SEO in Belgium. How to Improve Your Rankings?
The Kingdom of Belgium is a country with more and more people shopping online. Therefore, the local e-commerce can be impressively profitable. However, if you want to surpass the competition on the market, you need to take care of the rankings and invest in SEO. Our today’s entry should put you in the picture about the Belgian market and give you the idea whether it’s possible for you to succeed there.
Profile of the Belgian market
When it comes to analyzing the Belgian market, it’s impossible not to mention the basic information about the country. Let’s start with some common knowledge – the Kingdom of Belgium is a federal state, located in southern Netherlands. Although the population of Belgium reaches a little over 11 million people, the country is extremely developed. French, German and Dutch are the official languages spoken there. This aspect is particularly important when SEO is concerned, however, we’ll discuss it at length later on in this article.
Belgium is divided into three regions: Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels. Each of them is autonomous in numerous fields such as economic policy or export promotion. The Kingdom of Belgium can boast with one of the most developed economies in the world. This in turn indicates that it’s worth investing in sales in this country. 70% of the Belgian national income is provided by services. Such impressive results can be achieved thanks to the developed system of logistics and transport infrastructure. The most prominent industries in Belgium include chemicals, food, textiles as well as metallurgy and electrical machinery. Brussels, the capital of Belgium, often referred to as “the capital of Europe” is the seat of the EU institutions.
Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is an important indicator of a country’s economic strength. To put it simply, it’s the total value of all services and goods produced in Belgium in a particular year. The graph below illustrates the annual growth of this indicator in the Kingdom of Belgium. The expected upward trend is a sign that the country is developing well in terms of its economy. Thus, the conclusion is obvious – it’s worthy investing in goods on the local market.
The e-commerce market in Belgium
Based on the StatBel report, as many as 6 out of 10 Belgians shop online. The trend is growing so it’s advisable to invest in online shops. Below you can see the predictions until 2021 showing the increase in the number of the e-commerce users.
The ecommercenews.eu report says that in 2018 the value of e-commerce in Belgium amounted to 10.67 billion euros. The average Belgian user shopped online more than 11 times last year. However, it’s worth noting that Belgium started its e-commerce activities comparatively late as at the beginning most of the residents benefited from the services offered by the Netherlands. Another reason behind poor e-commerce was the ban of night shifts issued by the state which caused significant delays in the delivery of goods to the customers. Consequently, Belgians preferred to order products from foreign manufacturers. This is why it’s difficult to surpass the competition in Belgium. Most of the leading e-commerce companies come from abroad but determination, strong will and a well-thought-out strategy should be enough to achieve the intended results. Currently, Belgium puts great emphasis on promoting the local e-commerce. Night shifts are also allowed which has contributed to the better functioning of the indigenous e-commerce companies.
Bancontact, followed by a credit card, is the most popular method of paying for online shopping in Belgium. The vast majority of Belgian citizens use the first of the mentioned forms of online payment – Bancontact is an immediate debit card but it can only be used by residents of Belgium. The goods which are the most eagerly purchased online in this country include clothing, footwear, groceries and consumer electronics. Want to check out the revenues of particular e-commerce product categories in Belgium? See the chart below!
The Belgian e-commerce is undoubtedly dominated by big online shops such as Zalando, Bol.com, Amazon France, Apple and Coolblue. However, we shouldn’t forget about the local companies like Vente-Exclusive, Vanden Borre, ZEB, Schoenen Torfs and Bel & Bo which also sell online.
How to become recognizable on the Belgian Internet?
Any company willing to enter the Belgian market needs to undertake a wide spectrum of Internet marketing activities as a large part of the local population uses the Internet on a daily basis. A properly designed website is the basis of advertising activities and the competition never sleeps. Such a developed country is a law unto itself, therefore it’s recommended to take actions that will allow you to outdo your rivals on the market. In order to do this, it’s necessary to advertise your company in a way that attracts the widest possible target audience.
According to the Internet World Stats statistics from March 2019, more than 94% of Belgian citizens are active Internet users. Importantly, 65% of Belgians use Facebook regularly. If you want to be noticed on the local Internet, you need to take these statistics into account. On the basis of 2019 data published by StatBel we’ve prepared a list of the most common online activities of the Belgian users.
Language and its influence on the Belgian SEO
French, Dutch and German are the official languages of Belgium. A noticeable part of population, approximately 60%, speaks Dutch. Nearly 40% of the Belgian population speaks French and only 1% chooses German. Brussels is dominated by French but similarly to many other capitals, the city is multilingual.
