This post was originally published in 2019, and last updated in May 2022.
How to Develop an International Website Presence
You’ve diagnosed a business need for an international footprint, you have the executive support needed, but...now what? An effective international strategy is going to be extremely different dependent upon countless factors, namely the country that your business is going to be servicing.
Consumers in the UK have different preferences to those in Germany to those in Chile to those in Australia! What could be an extremely effective marketing plan in the US might flop dependent on culture.
There are a multitude of approaches that could make sense for your business or client for developing a global SEO strategy. At the highest level, at Seer we utilize this framework when approaching international strategy for our clients:
- Research and Understand the International Landscape: Through the use of big data we take a holistic approach to understand what cultural differences exist that will impact the competitive landscape.
- Establish Your SEO Strategy & Goals: Once there is an understanding of the search landscape in the target country, it's time to cultivate a strategy for success.
- Implement/Optimize Your International SEO On-Page Presence: Begin executing on strategy to reach pre-determined goals, ensuring that optimizations cater to the cultural nuances of our regional audience.
- Measurement Over Time: Track that success.
Let’s dive into our tactics to reaching those goals!
Step 1: Understand Your Competitive Landscape
When you begin to develop your international SEO strategy, one of the first things that you should consider is the competitive landscape in the market of the country you are preparing to enter.
Who you compete within US markets is not necessarily going to be your direct competitor when you approach your business services with a global SEO lense.
- Are companies that only service the country you’re moving into that have a loyal following?
- What about region-specific retailers that are selling you or your competitor's products?
- Do consumers even utilize search for your products, or is a hyper-local focused economy?
What is Your Current Visibility in the Target Region?
First and foremost, what does your presence look like in the country that you are targeting? Service lines where a domain has a presence in one region can vary greatly in another region.
You might be starting at ground zero so brand awareness will be the highest priority, with a focus on creating top of funnel content to educate consumers about your products.
Or, maybe, this country has been begging for your products for years so getting a site live that will encourage conversions and bottom-funnel actions are going to be of the utmost importance!
Each situation presents its own unique set of opportunities and potential roadblocks; however, beginning this journey with a clear understanding of how you are entering the market, will set your business up for long term success down the road.
Who Are Your Local Competitors?
The businesses that you are directly competing for visibility against, are likely going to vary greatly by region. Is your company the first of its kind to enter the market in this country? Are you going to be competing with brands that have cultivated a loyal following in this region?
Get to know your competition:
- Are there digital strategies that have worked for them in the past?
- How do consumers react and engage with video content?
- Is there a strong focus on blog or informational content?
- Have assets been utilized to increase engagement?
- Read reviews from consumers about what they like and dislike about their online products?
- Analyze the user experience of their site - is it intuitive for customers or can it be done better?
What Content is Appearing on Page 1?
The type of content that is ranking on page 1 for your business is Google’s way of giving you clues into what your consumers are finding to be the most useful.
It’s important to remember that the search landscape in other regions isn’t always as advanced in other countries when compared to the US. Featured snippets, rich snippets, knowledge graphs, and more search features that we have become accustomed to seeing in our day to day searches here in the US are often rolled out much later in other countries. Take a moment to understand page 1 and the search landscape as a whole before diving into optimizations and strategy!
Whereas the search results in the US might return product pages to purchase for your target query, in Mexico, for example, the results might include Wikipedia and People Also Ask questions. In that case, your strategy will need to pivot to ensure you have a brand presence for top of funnel content outside of bottom-funnel product pages.
Understand your search competition by visualizing your data in a new way! Get started in PowerBI today!
Step 2: Transcreate vs. Translate
What is the Value in Transcreation?
By definition, transcreation is used to refer to the process of adapting a message from one language to another, while maintaining its intent, style, tone, and context. If done correctly, the emotions and intent of the message in its native language will be accurately communicated in the new targeted language.
This process isn’t only useful for text but should be applied to image and video marketing as well to ensure that they take into account the cultural differences between regions.
When this process is overlooked, it's likely that your site will suffer from loss of voice and intention from the original copy and assets of the native language:
Optimize Your Site to Include Region-Specific Terminology
To avoid falling victim to directly translating the language of your native site to the target language, bake in time to your content process to conduct keyword and competitive research to understand how the region speaks about your products. But wait! I don’t speak the target language! HELP!
Three tips for research when you don’t speak the language include:
- Do you currently run paid in your target country? Utilize search term reports to understand first hand how consumers are searching for your products and inform organic landing pages with those insights!
- Bright Edge Local has an amazing tool that allows you to search in countries throughout the world! Conduct a few searches for your target head terms, throw the top pages in SEMRush to see what competitors are using to target native speakers.
- If you have access to GetSTAT, you can take this process a step further, and build your keyword list by tracking these keywords and pulling related searches and People Also Ask suggestions from the target region.
Step 3: Use Hreflang Appropriately
Hreflang tags are used to tell Google what language is being used on a page to improve the results that are being served to users searching in that language.
If you have multiple versions of a page for different languages or regions, tell Google about these different variations! Doing so will help Google Search point users to the most appropriate version of your page by language or region. This can decrease your bounce rate and ideally (if you follow the steps highlighted above!) increase conversions by ensuring that your target audience lands on the page that is most relevant for them.
Reminder! Hreflang is a Signal, NOT a Directive!
It’s possible that users in France might still see the content that you created for your French Canadian audience. When curating hreflang tags take ISO codes and regional codes into consideration to give Google additional clues so it's not only obvious who should be viewing the content, but also where they should be located.
These codes aren’t always as intuitive as they’d seem, we recommend this hreflang tag generator to ensure you’re on track for international success.
Learn more about international SEO and let us know what you’re currently working on for your global SEO strategy!