When brands expand overseas, a well-thought-through international digital marketing strategy is essential. An integral part of a comprehensive digital marketing strategy is search engine optimisation (SEO).
Search engine marketing is such a powerful tool. Indeed, 93 per cent of all online browsing sessions begin with a Google search. Additionally, 81 per cent of people use online research when performing information searches before making a large purchase. So, naturally, your brand will benefit from well-optimised websites which are highly visible in Google search results.
Mapping your search engine marketing strategy
Your company has been expanding quickly and you’ve decided to explore opportunities in new markets. You may have a detailed business strategy and marketing plan for each territory you plan to enter, but you’ve yet to define your company’s specific SEO strategy for your new market entry.
In this guide, we’ll outline the key focus points to outline your strategy, and what not to do when implementing an international SEO strategy.
Language targeting or country targeting?
When undergoing an international expansion project, it’s important to differentiate between language and country and to determine what your target is.
Most businesses, when expanding overseas, have to decide between language targeting and country targeting.
Language targeting is the approach of targeting all internet users that speak French for example, while country targeting is about focusing on a specific country.
It’s important not to blindly associate the country with language. We’ve written recently how a country doesn’t necessarily equal language in today’s highly mobile global workforce.
Take Spanish for example. As the world’s third most commonly spoken language, it is spoken by 245 million internet users, across 21 countries. Then there’s English, the most spoken language online, with 851 million internet users across a staggering 59 countries.
International keyword research
When carrying out international keyword research you’ll need to use SEO tools. You’ll need to invest in paid tools, as the number of keywords a free tool can track is limited.
Your first task will be to devise a full keyword list drawn from your main market and your competitor research in the new market you wish to enter. Once you’ve drawn up a thorough keyword list, you can carry out a full competitive SEO overview for your target country or countries.
This process must be translated and supported by a native speaker to ensure you understand the nuances and search intent behind keyword and keyphrase searches. Understanding the most lucrative keywords that your brand can compete on will help your organisation to shape your web content, team structure, design and marketing choices which will help you turn traffic into converting customers.
SEO tools will also allow your brand to understand which competitors are ranking for which key search terms. Once you know this, you can explore why they rank for the terms – is it due to the keyword density of their content, or how closely the content delivers on the user’s search intent?
Now you have performed keyword research, you’re one step closer to implementing your international SEO strategy.
The content you choose to put on the website itself should be tailored to the market it is targeting and the preferences and customs of internet users there.
Translation – is machine translation OK?
At Bubbles, we would always try to encourage our clients to use local speakers to translate or transcreate their existing content when moving into a new market. Machine translation will miss the nuances of a language and translate keywords and content literally, which will make it considerably tougher for an expanding organisation to rank in prominent positions in their target market.
How much should our content vary?
Unique content is one of the Google algorithm’s ranking factors. That’s not to say it would be impossible to achieve strong SEO results with content that is a direct translation from what exists on your main website.
However, transcreated content which has been adapted from your source material, but written from scratch with care and attention, is more likely to resonate with local consumers and therefore rank well.
Common pitfalls of international SEO
- Using flags to represent the country – this comes back to the point that country doesn’t equal language. Flags should only be used as icons to denote language when targeting a specific country. If you’re targeting a language rather than a country, flags as a user experience cue are best avoided.
- Using the same URL structure for your different websites – it’s best to create unique URLs featuring the language of your target country. You’ll rank better with URLs using the same language as the content, rather than the language of your primary market.
- Automatically redirecting users – without their permission. Instead, offer users the choice of which language best suits them.
SEO isn’t just about ranking on Google’s pages for specific search terms – it’s more about the full journey. Your international SEO strategy has to ensure that you’re fulfilling the search user’s requirements and being as relevant as possible, or that person may bounce off-site and disappear without a trace.
Does your international SEO strategy require professional translation?
If you feel you need expert language translation services to put an effective international SEO strategy in place, we can help.
You might need a guiding hand as you carry out extensive competitor keyword research on your new market. Alternatively, a translation of your existing website content might be a key part of your localisation strategy. Or, if you would like freshly created content for your business expansion, get in touch with our experienced team today.