This makes it easier to define and maintain general return policies for an entire site.”

However that change left unanswered about what will happen if a site has a sitewide return policy but also has a different policy for individual products.

The clarification applies for the specific scenario of when a site uses both a sitewide return policy in their structured data and another one for specific products.

What Takes Precedence?

What happens if a merchant uses both a sitewide and product return structured data? Google’s new documentation states that Google will ignore the sitewide product return policy in favor of a more granular product-level policy in the structured data.

The clarification states:

“If you choose to provide both organization-level and product-level return policy markup, Google defaults to the product-level return policy markup.”

Change Reflected Elsewhere

Google also updated the documentation to reflect the scenario of the use of two levels of merchant return policies in another section that discusses whether structured data or merchant feed data takes precedence. There is no change to the policy, merchant center data still takes precedence.

This is the old documentation:

“If you choose to use both markup and settings in Merchant Center, Google will only use the information provided in Merchant Center for any products submitted in your Merchant Center product feeds, including automated feeds.”

This is the same section but updated with additional wording:

“If you choose to use both markup (whether at the organization-level or product-level, or both) and settings in Merchant Center, Google will only use the information provided in Merchant Center for any products submitted in your Merchant Center product feeds, including automated feeds.”

Read the newly updated Organization structured data documentation:

Organization (Organization) structured data – MerchantReturnPolicy

Featured Image by Shutterstock/sutlafk

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What Is It & How To Write It

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What Is It & How To Write It

In this guide, you will learn about alternative text (known as alt text): what it is, why it is important for on-page SEO, how to use it correctly, and more.

It’s often overlooked, but every image on your website should have alt text. More information is better, and translating visual information into text is important for search engine bots attempting to understand your website and users with screen readers.

Alt text is one more source of information that relates ideas and content together on your website.

This practical and to-the-point guide contains tips and advice you can immediately use to improve your website’s image SEO and accessibility.

What Is Alt Text?

Alternative text (or alt text) – also known as the alt attribute or the alt tag (which is not technically correct because it is not a tag) – is simply a piece of text that describes the image in the HTML code.

What Are The Uses Of Alt Text?

The original function of alt text was simply to describe an image that could not be loaded.

Many years ago, when the internet was much slower, alt text would help you know the content of an image that was too heavy to be loaded in your browser.

Today, images rarely fail to load – but if they do, then it is the alt text you will see in place of an image.

Screenshot from Search Engine Journal, May 2024

Alt text also helps search engine bots understand the image’s content and context.

More importantly, alt text is critical for accessibility and for people using screen readers:

  • Alt text helps people with disabilities (for example, using screen readers) learn about the image’s content.

Of course, like every element of SEO, it is often misused or, in some cases, even abused.

Let’s now take a closer look at why alt text is important.

Why Alt Text Is Important

The web and websites are a very visual experience. It is hard to find a website without images or graphic elements.

That’s why alt text is very important.

Alt text helps translate the image’s content into words, thus making the image accessible to a wider audience, including people with disabilities and search engine bots that are not clever enough yet to fully understand every image, its context, and its meaning.

Why Alt Text Is Important For SEO

Alt text is an important element of on-page SEO optimization.

Proper alt text optimization makes your website stand a better chance of ranking in Google image searches.

Yes, alt text is a ranking factor for Google image search.

Depending on your website’s niche and specificity, Google image search traffic may play a huge role in your website’s overall success.

For example, in the case of ecommerce websites, users very often start their search for products with a Google image search instead of typing the product name into the standard Google search.

Screenshot from search for [Garmin forerunner]Screenshot from search for [Garmin forerunner], May 2024

Google and other search engines may display fewer product images (or not display them at all) if you fail to take care of their alt text optimization.

Without proper image optimization, you may lose a lot of potential traffic and customers.

Why Alt Text Is Important For Accessibility

Visibility in Google image search is very important, but there is an even more important consideration: Accessibility.

Fortunately, in recent years, more focus has been placed on accessibility (i.e., making the web accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities and/or using screen readers).

Suppose the alt text of your images actually describes their content instead of, for example, stuffing keywords. In that case, you are helping people who cannot see this image better understand it and the content of the entire web page.

Let’s say one of your web pages is an SEO audit guide that contains screenshots from various crawling tools.

Would it not be better to describe the content of each screenshot instead of placing the same alt text of “SEO audit” into every image?