Belgian websites are accessible in various language versions. In most cases you can come across French, Dutch, English and German website versions, however, much depends on the extension of the registered domain. In Belgium, websites are registered under the .be, .brussels and .vlaanderen domain extensions. Below you can see an example of various language versions under the .brussels domain extension – the landing page is displayed in French but other language versions are also available.
|Landing page||Language versions|
In Brussels, most local businesses like restaurants and other services are registered under the .be domain extension. In this case, the landing page is displayed in French but different language versions are also accessible.
|Landing page||Language versions|
Theoretically, there are three official languages in the Kingdom of Belgium, however, in practice they’re used as follows:
- The Flemish variety of Dutch is spoken in Flanders,
- The French and Walloon varieties of Dutch are spoken in Wallonia,
- French and Dutch (predominantly French) are spoken in Brussels,
- German is spoken in the south of the country.
The above data can help you analyze the market and choose the most suitable way to promote your products and services with the use of a language version of the website. It would be ideal to design a site with several language versions, however, this is quite an expensive solution as running SEO activities for each and every version can cost an arm and a leg. Because of that we’ve illustrated above where to target your products or services and which language version to choose.
Social media in Belgium
Nowadays, the vast majority of people, including Belgians, use social media platforms. The trend is increasing so don’t underestimate this aspect. If you want to be better than your competition on the market, you need to be active on various social media platforms. The nature, specificity and services offered by the company are the key points and on their basis you can determine the desirable target group.
When it comes to companies that aim at increasing traffic to their websites and gaining potential customers in Belgium, it’s advisable to be active on various social media platforms. In the Kingdom of Belgium as many as 63% of the Internet users are active on Facebook. However, it’s worth promoting your business also on Pinterest as this platform is chosen by 25% of the users. Twitter, YouTube and Instagram are much less popular but if you want to achieve optimal results and traffic, you can invest in these platforms as well. Check out the picture below to see the percentage distribution of the social media platforms used in Belgium.
The most popular internet browsers in Belgium
In Belgium over half of the Internet users choose Chrome and almost 22% of people use Safari. This is due to the popularity of Apple devices where Safari is the default browser. Below you can see the percentage distribution of various browsers used in Belgium.
When it comes to search engines, Google is an unquestionable winner – it’s chosen by more than 95% of users. This is definitely the most powerful search engine and this piece of information is particularly useful when you consider SEO activities – it’s worth investing in the ones based on the Google principles. Thanks to it, there is a great chance that your site will reach a wide range of potential customers and audience. When other search engines are concerned, Bing is chosen by 3% of users and Yahoo, DuckDuckGo, MSN and Vinden are preferred by less than 1% of the Belgian Internet users.
Selecting your domain extension on the Belgian market
In Belgium you can register your domain under 3 extensions: .be, .brussels and .vlaanderen. Each of them has its pros and cons, however, the final decision is made by the owner of the domain.
The .vlaanderen domain extension is aimed at Flemish companies, organizations and individuals whose priority is to establish a strong local identity. The full name of the domain will reflect the company’s activities.
The .brussels domain extension is chosen by companies, organizations and individuals who want to be associated with Brussels. The domain name is international and can create bonds and closeness with other companies. This in turn has a positive impact on brand trust and is an excellent way to reflect the scope of activities of a given company.
When you decide to register a country .be domain in the Kingdom of Belgium, you should be aware that there are no additional requirements for companies or natural persons. What’s more important, you don’t need to have a company registered in Belgium in order to be able to buy a .be domain. The possession of a Belgian trademark also doesn’t influence the possibility of registering the domain. In order to register your domain legally, remember that its name shouldn’t be on the list of prohibited phrases. The .be domain ought to have between 3 and 63 characters.
Aspects of SEO crucial in Belgium
In Belgium SEO activities are run via google.be, therefore, using the abovementioned search engine is the easiest way to run SEO activities for .be domains. In order to be ranked high you need to follow the Google principles and remember about international SEO services best practices. Local SEO is very important and popular in Belgium as many Internet users search for services within a specific region, city or district. It can be stated that in Belgium SEO is mainly about selecting appropriate keywords and basing your SEO strategy on them.
SEO is primarily about increasing traffic to a given website which translates directly into improving sales. The process contributes also to the brand image as websites ranked high in the search results are perceived as user-friendly and reliable.
Analyzing DNS Belgium we can notice that most people go for domains with the .be extensions, the .brussels domains are the runners-up and the .vlaanderen extensions are the least popular ones.
SEO in Belgium is about undertaking actions so that a given website is ranked noticeably higher in the search results. Social media platforms are very important in this process, therefore it’s essential to create accounts and be active on the most popular sites. Remember about adjusting your website to mobile devices as most of the searches are carried out with their use. In order to achieve even better results and more traffic invest in search engine advertising campaigns.