How to do SEO International?
Well, your business has grown enough to push the boundaries or you're probably starting out as a global business or service provider, international SEO can help you.
So you came up with the idea of creating language/country based versions of your site to drive users into new markets.
A daunting task that will make you take a closer look at international markets, so you should know international SEO well!
A daunting task I said, but actually not so daunting if you prepare and have a plan. Well, let's do things in the right order.
What is international SEO?
International SEO helps you deliver content in multiple languages to users (and search engines!) in different locations. It also ensures that specific content is shown to users depending on their location or spoken language.
While international and “regular” SEO share the basics, they require different approaches and tactics. International SEO involves a deeper understanding of all things technical and requires some preparatory work to be done.
Thus, an international SEO implementation plan can include steps as follows:
1 Accessing readiness
2 Segmentation Identification
3 Conducting international keyword research
4 Analyzing the competition
5 Working on the technical part
6 Content location
7 Building links
Assess your international readiness
Fundamentally, going global requires sufficient foundations. The same is true with international SEO. So, before launching an international SEO campaign, you need to balance your expectations and skills. This will help you get a clearer picture of what this step will cost you in terms of money, time and resources. To determine if your business is ready to take this step, answer a few questions:
Are you ready to create a different user experience, specific for users from different regions/languages?
Being global doesn't just mean translating your website into a new language. You need to build a specific user experience that takes into account the spoken language, culture and quirks of the target market.
Are you able to create, review and maintain content aimed at users from different regions/languages?
Simply creating content for each version of the site based on language / country is not enough. You must be ready to maintain it and keep it up to date. Will you be able to handle this using your own resources? You will likely need additional hands. Which would be best for you: expanding your local team or having a dedicated team in your target region?
Are you ready to support customers in a new region / language?
International expansion brings you more customers. It also brings the need to provide quality customer support. Which means you'll need people on your support team speaking the corresponding languages and available to customers from different time zones.
Answering these questions can give you the real picture of what to expect in terms of required investment and additional staff size. It can also influence the choice of international SEO tools and tactics.
Identify potential markets to target
Unless your business initially targets different regions around the world, you start thinking about doing international SEO when you start seeing a sufficient influx of foreign clients. Analyzing this flow will help you identify the potential market to be targeted.
There's a great tool you can use to gauge your traffic. I'm talking about Google Analytics. It gives you the possibility to analyze the general traffic your website receives from different countries.
You can also evaluate each country's traffic from a business point of view, analyzing the number of transactions, revenues and other factors that can give you hints of market potential.
Just open your Google Analytics account and go to Public > Geographic > Local or Language. Now you can analyze the data:
- Are there any visits to your website from other countries?
- What languages do they speak?
- Does any country send more traffic to your website than others?
- Traffic from which country already converts etc.?
There is another way to search for potential markets using, for example, tools like Google's Market Finder.
Basically, it can be an additional tool for checking opportunities, assessing the general interest in your business or service(s) you provide.
All you need to do is enter your URL and let the tool analyze your site. It will then automatically pull the categories to your site – you'll be able to fix them – and show you the markets that could potentially interest you.
Do separate keyword searches for each version of the site
The main purpose of SEO is to make your website appear in SERP(s) for the key words that you crave. This is the basic element that “regular” and international SEO have in common.
So in terms of keyword research mechanics, there won't be anything totally different. There's a great guide to keyword research that you can read for more details.
However, it is extremely important to do separate keyword searches for each country or site version based on language. Here's why:
- Translated keywords are not the search queries people use in real life. Obviously, you can't just translate the targeted keyword list into your site's main version and use it to optimize your foreign language site. Because the translated keywords can differ a lot from the actual search queries people use.
- Even the same language in different countries has its peculiarities. Although people living in different countries may officially speak one language, they actually speak different variants of the same language. So they can search for the same things using different queries.
Take for example the word “sneakers”. If we needed to define sneakers in general, we would say that they are sports shoes with a rubber sole. People love sneakers, they are extremely popular shoes.
But in the UK, for example, people look for the same rubber-soled shoes by calling them another way.
And if we look at how people in different countries search for these shoes, we'll see an interesting result that Google Trends shows, for example.
Analyze and leverage the competition
Now, once you've defined potential markets to target, it's time to take a second step and scan the competitive landscape. No matter which strategy you choose for your international SEO campaign, you simply cannot go without a thorough competitive analysis.
Important note. The biggest mistake you can make at this stage is getting the wrong image if you parse the wrong SERPs. You definitely know that search results differ depending on the searchers' location. So people in the UK and US searchers will see different results for the same search query. Thus, it is essential to conduct competitive research and analyze local serps from the right place.
