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Website Geo-targeting Best Practices

Get the right website content to the right audience by focusing on four key areas

What Is Website Geo-targeting?

Is the content on your website reaching your intended market? The process of getting the right content to land in the right geographic location is called geo-targeting, and it’s an essential tactic to master to enhance your global digital experiences, resonate with prospective customers, and increase the likelihood of making sales.

In concrete terms, successful website geo-targeting marketing initiatives will enable German-speaking Swiss buyers and German-speaking buyers from Germany to see different content personalized for each specific location, even though you are creating content in the German language for both markets. Vocabulary, syntax, and the way you denote currency are among the things that may differ on their web pages. These are all important elements when establishing or strengthening relationships in a specific area. You erode trust when something is amiss.

Why Does Geo-targeting Matter?

Geo-targeting initiatives — or the lack thereof — can significantly impact your content Return on Investment (ROI). For instance, if you invest a sizeable portion of your budget into UK content, but US content dominates the UK market due to inadequate geo-targeting efforts, you’ve missed an opportunity to connect with your potential customer in the UK; your investment is lost because your UK target audience is not seeing the content meant for them.

Conversely, stellar website geo-targeting initiatives protect your content investment. Website geo-targeting best practices in conjunction with personalized messaging help you appear more like a local business attuned to the specific location's cultural sensibilities. When customers residing in a specific country see the personalized content you have created for this location, they are more likely to be converted by this content. You get the right visitors to your site and increased sales make your investment money well spent.

Is Website Geo-targeting Easy To Implement?

While it’s easy to understand the benefits of location targeting or geo-targeting, execution is challenging.

“It is very difficult to get geo-targeting right,” says Brendan Walsh, Lionbridge’s Global Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Subject Matter Expert. “In the past, I would see zero companies with the correct solution. Now, 10-15 percent of the companies I encounter have a sound solution.”

Observations by Lionbridge’s Brendan Walsh underscore companies’ growing recognition that website geo-targeting is worthy of focus to ensure the right website visitor sees your page and to improve marketing initiatives. However, most companies still have a long way to go to master it.

Technical and localization issues can impact the functionality of geo-targeting. Walsh advises companies to examine four main areas to execute geo-targeting properly, which will get the right traffic to their web pages and ultimately enhance their marketing campaign.

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#1 Architecture

Your website architecture will have a significant impact on geo-targeting.

The first thing to consider is your Top-Level Domain (TLD), the last part of a domain name.

If you use a general global TLD, such as .com, .net, or .org, you are indicating that your site is a company or an organization, but the location is not apparent. If your site uses a local TLD, such as .uk, .fr, or .ca, you are revealing which country you are connected to, such as the UK., France, or Canada.

Your domain name matters for website geo-targeting because Google tries to understand which page to place in each market. When using a local TLD, Google can easily recognize the target market, making the task easier.

Generally, geo-targeting is less effort when your sites are structured based on language or country. However, managing all these sites can be more taxing than using a global TLD.

When you use a global TLD, you need to do more to help Google understand in which market to put the page by providing technical input. You can provide this help by using subdomains or subdirectories to separate language/country content. Though both approaches work, subdirectories are easier to manage.

It is common for companies to use a mix of local TLDs that serve single markets with a global TLD that targets the United States. However, this approach can be problematic, making it difficult for Google to put the right page in front of the correct audience. This situation arises because the .com page has the right to rank globally, including in markets already served with a local TLD, causing your web pages to compete. Since the global TLD may have more content and backlinks, Google may erroneously put this page in front of audiences of single markets instead of the pages created specifically for them. With specific interventions, you can help Google match the page to the correct target audiences.

To determine whether there is competition between your regional web pages and your .com page, conduct a search using your company’s name (or other branded terms) in each target market and the local language. If more than one version of your page appears in the same set of search results, you need to consider implementing a hreflang tagging solution.

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#2 Hreflang Tagging Solutions

Are you using hreflang tags? While hreflang tags are not necessary 100 percent of the time, you should use them if your site has multiple versions of the same language, such as Spanish for Argentina and Mexico.

A hreflang tag is an HTML attribute that conveys the language and location of a web page to search engines. Introduced by Google in December of 2011, hreflang tags enable engines to provide the most applicable content for the user conducting the search. For instance, a searcher based in the U.S. state of Florida will get English content for an American audience instead of English text more appropriate for someone from Dublin, Ireland.

We've compiled a checklist to help you get the most out of hreflang tagging solutions.

