Google is advising companies to improve their Websites so they can attract and retain more customers in foreign countries to increase sales and services abroad.
To do that, Google has created a helpful list of suggestions that business can use to add foreign language capabilities for their sites, especially their home pages, as well targeting specific content for users in other countries.
"If you are doing business in more than one country or targeting different languages, we recommend having separate sites or sections with specific content on each URL targeted for individual countries or languages," wrote Google Webmaster trends analysts Zineb Ait Bahajji and Gary Illyes in a May 12 post on the Google Webmaster Central Blog. "For instance, one page for U.S. and English-speaking visitors, and a different page for France and French-speaking users."
When building sites, companies can approach the language and location issues in several ways, wrote Bahajji and Illyes. They can configure their home pages to allow users to choose to view the site in a language they speak by clicking a link to an alternate site in another language, or the sites can automatically be set up to recognize a users' location and deliver an appropriate site in a specific language based on that location.
If companies set up their Websites to let users choose the language they'd like to use, then they should "remember to use the x-default rel-alternate-hreflang annotation for the country selector page, which was specifically created for these kinds of pages," wrote Bahajji and Illyes. "The x-default value helps us recognize pages that are not specific to one language or region."
If sites are set up to automatically serve the appropriate HTML content to users, depending on their location and language settings, then that can be done by using server-side 302 redirects or by dynamically serving the right HTML content, they wrote. "Remember to use x-default rel-alternate-hreflang annotation on the homepage /generic page, even if the latter is a redirect page that is not accessible directly for users."
Companies should also consider redirecting users for whom there is no one specific language version that would be useful, wrote Bahajji and Illyes. "For instance, [direct] French-speaking users on a Website [to a version] that has English, Spanish and Chinese versions. Show them the content that you consider the most appropriate."
Webmasters should be sure that all the pages, including country and language selector pages, have rel-alternate-hreflang annotations and are accessible for Googlebot's crawling and indexing, wrote Bahajji and Illyes. "Do not block the crawling or indexing of your localized pages."
Companies should also always allow users to switch local version or language through a drop-down menu or other configuration tool so they can select their best choices for using a site. They should also maintain separate URLs for each country and language version to give users the best possibilities of using the sites.
Google is often working to help webmasters and companies improve their Websites for more interactions with users and customers.