Worried about too many Same Language Websites?

It can be a problem, but not always.

The old adage Content is King has been around in the world of Online Marketing for a decade or more and today it’s pretty well understood that to stand any chance of success online, at least in anything but the smallest niche, you need to have good content on your website or other online pages.

Precisely what the content of said pages IS can be less important. Fashions and algorithm trends change over time, so the Question & Answer fad of a couple of years ago maybe less relevant today than it was, but it doesn’t mean such content will be wasted completely even when the fad changes.

What’s less well known is that the search engines like content to be as unique as possible and preferably completely unique. There are several reasons for this. Firstly, it costs a lot of computer processing power, and energy, to crawl a website, grab data, store said data and then try and interpret and pigeonhole it. So it makes good economic sense to try and only analyse something once.

Secondly, if data is duplicated online, this can lead to both a confusing and unrewarding experience for consumers or businesses browsing online. Imagine if you will if search results pulled back, say, the top ten results that were all exact or very similar copies of the same content. It would make searching devalued and this would, in turn, devalue the shares of search companies like Google.

So content is king, especially when it’s unique.

Because search engine rankings also work by taking account of how often content is referenced and/or linked to by third party sites, it makes sense for the search engines to give the maximum weighting of Brownie Points to whoever they believe is the actual originator of content and lesser values to the me-too copiers and plaudits. So they have become very adept and some might say downright sneaky (using cookies and the like) at identifying who they believe is the originator although they don’t always get it right and that’s a complex topic for another day…

So if you want to get ahead, you get a hat (apparently) and if you want to get ahead online, you get unique content. Easy?

YES and NO. If you have a pretty unique product or service it’s obviously easier to create unique content. But what if you sell something that’s sold globally and manufactured by a big brand such as an FMCG company or electrical company? Something like Olay Double Action Face Cream or a Sony Bravia 4k TV, both of which are probably available in half the planet?

Unique content is very difficult than when products have standardised features and benefits. It’s a little easier to imagine how this might play out okay if say your business wants to promote itself across Europe or South America where even if the content is broadly similar, language can mix it up a bit for the search engines computers. Basically, they won’t think you are cheating if it’s in a different language. This is the search engine algorithm version of getting yourself understood by simply speaking louder to foreigners…..it’s not that clever and maybe it sometimes works!

But selling internationally is not so easy when your markets speak the same lingo. So as an example a business trading in the UK, Canada, USA, Australia, New Zealand plus many current and past colonies will often be published online the same content in English so to the search engines it will look like duplicate pages and you’ll be assumed to be cheating and try to game their system to achieve improved positions with multiple pages selling the same thing (albeit in different places).

There are several strategies to be deployed to help minimise the chances of all your good content being unintentionally seen as duplicates and we’ll list a few here:

1)           Where possible speak to a local audience in their own preferred language, so yes, you’ll need to get content translated. Search engine translation is improving but it’s not yet as good as skilled linguists.

2)           Presumably because the Internet was invented by English speaking scientists and rolled out in the West, English is still often the language of search in many countries, often even accounting for 50% of traffic in non-English speaking populations – excluding Cities in France of course as they still haven’t forgiven the Duke of Wellington. Whether they also boycott wellingtons in wet weather is also open to debate. Anyway, I digress, the point was, even on foreign language pages it’s generally OK to have some content in English to cope with this weird quirk of the Internet, but preferably not all in English all the time.

3)           Don’t be shy of flagging up the fact you have country pages (with a map logo if need be) and if you can pad out said pages with some unique content about your business in that country even better.

4)           The search engines will forgive you if your product feature lists and model numbers etc are the same as many sellers globally. This doesn’t excuse you from trying to create unique local content on said pages – so for example why not include reviews?

5)           It’s a good idea to have unique contact details for each territory in which you operate, particularly a local post address – and this is even if ultimately it all gets rooted back to a central operations area somewhere.

6)           Taking payments in local currencies and pricing goods this way is another great way to ensure the search engines see you are making an effort.

7)           If all else fails try and create some padding on your pages with new unique content that changes regularly – so adding a scrolling news feed onto a page just to ensure, say, that 30% of the content is unique from every other seller will generally be applauded by the search engines even if its not that prominent on-site.

Finally, if the search engines still perceive your content isn’t unique and interesting enough and you suspect they are penalising your main core pages, you may have no other option but to code the offending overseas pages in such a way as to instruct the search engines NOT to bother indexing it. You won’t lose all your traffic (as we believe the search engines can’t stop themselves from having a sneaky peek at things they are instructed to ignore) but you won’t get the high rankings you were hoping for. In this case, PPC is often a good strategy and always trumps any suggestions at playing tricks with hidden micro-sites etc which everyone surely knows by now is a very bad idea.