SEO Switzerland: Strategy and recommendations
As one of the main activities of digital marketing, SEO in Switzerland is quite special. Essentially, because the country has four official languages.
This unusual feature could be perceived as complex, yet it is an opportunity. A time is little that the SEO strategy is implemented effectively.
Developing your organic visibility on a national scale in Switzerland is not an easy task. It is nevertheless a considerable asset once established.
Also, using an SEO agency or a digital marketing freelancer can ensure a sustainable strategy.
Find in this guide the complete strategy and recommendations for an effective implementation of SEO Switzerland in 2023!
SEO consists of improving the visibility of your website on the various search engines.
How did SEO begin?
Without being able to verify the facts 100%, it is agreed that SEO officially came into being in 1997.
At that time, the first SEO managers optimized their content to be placed in page lists or directories used to rank different websites.
Several search engines were created and the first keyword optimizations appeared.
In the beginning, it was very simple to position yourself on a specific keyword. All you had to do was to make it appear on your page a number of times higher than that of your competitor.
Nowadays, search engine algorithms are much more sophisticated and offer much more relevant lists of results.
Working on your SEO, it’s first improving your site and its content to enable you to be better referenced by search engines.
The three pillars of SEO
Therefore, it is based on three main pillars which are: the technical part, the on-page part and finally the off-page part. The particularity of SEO in Switzerland lies in the fact that the country has several official languages.
That’s why it is fundamental to optimize your SEO for each language. To do this, we can use international SEO techniques, as well as local SEO strategies.
The technical part in SEO (search engine optimization)
The technical SEO part includes all the improvements made to a website to make it visible in search engines.
It is a work that is done mainly at the level of the code and the server. The latter is independent of the other two pillars.
Therefore, for a website to be indexable, it is necessary to ensure that the structure of the latter is clear and that all pages appear in the “sitemap”.
Also, the site must be fast. This translates into a simple design, a good server and some parts of the site cached in order to improve the loading speed.
Google has also established a system of standard measures called Core Web Vitals.
This system is composed of three factors to be taken into account to have a website that is properly indexable.
A multilingual site
For national visibility, your site must be translated into several languages. In order to be indexed and visible in each region.
Of course, you must take into account your objectives and, above all, the resources available for your activity.
The translation of the site is an important element, but the customer relations aspect is even more important.
Generally, you can choose at least two main languages that you must master.
Automatically translating your site for a language you don’t know is of little use.
On the one hand, for SEO, because the keywords in the text are not necessarily those used by users.
On the other hand, from a point of view of trust and reliability. A native speaker can very quickly identify content that is automatically translated.
From a purely technical SEO point of view, offering content in several languages on the same page should be avoided. You must create a separate page for each language.
Finally, you must ensure that each page is a Hreflang tag. This allows search engines to identify the language and the country targeted.
A site with a responsive design
Finally, at a time when mobile devices have become the most used tools for browsing the internet, it is fundamental that a website be adapted for this type of screen.
Once the technical part is optimized, the entire website must be indexable.
The second part of the strategy will be to work on the on-page part to improve the position of the pages in the search results.
The On-page part of a website
On-page optimization can be defined by the different actions that consist in improving the content present on a website.
The idea is to define a target audience and then identify their needs and problems to be solved.
Once you have done this, you can set up a keyword research, which allows you to create relevant content for potential visitors to your website.
The main intention is to optimize your content around a targeted keyword that matches your target audience.
On the one hand, to improve the visibility of your site, but also to attract qualified traffic that corresponds to potential prospects.
For this reason, the keyword search must be done in each language and for each country.
Many examples show that an object may have a different name in French-speaking Switzerland than in France or Belgium. This is true even if one of the official languages is French in each country.
This rule also applies to expressions that may be interpreted differently in German or German-speaking Switzerland.
There is little point in simply translating each word or expression targeted, as they are often very different.
Then, the title and the meta description must be taken into account to give a context.
In this way, visitors who use a search engine can very quickly see and identify whether the answer to their query is on your page.
You should also take care of the different titles of your paragraphs so that the visitor can quickly see the content of your page.
Having a clear structure, with short paragraphs, is a good way to improve the On-page part of a website.
The importance of quality content
Many aspects of SEO can be worked on and implemented directly or indirectly with the help of an SEO agency or a freelancer.
There are now a number of tools that can be used to obtain recommendations, particularly on the technical SEO of a site.
Nevertheless, the work in terms of content strategy (content marketing) is crucial.
Creating articles or content requires a significant investment, both in terms of time and budget.
You need to make sure that they are of high quality, relevant, and moreover respond effectively to the target audience.
