Do you think your business has international appeal? There’s only one way to find out — putting it out there via a strategic marketing campaign. International SEO is an essential part of that equation, but one that far too many businesses jump into before they’re fully aware of all that should be considered.
1) Existing traffic from the international community.
Do you already have international traffic to your main domain? If so, where is the bulk of it coming from, and is it substantial enough to suggest serious interest? The more existing international traffic you already have, the greater your potential for successfully launching your product or service there. That said, even if your website is void of international traffic, this by no means should suggest your product or service doesn’t have international appeal. A targeted SEO campaign may be just what it needs to get the ball rolling.
2) Deciding which country to target first.
The countries from which you’re already receiving the most traffic may be the best places to start. Of, if you don’t have any substantial international traffic, you may simply focus on the countries where your research shows your product or service has the greatest potential interest. Just be mindful of starting too big. While you may have your sights set on expanding your business reach to numerous countries, it might be a good idea to focus on just one to start. This way you can focus all of your available resources on getting one just right, the process for which will help inform the success of your SEO campaigns in other target countries going forward. Of course, this comes with the understanding that new research is always necessary to inform every targeted country’s SEO.
3) Securing domain names respective to the target country.
Just as you’re probably most accustomed to, and comfortable with, visiting .com websites, internet users in other countries have their own familiar and preferred domain extensions, particularly relevant to their location (i.e., .uk in Britain). For this reason, it is advised to invest in top level domains specific to your target country.
4) International search engines.
While Google, Bing, and Yahoo may be the main ones on your radar, there are actually hundreds of them. International SEO requires that you identify which of these search engines are relevant to your target country, then following their guidelines and submitting accordingly.
5) Hosting in the target country.
Search engines can identify the country where your website is hosted. For this reason, you will likely rank better in your target country if your site is hosted on a local server.
6) Keyword research in the target country.
The same keywords that people in the U.S. use to find your products are service may not be used by internet users beyond your borders. And even if you do find that people from another country are finding you with these keyword terms, they may simply be using these terms because they know that’s how we would use them in the U.S. and, in turn, how they would be used in our website content. In fact, if internet users in your target country are searching according to what comes naturally to them, they may very well use different keywords entirely.
7) Content translation into the native language of the target country.
Too many businesses make the mistake of having their website content translated by an automated program, or by someone who is familiar with the language of the target country, but not a native speaker. As a result, the translation is unnatural, ineffective, and often incorrect. It is essential that you have your website content translated by a real person who is a native speaker.
8) Cultural differences in the target country.
The last thing you ever want to do is offend potential customers or clients. However, what is considered appropriate in the U.S. may not be considered so in your target country. A topic, phrase, image, or even a color can be perceived as negative, which is why research into your target country’s culture is so essential.
9) Seasonal differences in the target country.
If your product or service is a seasonal one, get to know the seasons in your target country and adjust your marketing strategy accordingly.
10) Competitors in the target country.
The same competitors you have here in the U.S. may not exist in your target country. However, you will likely have other local competitors to whom your target audience already has a strong allegiance. It is important to identify these competitors and adjust your marketing strategy accordingly.
11) Top media in the target country.
While Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Instagram rule social media in the U.S., that is not so in other countries. Yes, these sites are certainly used internationally, but you will be better served focusing your social media marketing — which is now so closely linked to SEO — on the social media sites most popular in your target country.
12) Testing of products and price points in the target country.
Your most popular product in the U.S. may not prove to be the same in your target country. The reason could lie within the nature of the product or service itself (in which case you may want to test other products or services), or it could simply be the price point that needs adjusting. For this reason, testing and flexibility with your SEO campaign is key.
13) Communicating in the language of the target country.
Once responses, inquiries, and sales start rolling in, do not veer from your focus on quality language translation. It is important that all communications with your international customers or clients be as sensitive to their native language as you were with content translation on your website.
14) Linking strategy.
More than ever, it is quality content that earns you the quality links so essential to search engine optimization. For international SEO, this means links earned from quality sites within your target country. This is further incentive for your language translation to be top-notch, to help ensure website owners within your target country will actually feel compelled and comfortable directing their own visitors to your site.