Multinational websites | Build a global website strategy

Language, analytics, workflows and Google should all be considered when planning multinational websites

Multinational websites

Maintaining five, ten or twenty multinational websites can be problematic. Managing these websites in isolation it takes lots of time and can be costly. Processes are often duplicated and delivery can be inconsistent. To combat this, most organisations embarking on a digital transformation journey take a global view of website development.

We’ve compiled the key points to consider when building solutions to overcome these challenges.

Is your strategy Multi-language or multi-territory?

This is the fundamental question to consider when planning a global website strategy. Large organisations, such as Google, Amazon and eBay have taken a multi-territory approach. They have a different website for each territory, usually with a territory specific domain. The language options within these sites then reflects the country in question. Google.co.uk is available in English, whereas Ebay.be provides language options in French and Dutch for Belgian audiences. Smaller territories such as Switzerland refer French speaking users to Ebay.fr

Coca Cola take a different approach. There are two separate brand websites for Canada. An English version (coca-cola.ca) and a French version (fr.coca-cola.ca).

If you’re a large organisation, with big budgets, significant audiences and a large marketing presence then the territory specific approach is the way to go. Within each country you can provide a different sub-domain for each language. This keeps content separate but ensures a consistent brand presence by sharing design, layout, assets and infrastructure whilst enabling marketers to provide territory specific content in suitable languages.

Many organisations can’t sustain the costs associated with this option and take a multi-language approach where a single website contains multiple language options that can be personalised to audiences in a specific territory. This has fewer overheads and often means that the organisations marketing resources can be concentrated on the promotion of a single domain with separate language options available via a sub domain (e.g. Spanish.mydomain.com) or sub folder (e.g. mydomain.com/Spanish).

Agree your language strategy

When building multinational websites, it’s fundamental for developers to consider the target languages for your organisation. To achieve a completely authentic global presence, you should align your language strategy to support the languages outlined in the diagram below.

Multinational websites

 As a priority, organisations should consider:

  • The languages spoken by potential audiences in important territories.
  • The Languages spoken in emerging territories or where there is expansion potential for your organisation.

The organisation can then plan a strategy based on business needs, which could include:

  • Full websites with all content translated in to multiple languages for key territories and language combinations
  • Microsites, with a small segment of content in niche languages for secondary territories and languages

Multi-site or single site?

This is an important step and one you need to get right. The outcome of this will determine how your site is managed and how your content is distributed, globally. Get it wrong and you may find yourselves constantly having conversations around the suitability of the information architecture and content for a country or region.

With a hit-list of territory and language combinations agreed it is easy to agree an approach for your organisation. Typically this can three forms:

  • A different website for each territory with a country specific domain, such as .co.uk
  • A global website with an international domain, such as a .com, with sub-folders dedicated to different territories and languages
  • Sub domains for each territory and / or language, typically under a .com or other international domain

Setting the strategy up in Sitecore is easy. It is built for organisations with these approaches, and enables each of these approached to be managed from one central system. Websites can easily be managed with country specific workflows for content. Shared asset repositories, page templates and component styling enable organisations to keep a consistent brand presence across the globe.

Create engaging content

B2B multinational websites often only translate a limited amount of content, leaving some sections in English. Though this doesn’t always impact negatively on website engagement, it’s important to understand your markets and your customer personas before deciding how much content needs to be translated.

Whether you are building a new site or giving your existing site an overhaul or upgrade, content strategy is a very important part of developing multinational websites. And if you don’t understand your content and how your end users engage with it, you’re unlikely to get the best out of your platform. If you’re already using an experience platform with analytics tools like Sitecore analytics, it’s worth spending the time gaining insights from your content’s performance activity before deciding the critical mass of translated content that’s required.

Plan your SEO approach

To create a better experience for your international visitors who are searching for your products or services, it’s essential to plan your SEO approach. International SEO shares a lot of similarities with geotargeting, only your website needs to be optimised for different countries and languages instead of a city or region.

Whether you’re looking to target both a country and a language or create a completely internationalised site, the following things needed to achieve this are:

  • Create a suitable URL structure for your target country and/or language. Defined by Google as ccTD, this uses a two-letter code to indicate which territory a website is registered to (e.g. example.de or example.us).
  • Use language tags to clarify which pages are targeting your chosen language
  • Produce original content in your target audiences’ language(s) for search rankings

Other techniques to signal to search engines that your site targets a country is to consider are:

  • Local IP hosting
  • Exploring how to rank on local search engines
  • Local link - building

Localise your content

Simply translating content isn’t enough. Firstly, linguistically content needs to be contextual to the specific country, the area that the user is accessing it and be culturally aware. Secondly, do not forget about Google and search marketing. If you want people in different territories to be able to find your brand, then your multinational websites need to have localised keywords. Key search terms in the UK aren’t necessarily the same in Germany or China, localising your key words and content will serve your sites well in Google search.

Cater for every user with a fall-back option

Sitecore out of the box provides language fall-back functionality which provides the ability for a site to be created in a specific language, but prevents the site failing if a language version of a specific content item is not available. It will inspect the item to identify what its fall-back language is and will render that version of the content instead. This ensures the users gets an uninterrupted user experience.

Get Content administration, roles and permissions right first time

it’s important to understand where your content administrators are going to be when it comes to designing multinational websites. Consider whether you have one central administration team who manage all aspects of content, regardless of country or region or whether you want specific teams of administrators for each country or region. If it’s the latter, you need to consider the roles and permissions and that the relevant workflow approval process is in place. This means creating boundaries so that users are restricted to only viewing and amending content with the CMS that is applicable to them.

Summary

Language is instrumental in planning development for multinational websites. Identifying the various languages and cultural identities of a country can help to successfully connect your organisation to your global markets and customers.

The right option is dependent on the digital strategy and goals of an organisation. By planning for future growth and enabling marketers to quickly manage content for different territory and language combinations it is possible to have flexible multinational websites that have brand consistency and cut down time and cost.

Examples of Great multinational websites

Kagool have assisted multi-national organisations with their global website strategy for the past decade. Clients such as Formica, Scenic and Emerald Waterways rely upon our team for strategy and execution. Our team of award winning Sitecore professionals work with teams across the globe to ensure the work we do balances the needs of global consistency with the ability to provide lightening quick solutions to marketers across the globe. Our team are regularly in the USA, China, Europe, Australia and South Africa formulating strategy, conducting training and improving our clients approach to multinational websites.

Contact us today to learn how to get the most out of your digital strategy and to find out how Kagool can help grow your business.

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