Avoid duplication, long paragraphs and repetition of keywords. Unlike print or books, online content should be concise and to the point.
With an effective content strategy, you will undoubtedly increase the engagement of your visitors (reduced bounce rate, reading several articles, newsletter sign-up).
Some of these signals are taken into account by Google and allow you to increase the visibility of your site on search engines and thus generate more organic traffic.
Optimize images with the “Alt” tag
Images must also be optimized for search engines. On the one hand, the size, weight, but also the title of the file must be taken into account.
A good practice is to use the main keyword to (re)name the images.
The “Alt” tag is also part of the On-page optimizations. Its primary function is to allow visually impaired people to have information on the content of an image.
Also, search engines use it to better understand the context and meaning of a page.
Finally, it is important to ensure that internal links (connections between different pages) are set up correctly. We can limit the number of external links or use “nofollow” attributes.
Once the On-page part is optimized, the legitimacy of a website is mainly worked through the Off-page SEO.
The Off-page part of a website
Improving the off-page SEO part is quite tedious. Optimizations are mainly based on the quality of the articles and content.
The different search engines use external signals to evaluate if the website has a legitimacy to appear in the first positions of the search results.
To do this, they scan all the sites on the Internet and follow the various external links between sites.
These links are also called backlinks. Just as a recommendation is made in everyday life, a backlink can be called “digital recommendation”.
Google takes into account this signal to define the degree of authority, authenticity, and legitimacy of a site in relation to a specific topic or theme.
In addition, the number of likes and links shared on social networks are criteria taken into account for referencing.
Some sites have specialized in the exchange and sale of links. A technique prohibited by Google.
It can lead to a penalty if the algorithm of the famous search engine detects it.
The search engine algorithm
Google’s algorithm is seen as the “brain” of the search engine.
Constantly updated, it evaluates thousands of factors when determining the ranking of websites on search results. These include keywords and content quality.
To keep the search engine relevant, Google regularly develops updates to its algorithm. Some of them are sometimes made public.
Therefore, when you want to develop a Search Engine Optimization strategy, it is important to be informed about the different updates.
Some companies have also suffered from popular updates. A strong decrease in traffic was recorded by very large websites.
The different factors of the algorithm
It is fundamental to take into account the different factors that an algorithm uses to rank a site or a page. The keywords, but also the search intentions, the relevance of the proposed content and the number of links that this content receives.
You can also use analysis tools such as Google Analytics, Google Search Console or SEMrush. These tools allow you to have even more information on the organic performance (conversion rate, keyword relevance)
Of course, there are other important parameters, especially in Switzerland, regarding the multilingual aspect of a site and its content.
Measuring the performance of the SEO strategy
Even if the effects of certain optimizations can be measured quite easily, (especially for the technical part) the positive impact of an effective SEO strategy is generally quite complex to demonstrate.
This is mainly due to the time spent by search engines indexing content, analysing its relevance and collecting user interactions.
However, for most improvements to a site, you need to define objectives to be achieved (increasing the number of visits, generating more conversions or having more organic visibility).
These goals can be measured using Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).
Once these KPIs are defined, there are many tools that can help you monitor and analyse changes over time.
- Google Analytics allows you to measure in detail the traffic, sources, and interactions on your site.
- Google Search Console offers you the possibility to identify the keywords for which your site and pages are positioned.
- SEMRush can help you in your keyword research, but the tool also offers position tracking of your site on defined keywords.
- Other tools such as Screamingfrog can be used to analyse page structure.
SEO is built over a long period of time and the “test & learn” method should be used as often as possible.
This way you can test changes, analyse the impact and optimize your strategy based on the results.
Local SEO in Switzerland
Establishing an effective SEO strategy in Switzerland is no easy task. Especially with its multiple cultural regions and four official languages. This makes it a rather special case in terms of search engine optimization.
Local SEO in Switzerland makes sense, as content optimization could be compared to developing four different websites.
In most cases, simply translating the elements of a site is not enough. The words used from one linguistic region to another (Lausanne, Zurich, Bern, or Geneva) are very often different.
For this reason, a national site must be optimized with local content. Not only in terms of keyword research, but also in terms of the terms and expressions used in each region.
There are significant cultural differences between each part of Switzerland. Mainly due to the different languages, events, artists and culinary habits that are quite divergent between the German, French, and Ticino parts.
Therefore, we talk about content localization when we optimize for a specific place (canton of Vaud), a city (Lausanne) or for regional events (French-speaking Switzerland).
In the same way, awareness can be built independently of one region to another.
