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The future of the internet is Indian. The country has more web users than the US, and it’s just getting started. Here’s how to get your message out with SEO in India.

The prize is huge, but the competition is stiff:

There are 560 million Indian internet users, and 59% of the population isn’t online yet. But internet penetration is growing. It increased by 21% last year. And rising incomes helped the e-commerce sector grow 17.8%. It’s an excellent time to optimize your website for SEO in India.

Of course, SEO is a well-established discipline there. It’s standard procedure for many Indian brands. With relatively high English proficiency and lower salary costs, the country boasts a large homegrown industry. Indian companies offer competitive outsourcing services to both domestic and global businesses.

But don’t be put off by the competition. There’s plenty of scope for your brand to grow. Here’s how you can conquer the results page.

MOBILE FIRST

Smartphone, Android, Google. This is the combination most Indians use to search online. In fact, mobile internet usage is 24.7% ahead of the global average. Which means any SEO-friendly websites need to be mobile-first.

Wondering about iOS? Apple only has a 2% market share, so it’s not a priority here.

Although internet access reaches 85% in Indian cities and towns, it can dip as low as 16% in rural areas. Quick loading and options for offline viewing help your customers find the information they’re after. You’ll be in good company too. Both Netflix and Google have adapted their products for low connectivity.

SECOND LANGUAGES

54.9% of the world’s top 10 million websites are currently in English. By contrast, Hindi only accounts for 0.1% – behind much smaller languages like Norwegian, Slovene and Catalan. However, this is set to change.

English-language internet users have been the minority in India since 2017. By 2021, 75% are likely to use local languages. And there are 19,500 to choose from. Major languages include Hindi, Marathi, Bengali, Tamil, Kannada, Telugu, Gujarati and Malayalam.

And it’s not just because it’s their mother tongue. 68% of internet users believe local-language digital content is more reliable than English. And 88% of Indians are more likely to respond to a digital ad in their local language. The message is clear: what consumers can’t read, they won’t buy.

True, using English would make SEO in India much simpler. But treating such a diverse country as one monolithic block won’t be effective. Instead, we recommend expanding to one geographic location at a time. Careful audience profiling should dictate your language choice. And don’t let the prospect of multilingual SEO put you off – help is at hand.

SAY HELLO TO VOICE SEARCH

Hindi has 12 vowels and 36 consonants – tricky to fit onto a small smartphone keyboard. Workarounds include using the QWERTY layout, but there are no standard phonetic translations. Many Indian languages have their own scripts, which adds further complexity.

So it’s not surprising voice search is growing at an annual rate of 270%. Newer internet users are particularly uncomfortable with typing. They’re also less likely to use English over the languages they speak everyday with family and friends.

But it’s getting easier to incorporate voice search into your Indian SEO strategy. Google Assistant supports nine major Indic languages. And companies like ride-share app Ola and food delivery service Zomato have built their own voice assistants. However, it’s important to consider how regional accents and usage varies. For more details, check out our blog post on the subject.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Banking on English to reach Indian consumers is ineffective. As the next 100 million Indians arrive online, local languages will dominate. It’s not just Hindi either – there are over 80 million first-language speakers for languages like Telugu. This means you’ll need to get to grips with multilingual Indian SEO, but the reward is worth the effort.

Need a hand with SEO in India? We’d love to help. Have a look at our global SEO page and get in touch.

Photo by Dhaval Trambadiya on Unsplash