I come from a non-english speaking country (and quite well-known for not speaking english: France). Most of my online information sources are in english, for the sheer amount of fantastic blogs, communities and magazines available. That includes information about SEO, entrepreneurship and online marketing. You can read a crazy amount of strategies and tactics that may work well in the global english-speaking market, but not so much in a country where english is not widely used.
Still, you might be tempted to operate a website in a different language to combine the best of both worlds: the wealth of information available in english (presuming you can read English well), and the lower competitiveness of other languages markets. I know, that was my reasoning too.
Pros and cons to do SEO in other languages
Let’s see pros and cons:
- smaller number of competitors
- you need less links to rank well
- competitors are less sophisticated: crude websites, lack of knowledge of up-to-date SEO strategies
- less sources to build links (the web ecosystem is smaller and less diverse)
- more difficult to outsource
Link sources: manual link building is still king
Well, I know, it’s 2012. Stil, you can already go quite far by using manual, low-value link building methods. For example, you could use article marketing: registering your website in different web directories and submitting so-called “SEO press releases” to article directories will give you a few quick links that may be enough to rank on the first page for low to medium competition keywords.The recipe for making this is incredibly simple: write an article dealing with the same subject you have your website in, sparkle it with a few relevant keywords pointing back to your site, and voila! You’ve got new backlinks.
I’m not much fan of these methods as it’s incredibly boring, tedious, low-value work and it’s doubtful you add any value to the web by doing this. Most people in the french SEO community don’t mind though, as they say “it works”.
Social marketing is still not too hot
Compared to the globalized market, the local markets (still using French-speaking countries as example) don’t necessarily pick up on the global trends as quickly. So in French, you would be hard pressed to execute a social strategy for anything else than big brands for now. There are less social platforms, Facebook being the big dog and Twitter the distant second. Scoop.it, Squidoo, Pinterest, Reddit, Quora and all other platforms known to the english market are very small and non-exisiting in other languages.
The strategy of posting articles on well-known blogs in your niche, called guest blogging and that works very well in English, is almost non-existant in French. You cannot find guest blogging opportunities easily via Google (as you can do in English) and you often have to shoot an email to the site owner to ask if he would be interested to publish an article from you. It’s certainly possible, but it requires more time and energy and might not always be worth it.
Outsourcing link building
Finally, since SEO work in other languages is lower value, it would be better to outsource it to other people who can do it cheaper so you can focus on the higher value work (keeping track and evaluating the SEO strategy for example). The problem is here again, we stumble on the technological delay between the english ecosystem and the rest. So it can be quite difficult to find people to outsource SEO and link building in other languages. Compare that to English, where the intense competition drives the prices down and makes low-value link building sustainable.
Oh, I know some people will mention using cheap backlinking services in English and dropping a link there in a wall of english text. Well, most of the time it’s not going to work well, is it? It looks a bit weird if you write assurance voyage in the middle of a english sentence, for example Google values relevance highly and is not going to think much of your link if it’s surrounded by text in a foreign language.
It might depend on your own language but I’ve found that leading SEO efforts was not that much easier in French than in English. It’s also difficult to have a presence in both of these worlds, as you need to double the number of communities, forums and other online properties you have to be part of.
What’s your experience on doing SEO for other languages?