Liraz is an International SEO and Content Expert with over 13 years of experience.
Thanks to the internet, we live in an increasingly connected world. For brands, this provides endless scope for expansion. However, penetrating new markets isn’t without its pitfalls. If you want to make waves on the world stage, you need to be thinking about international SEO.
While the fundamentals of search engine optimization can be applied anywhere in the world, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to SEO when targeting global markets. If you want to attract visitors to your website and boost organic search performance, you’ll need to retool your SEO strategy accordingly. While the process is extensive and comes at a cost, it’s unavoidable if you want to succeed as a truly global business.
The main aim of an international SEO strategy is to boost the organic presence of a website in international markets. When delivered successfully, an international SEO campaign allows you to engage users in new markets, achieving global reach and maximizing awareness of your brand.
International SEO can seem daunting, but it’s an unavoidable process if you want your website to rank well elsewhere in the world. Aside from unique cultural norms and language differences, search engine algorithms can behave differently, depending on location. However, with some careful planning and by following best practices, ranking well in local search results is achievable, making it far easier to penetrate target markets.
It’s important to remember that search engines like Google cater to the needs and behavior of users in the countries in which they are based. In other words, a search engine will provide different results in different locations.
When you invest in international SEO efforts, you’re making it clear to search engines that your website has content that caters to the needs of users in specific locations. It also lets a search engine know that you’re offering services or selling products that users might be searching for in a certain language.
Many different localization signals are used to make international SEO more effective. Best practices for international SEO can include retooling URL structure for specific countries and using hreflang tags to let search engines know your website content is available in multiple languages. Combined, these localization signals give you the best chance of ranking well in international territories.
International SEO is an involved process that involves optimizing websites and online content to rank well for international search terms. While this might seem fairly simple and similar to local SEO, there are many unique challenges you’ll need to overcome.
The main obstacle faced by international SEO is that you’ll need to accommodate language differences and specific cultural requirements when localizing content. Extensive keyword research needs to be undertaken for every market you’re planning on expanding into. In countries where more than one language is widely spoken, this can prove an extensive process and beyond the capabilities of many agencies providing SEO services.
What’s more, you need to consider what search engines are being used in every country you’re keen to target. Google is the first port of call for users in many territories, but it’s not the preferred option in certain countries. In China, for example, access to Google is severely limited thanks to censorship. Instead, Baidu is the most widely used search engine. Elsewhere, Google enjoys less of an impressive market share, so it’s worth investigating its closest competitors in territories where it’s less dominant.
Country code top-level domains (ccTLDs) also need to be considered when thinking about international search strategy. Offering a unique top-level domain specific to each country you want to penetrate gives search engines the signals they need to provide results to users in different territories. However, unique ccTLDs can be problematic, with each domain requiring unique link building, digital marketing campaigns, and more.
Although the majority of internet searches are now performed via mobile, this isn’t the case for every country. In places like Canada, mobile internet website traffic is relatively low, with most users using desktop devices to access the internet. However, in many African countries and places like India, mobile internet traffic is far higher than the global average. Different devices require a different degree of optimization, so knowing what type new markets are using is crucial.
All of the above need to be taken into account when optimizing for international search engines. If you fail to prioritize just one element, low levels of traffic and lackluster rankings are guaranteed.
Any brand thinking about global expansion needs to embrace the principles of international SEO. If your competitors are already active in foreign markets, ranking well can be an uphill battle. However, not every competitor will have optimized their online content for new territories. By investing in international SEO, you can give your brand the advantage and quickly outpace the competition. Below are just a few of the reasons why international SEO makes sense for brands thinking globally.
In the online age, there’s nothing stopping a business from reaching a global audience. However, a worldwide market isn’t a homogenous one. International SEO allows brands to create tailored campaigns, specific to the language requirements, needs, and cultural norms of each territory. When successfully deployed, international SEO makes it easy to connect with new customers, dramatically increasing website traffic and giving brands the global exposure they’re looking for.
When a website begins to appear in search results for specific keywords, organic traffic gets an instant boost. If you’re adhering to international SEO best practices and deploying your campaign successfully, you’ll start to attract the right kind of users. Delivering online content that speaks to users in their native language generally leads to far higher conversion rates, which eventually brings the revenues brands need for sustained growth and expansion.
You’ll never be able to succeed in the global market without a recognizable brand identity. By investing in international SEO and tailoring content for specific regions, it’s far easier to boost brand visibility and establish yourself as a credible enterprise. Users are far more likely to choose a business that offers content in their own language, even if cheaper alternatives can be found elsewhere. Native content not only speaks to users in their own language, it also builds trust. This in turn creates a better experience for the customer which fosters a sense of loyalty, which in turn can lead to invaluable word-of-mouth referrals.
Need a helping hand reaching users in new markets? You’ll need a reliable localization partner to get you where you need to be. At BLEND, our international SEO services can help you identify the right keywords for your campaign, boost click-through rates, and drive global traffic to your website. Need help devising a first-rate content strategy plan? We can help with that too. In fact, our international SEO services can provide you with all the insights you need to position your brand as a force to be reckoned with, anywhere in the world.