Hreflang tagging solution checklist:

  • Apply hreflang tags on all localized pages.
  • Use the same set of hreflang tags on every language version of a page. Omitting the tag on a page often results in Google seeing duplicate content that competes during searches. Google will not see duplicate content if hreflang tags indicate the pages are for different markets.
  • Use self-referencing tags to tell Google the language/region of the page itself.
  • Ensure tags reflect the language of the content on the page.
  • Use correct language codes that generally conform to the ISO file formats. (There are minor exceptions for Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, and Spanish for Latin America.)
  • Use the x-default for complete solutions and never for partial solutions. The x-default hreflang attribute for international landing pages tells Google algorithms that the page does not target a specific language or locale and is the default page when there is no better option for users who do not conform to any of the listed rules.
  • Use language fallbacks in most cases to enable users to reach their most appropriate language page when their country is not listed in the rules.
  • Eliminate links that redirect or indicate a 404 error.

#3 Language/Region Selection Tool

If you’ve visited a multilingual website, you’ve likely encountered a language/region selection tool. This tool enables you to select your preferred language and see the content in that language. It goes a long way toward website optimization.

A well-coded language/region selection tool will help you bolster SEO since international pages are easier for bots to find and crawl. It also has a positive impact on internal linking on the site.

Most importantly, this tool provides your target audience with the best user experience, ensuring an uninterrupted journey, even when they change their language. And a better user experience leads to a greater likelihood of conversion.

Yet, companies commonly neglect to optimize this tool as they are unaware of its potential or the power of internal linking. When Lionbridge conducts a technical analysis of a company’s website, we specifically check whether a company uses a language/region selector.

To get the most out of a language/region selector, ensure you:

  • Make it available on desktop and mobile devices
  • Display it prominently on the site
  • Code it so the links are crawlable by bots using the href attribute
  • Enable it to work page-to-page so a user ends up on the same page in the chosen region or language when selecting an alternate region or language
  • Provide all language and country options

You have the opportunity to improve both the user experience and the technical SEO of your website when your language selection tool sends your users to the home page of the selected region.

#4 Localization and Content Analysis

People want to buy products in their native language.

A survey of 8,709 consumers in 29 countries found:


of buyers prefer to purchase a product when content is in their local language, even if that content contains some errors 


of users turn to online Machine Translation (MT) when evaluating products available in other languages


of consumers will not buy products that are presented in other languages

(Source: “Can’t Read, Won’t Buy — B2C,” CSA Research, June 2020) 

It behooves you to give consumers information in their language. But what about translation quality? Different pieces of content have varying values, meaning it’s more important for some content to have high translation quality than other types of content. For instance, internal-facing content may need less-than-perfect translations, while certain outward-facing content needs flawless translations.

You need to invest more money in the critical pieces of content and spend less on the content not used to convert a user. There are several options to choose from concerning language services:

  • Translation — Website translation is a basic offering that provides full site translation and allows users to interact and convert.
  • Localization — Website localization is recommended for many cases, particularly when the site has multiple versions of the same language. (If you have pages of the same language for different countries, personalize those pages for each target audience.)
  • Optimization — Website content optimization is best suited for valuable content that needs to perform well in search results and is important to the conversion of users.
    • Standard optimization, which includes keyword research and the optimization of translated content, is well-suited for pages that must perform well in search.
    • Advanced optimization, which includes in-depth SEO research and content trancreation based on the research, is best suited for pages that need to perform well in search and have a high monetary value based on their ability to generate revenue and conversions.

Be sure to include metadata (titles and descriptions) during the process. For pages essential to the business’s success, the metadata will be the user’s first view of the page content.

Finally, as part of your effort to implement best practices for website geo-targeting, ensure that all the content on each page contains one language and that your site does not contain mixed-language pages.

How Can Lionbridge Help You Perfect Website Geo-targeting?

Lionbridge is a geo-targeting expert, routinely executing website geo-targeting solutions for our customers as part of our language services offerings, and we have been doing so for many years.

In addition to analyzing the effectiveness of companies’ geo-targeting efforts, we use proprietary tools that resolve geo-targeting issues, including a tool that creates regional sitemaps (with hreflang tags) and one that generates hreflag tags for Adobe Experience Manager (AEM). Many Language Services Providers do not offer these services.

Get in touch

If you’d like to explore how Lionbridge can help you effectively execute website geo-targeting and ensure the right traffic from your targeted location sees the right web pages, contact us today.

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Brendan Walsh with Janette Mandell
Brendan Walsh with Janette Mandell
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