French SEO Services

Expand Worldwide with French SEO

French is one of the top 10 languages spoken in the world. With more than 280 million speakers spread among North America, Europe, Asia, and Africa, French speakers make a massive, international audience. France itself has the second largest economy in Europe and the seventh largest in the world. French SEO is a good move for businesses looking to expand to new markets, but it’s not without its pitfalls. Let’s dive in to the challenges and potential benefits of SEO en français.

French Around the World

French is an official language in 28 countries and 36 international organizations including Canada, France, Belgium and Switzerland. It’s a significant but unofficial language in several other countries, like Algeria and Vietnam.

That begs the question, who is your target audience? Are you looking to attract all French speakers, or do you have a specific target country or countries?

There are differences between certain French dialects. Canadian French is distinct from European French, mostly in how informal it is. French spoken in Africa can have significant regional dialects, but the official version of the language used in governmental and advertising situations in most African countries is practically synonymous to European French.

There are small differences between the European versions of French, but mostly in verbal accent. From a written language perspective, the local audience in Belgium or Switzerland will easily understand items written in standard French. 

Content Strategy: Language vs Country

How Local for French Localization?

If your French audience is exclusively French Canadian, than it would behoove you to use a French Canadian content writer, and focus your keyword research not for France, but for Canada. If you’re active in both the Canadian and European French markets, whether you want to have different content will depend on your product or service.

A paper manufacturer, for example, may want fr-CA content for letter and legal paper products they supply, but fr-FR content for A4 and A2 paper products, as the products themselves are exclusive to each due to size standards.

Products that don’t have a specific regional variation may not require such a localized treatment. Research your target market to plan out your content strategy.

French Internet Statistics

Surprisingly, only 4.3% of the Internet is in French. The French market is underserved in native content. While the search results may be a poor experience for French users, it’s an opportunity for international companies to rank quickly with less effort.

French keywords often don’t have high competition, so good content with excellent internal linking may rank more quickly than the same strategy in English. While fewer backlinks may be necessary to rank, getting French backlinks may be more challenging, as there is less content for link building, and it may be harder to identify. That said, there are more French domain names using the .FR TLD, shifting away from a .COM domain name, and making identification of authoritative French websites a little easier. 

Differences Between French SEO and English SEO

All of the search engine optimization strategies you use in English, you’ll also use in French SEO. So yes, you have to pay attention to:

  • Meta descriptions
  • Title tags
  • Google My Business listings/Google Business Profile for local SEO

There are two areas where you may find a significant difference:

  • User experience
  • Local keyword research

French User Experience Issues

Potential customers expect content tailored to them. And they still want the content to look good. French is 15% longer than English. That means that you may have to adjust button size, text box ratios, font sizes and more for your site to look good.

Secondly, you want a font that supports special characters, like cedillas, accent marks, and umlauts, should be able to be rendered both in upper and lower case. The acute accent mark is especially important, as it indicates past tense in some verb forms. Keep this in mind when you look at your web design, and make any adjustments before starting. Also, the French often capitalize the full last name.

That’s just the visual portion. The other, probably more important user-experience perspective is the linguistic one. If the content isn’t tailored to the local culture – meaning measurements, references, idioms, and more – then you’ll have a hard time reaching native speakers.

Your online presence should reflect your brand in-country. What does that mean? You’ll want to be aware of the cultural differences between your home country and your target.

Is the industry the same? Are there different laws, customs, or major industry players? Are buying habits the same? Are there local holidays that are important? This should be considered in your content.

French Keyword Research

When performing keyword research in French, you need someone evaluating search terms that has a deep knowledge of both language and culture. Directly translating search terms is a good place to start, but there are often many phrases with different connotations, and you want to choose those that best fit your industry. Additionally, some terms may refer to specific institutions or cultural reference points, and should be used strategically if at all. 

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