If you have dreams of expanding your business beyond the borders of your native market, you are in luck. The internet has come along and changed everything. It has made it possible to turn even a small online business into a multinational. Instead of the vast resources once required to fund an international expansion, now all you need is the knowledge of international SEO.
One of the biggest opportunities for companies with international ambitions is the significant influence Google has over much of the Western world’s internet search traffic, with Yandex and Baidu dominating in Russia and China respectively. This means, if you know how to please the right search engine in one market, you can follow exactly the same principles in other countries. Although Google has never released its algorithm which determines where websites rank, thanks to the snippets of information Google has released, and plenty of trial and error, it is possible to produce a blueprint for an effective international SEO strategy.
Embracing these best practices isn’t important, it’s absolutely critical. SEO expert Dilyan Grigorov, of London SEO company NetPresenta, says: “To reach new global customers in their languages of choice, you must dedicate as much care to your international content marketing and SEO efforts as you would for your primary-market website – if not more.”
Here is our guide to the eight elements of international SEO best practice you need to put in place to make your mark around the world…
It goes without saying that if you want to appeal to an overseas audience, translating your website into their native language is an absolute must. Irrespective of the SEO benefits, if you were looking to buy a product or a service, and found two websites, one written in English and one in German, which would you buy from?
Companies should not skimp on the cost of their website translation. The quality of the translation is critical to your success. Google penalises websites littered with the kind of mistakes you would expect from a machine translation service, as it recognises the site will fall short on the level of user experience it delivers. Attention to detail is the key to a seamless translation, ensuring local dialects, cultural nuances and other key variables are accounted for.
Google’s ranking algorithms have become so advanced in recent years that they can detect translated content and determine whether it is high-value i.e. translated with the user in mind, or something that has just been thrown together.
If you want to succeed on the international stage, the simple translation of your website is not enough. Localisation is the process of removing every possible detail that makes the site feel ‘foreign’. Research has shown that shoppers pay attention to the spelling (for example, British and American spellings) and the verbiage, and quickly abandon sites that don’t feel completely native.
But localisation goes beyond the language used, and applies to everything from the colour scheme of your website to the images and even the page layout. Research shows that websites that don’t reflect these local preferences fail to generate as much traffic or engagement as those that do.
- Keyword localisation
You cannot assume that simply translating your English language keywords will identify the most searched for terms in the target market. As a simple example, a website selling trousers in the UK would need to localise this keyword to ‘pants’ to have any success in the US.
A quality keyword localisation service will use in-market keyword specialists to identify the equivalent and most searched for terms in that market. This localised approach will ensure sure your website’s search engine effectiveness is preserved.
The Five Pillars of SEO
As well as these three top tips to get your website linguistically ready, you must also incorporate the pillars of SEO into your international SEO strategy to make sure your beautiful worded, well-targeted website is visible.
- Technical SEO
For your website to perform well in the search engines it needs to be highly accessible for Google to crawl and index. Technical SEO encompasses a broad range of factors that includes:
- Site speed – The time it takes for a website page to load
- Indexation – How accurately and thoroughly search engines are able to ‘crawl’ your website’s pages
- Meta tags – Snippets of text that describe a page’s content; meta tags don’t appear on the page itself, but only in the page’s code
- Information architecture – Defining the hierarchal structure of your website
- Google webmaster tools – All the help you need to get the above website elements right is available for free at Google webmaster tools
- User experience
It’s not enough to just translate your content to give your visitors the best possible user experience. The on-site experience should also adhere to best practice in terms of website navigation and design. In essence, your website needs to be as simple and intuitive to use as possible. The navigational structure should be logical, internal links should help users travel around the site, and the website’s design should never come at the detriment of usability.
A relatively recent Google algorithm change boosted the ranking of websites that could be viewed equally well on any device. This update affected searches from mobile devices across all language and locations, and those sites that were not ‘mobile-friendly’ suffered a loss of traffic. The lesson is to take any Google algorithm changes extremely seriously.
- Content marketing & outreach
In the last few years there has been a sea change in SEO. If you want to achieve international search engine success you need more than just a technically sound website. Creating and promoting high quality, native language content should now form an essential part of your international SEO strategy. This content should align with the products and services you offer and actually add value to the customer. This content can be published both on- and off-site.
For example, if you’re an ecommerce website women’s clothing, a comprehensively research sizing guide that helps customers choose the perfect size of clothing for them could be beneficial. Equally, a video that provides accessory or shoe suggestions to complement a particular outfit could be of value to the user. Content can come in any form, from text and video, to audio, images, infographics, competitions, email newsletters and more.
- Public relations
PR might seem like an outdated concept in the internet age, but online it is still arguably the most effective way to promote your brand. Producing high quality content that can be published by bloggers and other external sites is critical for all international campaigns.
Online PR is the process of building mutually beneficial relationships with publishers and influencers to increase awareness of your brand. You benefit from the market reach of the influencer, and they benefit from having quality content produced for free. As well as spreading the word about your brand, online PR can also lead to those all-important backlinks, which give your search engine rankings a much needed boost.
- Social media marketing
Social media can be quite a divisive subject, but when it comes to marketing online, this fifth pillar of SEO has an extremely important part to play. People spend a huge amount of time on social media, so it has to feature as part of our recommendations for international SEO best practice.
An effective international social media campaign will include great content, a robust, timely and relevant social media presence, and plenty of offers and seasonal promotions. It’ also important to note that while Facebook, Twitter and Instagram might be ubiquitous in the West, countries such as Russia and China have completely different platforms. Using social media in the right way ensures maximum market penetration and will help to boost a number of critical international SEO signals.
There is no quick fix
If you take one thing from this article, it’s that there is no quick fix when developing an effective international SEO strategy. However, if you take the time to get these fundamentals right and are ready to adapt to changes both at home and in overseas markets, you’ll be primed and ready for international success.
To learn more about how we can help you hit all the right notes in international markets, please get in touch with the team at Text ‘n More today.