Once you have a handle on the key principles, you can start thinking about creating an effective international SEO strategy that will catapult your brand into new markets. While it’s tempting to think about social media and other forms of digital marketing, you first need to consider your existing website and how well it’s performing in local search results in the countries you’re looking to target.
Start by assessing the organic traffic you’re getting from other countries. To make life easier, you can use Google Analytics and similar tools to determine search volumes and conversions for different languages and countries. Then take at your organic search visibility in the countries where users are visiting your website.
Once you’ve found this information, your international SEO strategy is ready to take shape. It’s time to decide which countries you’re interested in targeting. Once you’ve done this, determine the languages that are commonly used in these territories. Finally, you’ll need to decide how you’re going to approach the localization process. This is a far more involved process than translating content from one source language into another, so a traditional SEO agency or content delivery service might not be up to the task.
As with a regular SEO strategy, you’ll need to determine your objectives when approaching international SEO. This way, you’ll be able to measure the success of your campaign and determine ROI. You may decide that you’re chiefly concerned with increasing traffic to your website. Here, the focus should be on making your website more visible to search engines in new countries.
Alternatively, you may be more concerned with lead generation. International SEO can make your website copy more appealing to non-native speakers, although it’s the only element of your site that will need adapting. Images, fonts, and colors may all need to be refined during the localization process. If you’re interested in driving sales, a targeted international SEO campaign can also deliver the results you’re looking for.
Once you’ve decided your main goals, you progress to the market research stage of the process. Here, you’ll learn more about consumer behavior and preferences, which will greatly inform how you localize your content. You also need to consider the competition.
As well as giving you an idea of who your major rivals are, competitor analysis will provide you with useful insights into the kind of SEO strategies other brands are using. As well as providing you with untapped keywords with big potential, competitor analysis makes it easier for you to set yourself apart as a unique brand in a crowded international market.
Keywords are a crucial element of any SEO strategy, no matter where you’re looking to do business. If you want to reach the right audience, you need to perform exhaustive keyword research for every market you want to expand into. Thorough keyword research will pinpoint the exact phrases that customers are using to find the things that you’re selling. Armed with these keyword insights, you’re ready to start creating compelling website content that’s optimized for each language.
However, effective localization involves more than simple translations. Instead, you need to be thinking about transcreation. What’s more, you may not even need to translate certain words at all. In many industry sectors, certain English words are maintained everywhere in the world. Translating these keywords not only takes up valuable time and resources, it can also hamper your SEO efforts.
Your approach to international SEO will ultimately depend on your objectives, the kinds of customers you’re looking to attract, and what resources you have available. However, every international SEO strategy can be grouped into one of two categories.
First, there’s language targeting. This approach can be used if one language is used in many different countries, allowing you to create content that’s suitable for use across several markets. There’s also country targeting. This approach applies if you’re targeting a country where a single official language is recognized. Not only will you need to create websites specific to each country, but you’ll need to localize content for each of them.
In many cases, brands adopt both for international SEO. Language targeting might be used to reach international audiences speaking the same language, while country targeting can be utilized to strike the right note with a territory where a specific dialect is spoken.
It makes sense to use unique URLs to differentiate between your original content and localized output. There are several URL structures you can use when targeting specific languages and market segments.
We’ve already talked about country code top-level domains, so let’s move on to global top-level domains (gTLDs). These can dramatically improve location targeting and boost brand visibility in new markets, but they’re relatively complex and difficult to maintain. If you’re targeting a market where multiple languages are spoken, using gTLDs along with subfolders is another option.
International SEO can be complicated. Juggling countless keywords across several languages can prove especially difficult, particularly when it comes to measuring performance. This single aspect of international SEO can prove time-consuming, but it needs to be prioritized if you want to see results.
You also need to ensure that you’re redirecting users to the right domain. Users need to arrive at the right website based on their location. Every user who encounters a redirect may decide to call it quits and abandon your brand entirely, so don’t neglect this crucial element of international SEO.
Creating fresh content for new markets can also prove a challenge. Content needs to be compelling and engage new audiences, but it also needs to be sensitive to the cultural norms of each territory. Market research should alert you to any major cultural differences that need to be considered, but it’s not uncommon to experience the occasional hiccup along the way.
Thinking about expanding into new territories? Translating your website content is a good start, but this is just the tip of the iceberg if you’re serious about global expansion. A true international SEO strategy involves far more than word-for-word translations. You’ll need to think about keyword research, backlink analysis, competitor analysis, and much more.
At BLEND, we have the tools you need to connect with users across the globe. We provide international SEO translation services in 120 languages, giving your content the edge it needs to grow your online presence and extend your organic research.
Ready to make the leap with localization and unlock the potential of new markets? Get in touch with BLEND today to find out more about how we can help you.