One of the key aims of many of our clients is to increase their overseas sales. To drive sales, you first need to drive visibility and brand awareness. And if you’re operating online, that means working on your international search engine optimisation (SEO); in other words, ensuring your business is visible to customers in your new target markets in their languages.
In 2016, many marketers focused their SEO work on link building, which remains a valuable tactic as we head into the New Year. However, SEO is an ever-evolving discipline and if your business is planning for international expansion this year, it’s worth combining trusted techniques you may have used in the past with the latest marketing trends.
We’ve outlined a checklist of key points to consider when assessing your international SEO plans for 2017.
Research and Budget
Research is a fundamental part of mastering your international SEO strategy, and it goes hand in hand with clever budget planning.
Whether you already know how much you have to spend or you’re working to find out how much you’ll need to spend, research into the markets you’re focusing sales targets on will give you an insight into the proportion of your marketing fund that you’ll have to set aside.
Essentially, you need to find out how easy (or difficult) it’s going to be to become visible in your new target markets. The levels of competition differ between countries, markets and sectors. Competition for medical device sales in China is going to be very different from the same approach in the UK, for example, where the National Health Service (NHS) has a big influence on market movement. As a result, the investment required on your part will differ by country.
A good starting point when researching new markets overseas is to use Google Analytics to establish how well your UK keywords (translated, of course) are converting in each target location. Another tip is to take a peek at your competitors and establish which regions they’re targeting and the languages they’re using – it’s quite possible they’ve struck gold in a market you may not have considered, or are really struggling in what you anticipated would be an ‘easy win’.
Mobilising ‘Mobile First’
‘Mobile first’ is already a go-to phrase of many digital marketing companies as Google presses ahead with its Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) mission.
With mobile internet browsing now surpassing desktop browsing, this prioritisation is only expected to grow as the year goes on. In fact, Media Wyse founder Casey Markee is predicting that the search giant will quickly promote mobile sites that offer a superior experience, while penalising those that are stuck in the past.
If you’ve yet to embrace the new ‘mobile first’ philosophy, you need to update your websites so they can reach out to the new generation of portable browsers around the world. This update should also apply to all translated versions of your website, which will require the same degree of mobile optimisation in order to stay ahead of the competition.
If you need to prioritise budget, take a look at which countries have higher mobile internet usage. Developing regions are more likely to have a higher percentage of people who access websites exclusively on their smartphones because they simply don’t have access to a desktop device; if this is your target market, then push that region’s content translation and subsequent mobile site development through as soon as possible.
Update Your Keyword Strategy
You may have already updated your keywords as part of your research, but this part of your checklist relates to how you will use them on your website.
Despite dropping out of the limelight recent years, keywords have continued to play a strong and arguably vital role in international SEO strategies. However, in 2016 the issue was raised that marketers may have been misusing their highly attuned list of keywords. It was SEO expert John Mueller who revealed the news, informing the marketing community that keywords in the title and heading area of a website were not actually critical to a site’s ranking; rather the focus is more balanced across all content on a site.
If your site is still playing by old rules, use this month to focus on ensuring proper keyword distribution elsewhere in your sites, creating a more natural flow to titles and headings.
Mueller’s angle is particularly interesting for international SEO. When it comes to website translation, direct translations of keywords can be awkward, there may not be an exact match that can be summarised succinctly enough to be used in a headline, so leading to the risk of clunky language ‘wedged in’ because the keyword strategy says it must be so. Now that the focus is on the site as a whole, the natural flow of language can have more of a chance.
Sites such as SEMrush make it easy to complete Google keyword research for multiple countries at a time, and offer clear keyword volumes that illustrate the importance of language-specific keywords.
Create Cultured Content
Content is still king in the SEO world, but its reign is always evolving.
When it comes to developing your brand overseas, 2017 is the year for creating content with a stronger emphasis on cultural and personal values. According to Michael Bonfils, CEO and President at International Media Management, cultural content should not only be targeted towards the specific part of the customer journey it relates to, but also to the “psychographic behaviour” and personal motivation behind that behaviour.
Of course, for international SEO strategies, this also means acknowledging that the motivation behind your audience’s actions may differ by region and country, depending on their local culture. This is something you will need to consider and action when reviewing and translating content for new target countries, working carefully to target content even more precisely to the region’s culture.
Targeted Social Media and Advertising
Social media has now been embraced by almost all modern businesses, but the targeting of social media to specific audiences still leaves a lot to be desired.
When entering a new market, social media can be one of the most cost-effective methods of attracting attention. However, this method is infinitely more successful when targeted towards specific subsections of your target audience based on their location, interests and of course, language.
This could mean simply posting a variety of social media posts from your main accounts that span all demographics; but to really get results, it’s worth employing a translation service to adjust the language of your posts to suit each target group and distributing this content through regional accounts.
Of course social media activity is not a closed loop, it feeds back into your SEO strategy, so opting for the regional accounts and linking these back to a regional website will start to contribute to brand visibility on a local scale, and that’s the key.
Don’t Ignore Organic Link Building
It’s easy to be swept away by the excitement of the latest SEO strategies and techniques, but natural and organic link building, while established techniques now, are still highly valuable tools.
Search and social marketing expert Jonathan Allen, stated that the advances in SEO techniques over the past 12 months have resulted in the development of an algorithm that is far more versatile and easier to understand. As a result, SEO experts are finding that in some cases it’s actually easier to improve a site’s rank via the now ‘traditional’ technique of link building.
Using your new content and social media strategies, consider the best way you could link-build in your target region. In areas with little competition, this could mean creating long-form content that establishes your brand as an industry leader and encourages people to reference back to it with a link. However, if you’re entering a populated market, you might consider using your targeted social media accounts to engage directly with the industry’s biggest names, sending them articles, research papers or localised studies produced by your company.
When it comes to mastering international SEO, the key is focus. You can’t expect one website and a single strategy to cater to every market. Instead, you need to drill down and work out the priorities and touch points for each of your new target markets. Use the plethora of tools and techniques that are more readily available than ever in 2017 and start researching keywords and cultural interests that are relevant to each of your new markets. Whilst also thinking about how you can engage with these hugely varied demographics.
Remember international SEO is about more than language, you need to stay focused and relevant to each of your target audiences, their interests and culture.
Bubbles Translation offers professional translations for all types of digital marketing campaigns. If you’re looking for a translation expert with a native understanding of your target language and your marketing challenge, get in touch today to see how we can help you reach out to new countries and customers in 2017.