This post is a continuation of SMX Advanced: International Search Summit highlights. Make sure you read Part I to learn more about SMX Advanced!
The Global Search Engines: Ranking Factors by Andy Atkins-Krüger – Webcertain
Andy identified the various differences in ranking factors of the 3 major global search engines (Google, Baidu, and Yandex).
Baidu – “It’s like Google 2009, but with different rules due to heavy censorship of the Chinese government.”
- Sites hosted in China with an ICP (Internet Content Publishing) license automatically rank higher.
- You can obtain an ICP License through the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology – good luck with that!
- Use Simplified Chinese characters for all content and meta tags on your site, otherwise your site will not be indexed.
- HTML Coding: Use either UTF-8 or GB2312.
- Hire a native Chinese speaker – Did you know there are over 290 spoken dialects in China??!!! Because of this, and the fact that there can be multiple meanings for the same word, it’s essential that you work with a native Chinese speaker for all your content translation/localization needs.
- Baidu prefers sites hosted in China – sites hosted outside of China can experience slow load times.
- ccTLDs (country code told level domain or domains with .com.cn or .cn ) are given preference in search results.
- Domains with keywords rank higher.
- Baiduspider does not support meta robots “noindex”, but does respect wildcards in robots.txt. Baidu now supports canonical tags (rel-canonical).
- Baidu uses the page title, meta description, meta keywords, heading tags, and alt tags as major ranking factors.
- Baidu also places a lot of emphasis on quantity of links versus quality – although it is recommended to focus on getting links from highly authoritative sites since Baidu is moving in that direction.
- Baidu is very strict about website downtimes, hidden spam/keyword stuffed text, and duplicate content.
“Yandex SEO is similar to Google SEO but with a few tweaks…”
- Yandex was designed to deal with the complexities of the Russian language (remember those cases and scripts?), so it is more effective than Google in dealing with Russian search queries.
- Yandex is geographically sensitive and can provide local search results for over 1,400 cities. This also means that SERPs (search engine results pages) will vary for different regions.
- Yandex puts specific emphasis on internal linking and technical website health.
- User experience and site usability affect website rankings.
- Keep doing the same things you’ve done in Google US: make sure that there are no broken links, that all pages work, and 404 errors are configured correctly.
- Yandex supports: robots.txt, meta robots “noindex”, and rel-canonical tags.
- Yandex is slower to index than Google and less likely to keep pages indexed for a long time.
The Global Search Engines – Google by Gary Illyes – Google
Gary went into detail on the use of hreflang, to ensure that Google displays the right language and country content to the right users.
If you’re not familiar with language annotations, please refer to:
The most common problems the GWT (Google Webmaster Tools) team encounters with language annotations are missing return tags and invalid country codes.
- Missing Return Tags: If page A links to page B, page B must link back to page A. If this is not the case for all pages, then those annotations may be ignored.
- Invalid Country Codes: Make sure that all language codes you use identify the language (in ISO 639-1 format) and optionally the region (in ISO 3166-1 Alpha 2 format) of an alternate URL: it’s possible to just specify the language but it’s not valid to specify just the region – i.e. hreflang = “es” for Spanish default version is OK, but hreflang = ”mx” for Mexico is not OK.
Gary mentioned that the location of the user and the language of the search query are two of the biggest factors that influence SERPs. He also confirmed that it’s natural to obtain links from other countries back to your site even if you have a ccTLD as long as the content is in the same language.
When asked if using ccTLDs is better for international SEO, Gary said that using a country code top level domain is the biggest indicator to Google that the site is catered towards that specific user.
This is an issue that has been up for debate within the international SEO community for quite some time. Recently, Moz published an article on a study that looked to answer this question. Do ccTLDs rank better in country search engines than a subdomain or subdirectory structure on a generic domain? I’ll let you be the judge!
Interestingly, Gary pointed out that Amazon.com was a good example of a country specific site structure. He particularly liked that Amazon.com lets you choose what country version you’d like to navigate to without being automatically redirected via country IP detection.
However, in “the latest advanced technical SEO” session at SMX Advanced on the previous day, Maile Ohye (Senior Developer Programs Engineer – Google Inc.) stated that it still made sense to redirect users to specific versions of your site based on the country IP since Google servers are being built around the world.
The Global Search Engines – Yandex by Melissa McDonald – Yandex
Melissa shared insights into the Russian market and Yandex.
This presentation was mostly geared towards SEMs.
- Russia – largest Internet audience in Europe with only 54% penetration (lots of potential for growth).
- Serves content in English, transliterated content, and Russian.
- 62% of Russian businesses are increasing their digital advertising efforts.
- Metrica is a free web analytics tool that is available in English (the Yandex version of Google Analytics).
- Mobile is growing – Internet Users: 83M, Broadband Households: 22.9M, Mobile Users: 104.2M.
In order to advertise on Yandex, you have to adhere to the Russian Federation Advertising Law.
The Global Search Engines – Baidu by Sarah Holtzman – Baidu International
Sarah explored the challenges and potential for growth within the Chinese market on Baidu.
This presentation was also geared more towards paid search managers than SEOs.
- The top 3 reasons for Chinese online shoppers to purchase overseas are competitive prices, product quality, and the scarcity of products.
- 55% of Chinese Internet users have made a purchase online via mobile compared to only 19% in the US.
- China already has the largest online population in the world at 640 million users – that’s only 46% of their population.
- All companies must be approved before they can advertise on Baidu because of the Chinese government’s censorship of the Internet. This results in a disclaimer on ads that are shown to Chinese users so that they can be confident that they are purchasing from a trustworthy website. Basically encouraging the Chinese audience to click on the ad versus the organic result.
- If you have a transaction page – consider local payment options (UnionPay/AliPay).
Final Thoughts: Overall, I thought that The International Search Summit was very insightful. I would love to see more discussion and case studies around SEO for Baidu and Yandex as well as multilingual/multinational off-site SEO and content marketing.