Are you ready to expand your business globally? Then you need to know all about international SEO. At this point, you have figured out your national business strategy, and hopefully, you know which countries you are targeting and which companies you are competing against. So now, how can you emerge as an international powerhouse with an international SEO strategy? In this article, we will discuss how different international SEO strategies can help your business grow.
What is International SEO?
International SEO is the way that you tell search engines like Google that you are targeting specific countries to do business in. International SEO strategies cover everything from how to handle your URL to using specific tags. Before you get into specific technical stuff, decide if a language or country-based international SEO strategy is best for you. How do you make this decision?
Ask yourself: Does my product or service change if a person in a different country uses it? Most times, no. The only change that you need to make is to have your website, blog, or any other content in the native language of your customer. For example, if the language that you need is German, ask: Will German-speaking people from different countries still use my product or service if I do nothing but provide them with German content? If the answer is yes, you will need to come up with a language-based international SEO strategy. A product or service you sell in Germany is different from what you will need to sell in countries such as Austria or France.
This is true for all types of businesses including:
- Brick-and-mortar retailers such as McDonald’s
- E-retailers with country-specific offers like Amazon
- SaaS companies with regulated offers like Netflix
- Mixed retailers (brick-and-mortar/e-commerce) such as H&M
Start With Research
The best place to start when deciding where you can expand your business is by conducting some sort of market research. But if you are waiting for an SEO signal, there are two factors that can help nudge you in the right direction. The first would be if you notice a huge spike in traffic from a specific foreign market. The second would be if you notice a spike in users or customers from a particular country or region. A spike in users from a particular place often translates into a demand for your product or service on that market.
Next, you will want to conduct keyword research to find out what people in these foreign markets are searching for. There are two tips you should keep in mind when you conduct localized keyword research for a foreign market. The first is that you should never machine translate keywords. Try using online translation services such as Gengo to help you or hire a native speaker to do keyword research for you. Next, don’t assume that high-volume keywords will remain the same across markets, even if the language is the same as your original market.
Choose an International Search Engine
The next step is choosing a search engine that is perfect for your international SEO strategy. Depending on which country you target, think bigger than Google. Here is a list of the leading search engines from all around the world:
- Google (Global Leader)
- Baidu (China)
- Yandex (Russia)
- Yahoo (Japan and Hong Kong)
- Seznam (Czech Republic)
- Naver (South Korea)
If you do not want to expand to countries where other search engines dominate, then can you limit your keyword localization to Google? Recent data says that this may be a possibility. Google is currently killing it on large markets such as Brazil and India, where it has a 95.07% and a 94.53% market share. On a global SEO scale, Google takes the cake over all other search engines with a 91.66% total market share. Bing comes in second, with a 2.51% market share. When it comes to mobile devices, there is no competition. Google controls 97.07% of the global share of the mobile search market.
Conduct Competitor Research for your Global SEO Strategy
The next SEO best practice you should engage in is competitor research. You will want to take localized keyword research and feed it through a rank tracking tool. But say you do not have access to one. Then you can feed each keyword one-by-one into Google to see which websites make a habit of appearing in the top 10 results. Through this research, you will find answers to the following questions:
- Who are your top competitors in your new market?
- What percentage of overlap is there for top-ranking keywords?
- Are there keywords that are “up for grabs” and if so, what is their search volume?
Once you know who your top competitors are, take a look at how they do things. At the same time, looking at the competition may give you a better understanding of what already seems to work in that market. To get a better understanding of what you’re up against, check out their site and URL structure. You should also check out the offers, content, and images on their site. Having that information is crucial if you want to assess the potential for creating better content and outranking the competition.
Decide Your URL and Site Structure
It is hard to know which URL structure is the best one for International SEO. There is not necessarily one strategy that is better than the other. This is why it might be a good idea to have a separate website for different markets.
Having a separate website gives Google a clear message that each site is for a country-specific audience. Plus, your offers and specific content will be divided, making targeting easier. Unfortunately, there are also downsides to having separate sites. The first is that building multiple websites can be expensive and time-consuming. You will also need to manage different offers and content across multiple sites. Finally, initial low brand awareness means building domain authority from zero.
Change Content to Reflect Your New Localized Keywords
Now, it is finally time to prepare the content for your international SEO strategy. One of the best SEO practices is duplicating content, but only to a certain point. If you have an inventory of 1,000+ items, you will need to directly translate most of your inventory to the correct language and using the new keywords. At the same time, if you have original blog content or other long-form content, you will need to redo your on-page SEO optimization. Otherwise, you won’t rank for your new localized keywords.
Change Your Content to Reflect Market Demands
Let’s say your offer needs to change along with your content. What are some things that qualify as content changes?
- Product and Product Descriptions
- Product Names (“tires” in the US vs “tyres” in the UK)
- Pricing (currency and pricing structures)
- Rules and regulations
You may also need to change your website layout and user experience. Images are a good example of content that may need to change because of cultural differences. A good example of a company that optimizes its images for international SEO purposes is Ikea. For example, pictures of kitchens in the US are way larger than the Chinese and European markets, where there are smaller kitchens.
International SEO and Franchise SEO Unite For Certain Locations
Brick and mortar retailers will need to remember to implement all localized SEO and franchise SEO tactics before calling it a day. Some of the SEO best practices for this include the following:
- Standardize your NAP information for easier distribution among local listings
- Fill out a Google My Business Profile for every physical location that’s opening
- Research all local online listings and add your standardized NAP information
- Create all-new social media profiles for your new locations
- You will want to be sure to include yourself on all local and relevant review platforms
- Customize your schema markups to reflect local aspects of your business
- Add your new location as a point of interest for GPS devices and navigation apps
Creating an international SEO Strategy can be a long and complicated process. The most important parts of it are making sure that you have great keyword localization and URL structure. Put as much effort into your localized keyword research and content planning for your new market as you have for your main site. Finish with implementing a long-term plan for your URL structure. Hopefully, this article gave you the tips you need to have a successful international SEO plan. If you still have questions, reach out to an SEO expert to optimize your content rankings.
- What is international SEO?
- What kind of international search engines are there?
- How do you conduct competitor research?
- Why should you do keyword research?
- How do I change content to meet market demands?
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