When you’re a large, brand-heavy international online company who operate in the highly competitive fields of online gambling, casino and bingo you would have thought that if you are pro-active in Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) you would have had your multi-lingual website sorted wouldn’t you? Well, not unless you are Bet365.
A quick search for their brand name over the period of ONE day (2nd February 2010) shows just the problem they are experiencing:
That’s right, in the space of a day they have been cached twice by Google with their Chinese version but also their Portugese version. Talk about confusing!
Looking at their site it appears as if they allowing users to choose their preferred language which is intitially assigning a URL variable of lng=”". This is then stored in a session cookie and delivers all content based on that language variable whilst updating their URL structures accordingly. Unfortunately it does appear as if there is a problem somewhere and they are allowing Googlebot to get confused and see the wrong content.
Not their SEO. They rank 1st page in Google.co.uk for terms such as “Sports Betting” and “Premier League Football Odds” so I can only assume this is down to the trust they have achieved over the years but you have to be concerned that their conversion rate might take a hit if users are being fed results like the above. I know I was confused to hell when I first seen it – before I let out a little chuckle.
If you are in a solid position to be competing against other well known brand names and letting something silly like this happen, then you have no-one else but yourself to blame as you are simply giving your competition the upper hand. By showing English speaking users a foreign language result you are not only confusing yourself, but you are also confusing the major search engines who will ultimately give up and stop trying to figure out what the hell your website is about!
A quick scout about with cookies disabled shows they do have some anti-cookie coding in place and allows the URL’s to be updated to their relevant countries. But the problem still remains.
Many SEO’s are split on the topic of Multi-lingual websites. There are many solutions including:
Some prefer sub-domains or new TLD’s as you can change the DNS and host the websites in their relevant countries to give a (very slight) tick mark in the relevancy box for the search results. However, some prefer the sub-folders methods as you can retain the current authority of the .com domain and this will, depending on who you ask, result in faster results for a little less work. All this combined with relevant 302 redirects to keep the search engines straight would help immensely.
Most people who are not involved in SEO or online marketing will scoff at the above as “too much work” but if it helps potential customers click onto the bet365.com website because the result is relevant and just what they asked the search engine for, then I would put a little time and effort into the solutions. After all – if bet365.com make money, then everyone else involved makes money.