Templates can be an effective way to manage your website structure in multiple markets, but you do need to consider the international SEO implications.
Disclaimers: visibility without impact
One of the most important things for many financial service websites is a disclaimer about financial product performance.
Many financial service sites like to make these visible as the footer on all pages of their sites as it’s an important statement. However, from an SEO point of view this isn’t best use of either page real estate or of wording on pages.
If your site design has gone down the route of having pages which rely on image based cards to draw people into content on the site, this can skew how the search engines see the content on your pages.
For example, having six promotional cards on the homepage and no text except the footer means that the only text the search engines can see on your page is the disclaimer.
A solution to this is to include a link on the footer to these important messages about regulatory compliance and privacy policies.
Navigating your links
Another common factor within the financial services industry is the need to have websites targeted at different markets.
There’s a lot of difference between the needs of a financial adviser and those of a private investor, so it’s common to have a different website for each set of needs.
If you then add in that you may have two or three websites for each local market in which you are working, this can create a large number of links to different sites, different URLs and different languages.
Handling these correctly will help to improve the performance of your website internationally.
However, handling these incorrectly can lead to your backlink profile becoming skewed by a high percentage of links from websites within your organisation.
Providing a language drop down box is the accepted way of allowing visitors to move between the language variations on your site, and with sub-options you can use this to make sure that your users are not only able to find the right site for their location but also their needs.
When creating these links it is worth considering the implementation of ‘NoFollow’ attributes.
As mentioned above it is likely that you have different websites for different types of investors and financial professionals.
However, the investment and financial products you offer are unlikely to be that different from one investor type to another. This creates an issue in terms of how you serve content to these investors without creating masses of duplicate content.
There’s no right answer here but it’s likely that a portion of the content will have to be different to communicate to the different investor types you are targeting with each site, this will identify the content as individual and will assist with your SEO ranking.
For more on this, read Econsultancy’s post on how duplicate content is damaging RBS and Natwest’s SEO.
English is not universal
It might be tempting to think that as English tends to be used as the business language around the world it’s okay to launch your website into different markets in English.
However, if you consider that people are looking to invest with you and this necessitates a level of trust and confidence in your brand, it is definitely worth localising your content into the language of the market you targeting.
Firstly, this contributes to the user experience but, secondly, from an SEO point of view you will likely catch more local searches by using a local language than if you only have content in English.
What’s in a domain name?
There are three choices here, a country level domain (ccTLD), a .com domain with sub folders and a .com domain with sub domains.
A country level code will automatically associate with the country of that code, for example, .de is a site for Germany and .se is a site for Sweden.
This will result in lots of domains being needed but can have a positive impact on search results and from a user point of view creates a domain which looks like it’s specifically for them.
If you are marketing in Russia and China this can often be better for the search engines in these countries (Yandex and Baidu).
Burberry’s .de German site
As previously mentioned, when using this approach you will need to be careful with links to other sites in your company so that you don’t end up with lots of links from your group becoming a large percentage of your backlink profile.
A .com domain (or other top level domains like .org) can be associated with any country and if you have sub folders on here such as yoursite.com/de/ you can target these to your chosen market.
This aligns all of your content to the main domain and can allow for some SEO benefits, as work done on your main domain will benefit all of the sub folders.
A subdomain such as de.yoursite.com is also associated with your main domain name although the SEO benefits are slightly reduced compared to the sub folder approach discussed above.
There are pros and cons of all of the different approaches here, so the solution you choose should be right for your business and technical set up.
Hreflang tags: reaching the right audience wherever they are
‘Hreflang‘ tags are a great way of letting the search engines understand which version of the site is for which market as you can target both languages and countries in these codes.
These tags are especially useful if you are new to a particular market, as it is likely that your original main website might outperform the new site in the search engines.
Hreflang tags are also useful for letting the search engines know that localised content on your sites is not actually a duplicate content issue but instead content which is targeted to a specific market.
For example, if you have a funds page in German which appears on three websites, one for Germany, one for Austria and one for Switzerland, this tag will help you to explain the different targeting to the search engines.
It will also help to ensure that Google serves the right version of the content to each of these countries in the search results, so that your Swiss visitors don’t end up on the Austrian site.
Google search console
Finally, make sure you set up each version of your site in Google Search Console and you have geo-targeted these correctly so that you reach your correct audiences.
If you are taking your global website template into international markets make sure that you keep the SEO of your sites in mind and avoid falling into any of the pitfalls mentioned here.