We’ve reached the point in ecommerce where the world is truly your marketplace. Global payments technology means that you can sell to anyone, anywhere. Creating an ‘always open’ culture that not only allows customers to access the goods they need from wherever in the world they happen to be available but allows businesses to reach almost limitless customers, checked only by their digital performance. But reaching your full global potential involves more than established digital practices. It means Cultivating your brand’s international SEO, so that it is capable of handling the varying algorithms, languages, and cultural nuances of the global marketplace.
What is international SEO?
International SEO takes the foundations of established SEO and enhances them, to optimise results for multiple regions and/or languages. And it’s important because search engines are devised to identify and segregate content according to a range of fixed parameters, delivering the most relevant results for each enquiry. This means that if you don’t integrate ways for search bots to identify that your content may be relevant to parties beyond your native territory, it can be nigh on impossible for international users to find you, let alone purchase from you.
How can businesses improve international SEO?
International SEO can be influenced by a range of technical and content-driven factors. If businesses really wish to succeed in new territories, or even to access new markets within an existing territory, they need to take steps to address the following areas.
No business can succeed without a full understanding of its audience and the wider market. Research will already be an integral part of most organisations’ digital and marketing strategies but it becomes doubly important when you’re looking to reach a new audience. Not only so you can ascertain whether there is enough demand for your goods to make the expansion worthwhile but you can truly tailor your approach to your new market. That’s where customer analysis comes in, along with territory-specific keyword research, and investigation of local competition.
SEO is built into the groundwork of any successful website and that includes customer acquisition strategy, and whether you are going to target your customers by language, region, or both. While many brands rely solely upon the use of geotargeting – the use of locale-specific URLs for each version of their website – there are other options that can make international targeting simpler. Including the use of subdomains, subdirectories, or language parameters, which can facilitate simple strategy changes as your business evolves. Whichever option you go for, it’s really important to instil technically sound foundations. Without this, it can be impossible for your content to reach its potential across every market you’re operating in.
Language targeting is a simple but overlooked strategy for reaching new customers. The only thing that businesses need to be aware of is that not all search engines recognise the same language targeting tools. While the most popular search engines favour hreflang tags as a means to identify whether there is a localised version of a site available in another language, some search engines use meta language tags. They serve the same purpose and can be used throughout a site in much the same way. The use of meta language tags is particularly common in China and South Korea.
As well as the maintenance of your standard technical SEO, when you’re aiming to attract an international market, it’s important to remember the use of localised URLs and the optimisation of images for your intended market.
If you want people to see your products and listen to what you have to say, you have to create content that delivers value and that can be really difficult if you’re targeting a non-native territory.
Working with local copywriters, content creators, and content managers can help you create a site that is not only responsive, but relevant, and free from the embarrassing mistakes – spelling errors, cultural misunderstandings – so common when generic content is merely translated. This approach delivers an unrivalled understanding of culture, language, user experience, and competitors but it can only be viable, and enable your business to reach its full potential when combined with the input of native SEO teams.
Backlinks are a fantastic way to increase SEO performance as they work as a signal to search engines that your website is an authority on a particular topic. Much in the same way an author might cite the source of their information. If you can create expert content, which others find useful and wish to refer to – via backlinks – it will always be beneficial to your international SEO.
Customers expect more than ever from their chosen businesses. If you want to stand out from the crowd, user experience (UX) has to be front and centre. Which means investing in interface, site navigation, imagery, speed, trust building, and value proposition.
Lastly, if you wish to know what’s working and what’s not within your international SEO strategy, you have to monitor your performance. If you don’t know who’s landing on your site, where they’re coming from, what they’re looking at, how long they’re spending there, and where they go afterwards, you’re missing an enormous opportunity to improve your website, your user experience, and your profitability.
International SEO is no longer a ‘nice to have’. For businesses looking to grow, to take on new territories or reach a wholly global audience, investing in the improvement of international SEO is integral. Because without it, you’re going to face endless challenges and barriers to success.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Guido Ampollini, CEO & Founder of GA Agency
Guido Ampollini is a highly experienced digital marketing expert who has been helping businesses improve their digital marketing strategy for more than 15 years. He has established himself as a leading authority in the industry as the founder and CEO of GA Agency, an independent digital agency based in London, specialising in international expansion, with an in-house team that is fluent in more than 16 languages.