What are the challenges that companies with an international web presence face?

Domain Name

SEO begins with domain name selection – this is true whether the website is to be promoted locally or internationally.

Try to register a ccTLD for the country you’re targeting. For example, if your business targets the Canadian market, try to register for a .CA domain name. However, do remember that many countries require you to have an actual physical business location in that country before you can obtain the ccTLD, this is particularly true for the .CA domain name as well as the .DE (German) domain name).

Why? Search engines try to rank the most relevant search results for the user. For example, Google will default a user in Canada to its Google.ca search site and will feed results it thinks is more relevant (ie. .CA might be a better result then .COM)

Web Hosting

The closer the servers are (geographically) to the site visitors, the faster the pages will load as a greater distance means there are probably more nodes for data to pass through before it reaches the user.

If you are aiming to target a specific audience, you should use a country specific domain extension (ie. .ca for Canada, .uk for the UK), use local web hosting and focus on building links that come mainly from sites in that geo-location. This way, it allows the search engines to easily determine where your market is and more effectively rank and display your website in search results.

Language (keywords, etc.)

Developing optimal keywords requires a thorough understanding of your product/service and matching that with the search terms that are likely to be used in the target country and language. This is not a task that you want to rely solely on Google Translate or other translation tools.

What is the best way to get all pages on a multiple-language website indexed by search engines?

One suggestion is to get separate domains for each language of your site.

Why? By getting separate domains for each version/translation of your website, you will be able to arrange exchange links for the main page of each of the versions, which in turn can drive up the link popularity of each. Also, as mentioned before, search engines give precedence to websites in the searcher’s own country and country-specific domains. When you go to Google’s Japanese website, you will see the URL: www.google.co.jp (Japanese) or www.google.es (Spain).

An alternative is to place each version/translation into a subfolder. If check out Microsoft’s website, you will see that their language sites look like this: http://www.microsoft.com/el/gr/default.aspx (Greek).

Yahoo! on the other hand uses subdomains:  fr.yahoo.com (French) and ru.yahoo.com (Russia).

More interesting reads: