So, your company is growing at a rapid rate and you’re starting to see more and more traffic, enquiries and transactions coming from other countries – is it time to look into some International SEO work? If so, take a look at our strategy checklist below to make sure you’re off to the right start.
It’s not a quick job and you’ll likely need some assistance from your developer to roll some of these jobs out but we can provide you with a strategy list to get your ideas together to ensure you have thought through the various developments you’ll need to take on.
Is The Potential For International Business There?
First things first, you need to take a look at your traffic sources to identify the volume traffic and the different trends they follow on your website from other countries. Using Google Analytics, measure the number of site visits and conversions for each country you are seeing. You’ll then need to analyse what the overall traffic and conversion rate is from the top performing countries.
Next, you will need to head over to Google search console and in particular, the search analytics report (underneath the Search Traffic tab) to see how your search query volumes and trends change from country to country. You’ll be able to see a clearer picture of how different search queries are based on their location – is there one search trend in particular that Brazil, for example, focuses on as opposed to France?
It’s best to focus on the locations where you already have some medium-high search traffic and conversion data.
Once you’ve completed this step, you’ll need to do some keyword research for your most relevant keywords using the location targeting tab in Google Keyword Planner to identify your organic search potential. This will help you with what your audiences use as keywords and phrases when searching for things that are relevant to your business, alongside the search volumes, the level of competition and if you have any existing rankings already in your target markets. There are also tools like SEMRush that will give you ideas with keywords matched with websites – this will give you a quick and easy look at potential competitors.
However, Google might not be your best friend. Some countries will have their own search engines, like China’s Baidu or Korea’s Naver. These local search engines should offer an alternative to local keyword research, like Baidu Index for China or Yandex Keywords Stats for Russia.
Once you have a list of key countries to target, you’ll need to make some vital considerations when it comes to how you market towards them. Remember, the English language is not used by every visitor to your website and most non-native English speakers will search using their own language. You’ll need to consider those searching with non-English alphabets too, after all the most commonly used language on the internet after English is Chinese, with Arabic not too far behind. There’s also the issue of using ‘hybrid’ language when searching for traditionally Western items (see below)!
It’s a lot to think about so make sure you’re prepared to address all of these points.
- The linguistics of that country – for example, the USA call trousers ‘pants’ and spell ‘favourite’ ‘favorite‘ and specialise ‘specialize‘ – these nuances are essential.
- Language is not universal – Did you know that native French is very different to French-Canadian? The two are similar but each has their own attitudes, accents and slang especially when it comes to formal and informal speaking. Québec French uses idioms, words, cultural references and expressions that are likely very unfamiliar to those speaking Native French.
- Cultural profiles – take into account local culture. Some countries may not be as open to paying for things online via a credit or debit card because their culture is a typically cash based system. You also need to take into account things we may see as insignificant, like humour and even colour. Did you know that orange is a colour associated with mourning in Egypt?
- Seasonality – Just like we have bank holidays here in England, other countries will have their own public and religious holidays that they observe which can affect sales/lead generations.
- Your competitors – Take the time to really research your industry competitors in your chosen location. How are they marketing to their target local audience?
- Your products – is there actually a want and need for your products/services in your target country? Will your best sellers in your native country be a best seller in a foreign market?
The next step will be to look at how you will translate your content to any foreign languages that you are targeting. This should always be done by a human who is fluent in both the language you are looking at targeting and the original language they are translating from. It is critical you do thorough research on translation services, as it will be waste of time if things are even slightly wrong. Look for translators that are ITI Qualified members or have CIOL Qualifications. Do NOT use Google Translate to attempt to understand or write copy in another language. Just don’t do it, okay?
Once you’ve got this research in place, you can start to look towards the technical side of things – site structures, hreflang tags, language meta tags – in other words, the really fun stuff! We’ll be coming back to this in part 2 of our International SEO Strategy, so keep an eye out for it soon. In the meantime, follow the steps above and prepare yourselves (and your developers) for part 2!