1. Gives the real picture of who you compete with in the local search market.
Needless to say, there can be a huge difference between your offline and online competitors. You must know the biggest players in your target market niche. But not necessarily the same companies will look like your SEO competitors.
So figuring out who beats you on SERPs for your target keywords can greatly influence which tactics to prioritize doing SEO in this market.
2. It gives you a clearer idea of how people look for businesses or services like yours. Analyzing your competitors' keywords ranking is a great SEO hack.
First, you enrich your keyword list with great keywords that people in your target market use to search for things.
Second, by analyzing keyword difficulty scores and competition, you can prioritize which keywords to follow.
And third, by analyzing your own positions for the competitors ranking keywords, you can find them, you are at an impressive distance from the first SERP. Then you will know for sure where to push.
3. It suggests the successful SEO tactics of your competitors. Knowing what works well you can use it in your own SEO campaign. In fact, this saves a lot of time and resources. And this is especially helpful when you're not sure what to put your effort into.
Work on the technical part
Being international requires a lot of technical work done correctly to be successful. Most of the issues that affect international SEO are related to the technical part. So it's critical to do things right. So let's see what's important here.
Choosing domain and website structure
Language and region-optimized URLs are one of the signals that search engines take into account in local ranking. Therefore, choosing the right domain is a crucial point in an international SEO campaign. There are several options, each having its pros and cons. So you can choose the one that best suits your goals and possibilities.
Find your content
Almost the last, but not the least. The content of your website. Your most valuable asset that you want users to have access to. And you need to approach your internationally targeted content taking into account not just the language your users speak, but cultural differences and market quirks.
So, simply translating your site into a corresponding language is definitely not an option. Instead, you need to localize it in relation to the language and cultural quirks of your users.
In fact, localization can go very well if you know the challenges you may face.
- Lack of local staff. There is controversy over whether you really need a localization team in your target region. Well, the answer is: it depends. Expanding your team is an expensive option, so if you're on a tight budget, you'll be dealing with it using your own strengths. However, having local employees has its advantages.
- They are more aware of the peculiarities of the market and can suggest things that work better, such as keywords, slogans, etc.
- They speak the same language as your target audience, while your in-house staff even speaking a particular language may not be aware of all the small variations and commonly used phrases.
- Poorly optimized content. The point is that even high quality localized content can rank poorly for your target keywords if it's not optimized for them. Therefore, you need to craft content optimization rules for your localization team to follow. And you can leverage content optimization platforms to ensure a more creative and fruitful content optimization process.
Build Quality Backlinks
Backlinks are still one of the most significant ranking signals. At the same time, link building is an often overlooked part of an international SEO strategy. This happens for different reasons — from lack of resources to prioritizing other tactics, such as content optimization, etc.
But, in fact, international SEO is a big separate project, no part of which can be omitted if you strive for success. So let's see what link building tactics can drive an international SEO strategy.
Take advantage of the website's main backlinks profile. Usually, if your website receives foreign traffic, there is a high chance you have international links pointing to your main website. Analyzing your backlink profile will help you define these links.
So you just need disclosure from website owners and ask them to link to their version of the website that is most relevant to their users. In fact, it's a win-win, as site owners provide better user experience, and you get quality links.
Think beyond Google
Although Google is the most used search engine in the world, popular alternative search engines exist in different regions. Therefore, it would be very unwise to miss the opportunities they provide. So let's see which search engines, in addition to Google, are successful in different regions of the world.
- Europe — Bing is the second most popular search engine in the world. And it is widely used in Europe, especially in the UK and France, where it takes 4% and 2,8% market share, respectively.
- Russia and the Russian-speaking countries — although Yandex gets about 1% of the world search market — in Russia and the Russian-speaking region, it beats Google. Yandex's share of the Russian search market reaches 48%, while Google's share is around 47%.
- China — China has a lot of its own search engines, with Baidu as the leader. Here Google is the most unpopular option (and was, in fact, banned from the Chinese market).
International SEO Completion
Thinking of international SEO as a general SEO side project is very unlikely to lead to any success. You are more likely to spend time and money for no or very insignificant results.
So, if you believe it's time to go global, make international SEO a major independent project that you're ready to invest money, time, and resources into.
Check your readiness, define what parts of the process your team will be responsible for, and what you assign to a local team. Prepare a plan and stick to it. Colors Agency, we guarantee much more than just an attractive look as well as a modern layout for your website. Our main focus is to offer companies around the world effective solutions to generate visibility on the internet.
Our agency develops SEO strategies and brand positioning for multinational companies, large, medium, but also small, all projects are important to us.