Let’s take a look at a few examples.

Alt Text Examples

Finding many good and bad examples of alt text is not difficult. Let me show you a few, sticking to the above example with an SEO audit guide.

Good Alt Text Examples

So, our example SEO guide contains screenshots from tools such as Google Search Console and Screaming Frog.

Some good examples of alt text may include:

”The
”Google
”List
”Screaming

Tip: It is also a good idea to take care of the name of your file. Using descriptive file names is not a ranking factor, but I recommend this as a good SEO practice.

Bad And/Or Spammy Alt Text Examples

I’ve also seen many examples of bad alt text use, including keyword stuffing or spamming.

Here is how you can turn the above good examples into bad examples:

”google search console coverage report
”google
”seo
”seo

As you can see, the above examples do not provide any information on what these images actually show.

You can also find examples and even more image SEO tips on Google Search Central.

Common Alt Text Mistakes

Stuffing keywords in the alt text is not the only mistake you can make.

Here are a few examples of common alt text mistakes:

  • Failure to use the alt text or using empty alt text.
  • Using the same alt text for different images.
  • Using very general alt text that does not actually describe the image. For example, using the alt text of “dog” on the photo of a dog instead of describing the dog in more detail, its color, what it is doing, what breed it is, etc.
  • Automatically using the name of the file as the alt text – which may lead to very unfriendly alt text, such as “googlesearchconsole,” “google-search-console,” or “photo2323,” depending on the name of the file.

Alt Text Writing Tips

And finally, here are the tips on how to write correct alt text so that it actually fulfills its purpose:

  • Do not stuff keywords into the alt text. Doing so will not help your web page rank for these keywords.
  • Describe the image in detail, but still keep it relatively short. Avoid adding multiple sentences to the alt text.
  • Use your target keywords, but in a natural way, as part of the image’s description. If your target keyword does not fit into the image’s description, don’t use it.
  • Don’t use text on images. All text should be added in the form of HTML code.
  • Don’t write, “this is an image of.” Google and users know that this is an image. Just describe its content.
  • Make sure you can visualize the image’s content by just reading its alt text. That is the best exercise to make sure your alt text is OK.

How To Troubleshoot Image Alt Text

Now you know all the best practices and common mistakes of alt text. But how do you check what’s in the alt text of the images of a website?

You can analyze the alt text in the following ways:

Inspecting an element (right-click and select Inspect when hovering over an image) is a good way to check if a given image has alt text.

However, if you want to check that in bulk, I recommend one of the below two methods.

Install Web Developer Chrome extension.

Screenshot of Web Developer Extension in Chrome by authorScreenshot from Web Developer Extension, Chrome by author, May 2024

Next, open the page whose images you want to audit.

Click on Web Developer and navigate to Images > Display Alt Attributes. This way, you can see the content of the alt text of all images on a given web page.

The alt text of images is shown on the page.Screenshot from Web Developer Extension, Chrome by author, May 2024

How To Find And Fix Missing Alt Text

To check the alt text of the images of the entire website, use a crawler like Screaming Frog or Sitebulb.

Crawl the site, navigate to the image report, and review the alt text of all website images, as shown in the video guide below.

You can also export only images that have missing alt text and start fixing those issues.

Alt Text May Not Seem Like A Priority, But It’s Important

Every source of information about your content has value. Whether it’s for vision-impaired users or bots, alt text helps contextualize the images on your website.

While it’s only a ranking factor for image search, everything you do to help search engines understand your website can potentially help deliver more accurate results. Demonstrating a commitment to accessibility is also a critical component of modern digital marketing.

FAQ

What is the purpose of alt text in HTML?

Alternative text, or alt text, serves two main purposes in HTML. Its primary function is to provide a textual description of an image if it cannot be displayed. This text can help users understand the image content when technical issues prevent it from loading or if they use a screen reader due to visual impairments. Additionally, alt text aids search engine bots in understanding the image’s subject matter, which is critical for SEO, as indexing images correctly can enhance a website’s visibility in search results.

Can alt text improve website accessibility?

Yes, alt text is vital for website accessibility. It translates visual information into descriptive text that can be read by screen readers used by users with visual impairments. By accurately describing images, alt text ensures that all users, regardless of disability, can understand the content of a web page, making the web more inclusive and accessible to everyone.

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Featured Image: BestForBest/Shutterstock

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