Some media or large companies may have a strong presence in one part of Switzerland and be virtually unknown in an adjacent region.
The complexity lies in creating local content and improving awareness for each region. This is an extra effort when compared to the strategy in a country with only one official language.
This cultural richness is an undeniable advantage when you start out and want to develop your business locally.
You can quickly get a good reputation (provided that the offer or services you provide are adapted to the habits of the local audience).
However, once your business is established and you want to establish it in other language regions, additional efforts will be needed.
Other local players can very quickly become important competition for the success of your business.
Therefore, you need to pay special attention to your marketing, communication and SEO strategy.
The difficulty of having links
Building local SEO awareness inevitably involves getting links from other local sites.
This strategy can be likened to “word of mouth”:
A customer (website) who trusts you, recommends you (link to your site) to his audience (his friends). In SEO, this recommendation is called a Backlink.
This is where the complexity lies. A recommendation from a friend who speaks French to someone who speaks German will have very little value. That is to say, a backlink from a site in French-speaking Switzerland will have less added value for services that you offer in German-speaking Switzerland.
In the best case, you need to find customers who recommend you in each region.
Thus, obtaining links (synonymous with legitimacy and authority for a subject) will have to be done mainly on a local scale.
Paradoxically, one could compare this very local SEO strategy to a more global strategy, also called international SEO.
What differentiates classic SEO from international SEO is mainly the aspect of “global” keyword research.
One might think that it is enough to translate a site to see it appear in other countries. It may be that for some pages it works. However, the international SEO strategy is based on many more factors.
Thus, through a market study and according to the objectives of your activity, you can define the target countries or regions.
Then you need to evaluate the different cultures and official languages. Some countries, such as Switzerland, require special attention with regard to the languages in which the site is accessible.
For example, Luxembourg, Belgium or even South Africa have several official languages.
If you want to be visible on a national scale, your site will have to be available in all of them.
Also, it is necessary to make sure that the site is technically adapted for the different languages. Finally, it is necessary to take into account the local search engines in case you want to develop your activity outside Europe.
Local search engines
For example, Bing is a quite popular search engine in the United States. As well as Yandex for Russia or WeChat in China.
Finally, it is also necessary to ensure that the notoriety will be developed using links obtained in each target country.
It is not enough to receive backlinks in only one country. To be sure to acquire a certain legitimacy internationally, the off-page strategy must be carefully thought out.
This requires a significant investment of time, which can of course be done by an internal team. Another solution is to hire a SEO agency or a freelancer specialized in SEO.
At a certain level, the available resources do not cover the needs for an effective strategy.
SEO agencies in Switzerland
Calling on a Swiss SEO agency can sometimes be a good solution. Foremost, it is necessary to identify and define the needs of the project.
There are many SEO agencies, more or less specialized, covering a wide spectrum of digital marketing.
You can find local SEO agencies, or you can also use international agencies.
In Switzerland, there is at least one good SEO agency per region. Some SEO agencies have even developed their activity on a national scale.
Depending on the needs and objectives, it is very important to make the right choice from the start to avoid having to integrate a new partner during the SEO strategy.
If the objective is to gain notoriety and organic visibility on a national scale, then it is necessary to choose an agency that offers the official languages natively.
A simple translation does not guarantee an efficient SEO.
In the same way, using an agency from a neighbouring country could at first sight be a good (economical) solution. In the medium and long term, things can get complicated, especially when it comes to identifying the search intentions of a region whose language is not supported by the initial agency.
The Freelance SEO Option
Hiring a freelancer can also be a very good alternative. Depending on the project, a freelancer will have more flexibility, whether it is in terms of price, availability, but also support.
Especially if he speaks several official languages of Switzerland.
SEO in Switzerland is quite particular. In addition to the classic optimizations which consist in having a site with an optimal structure for the robots of the search engines. The strategy must be established in several languages.
This particular case can be related to similar strategies used in the implementation of SEO internationally.
A complex situation that is ultimately an opportunity if the strategy is carried out consistently.
If you want to improve your visibility on search engines, and you need support in your strategy, do not hesitate to contact me.
I will be happy to discuss your project with you and advise you on the different steps and potential partners that best fit your needs.
Finally, if you want to be kept informed of the latest news about SEO, but also about digital marketing, do not hesitate to subscribe to my newsletter!
I’m a digital marketing consultant with 20 years of experience in digital growth in Switzerland.
I assist small and medium-sized businesses in enhancing their online presence and generating more leads.
Based on research and data-driven approach, I create digital marketing strategies and effectively implements them.
I also train marketers in SEO, SEA (Online Advertising), and Web analytics to enhance their skills.