Good SEO practices can mean the difference between a successful website and a failure. Implementing bad SEO could see your website plummet down the Google rankings (or any other search engine, for that matter), while getting it right could see you riding high at the top of page one for all to see. SEO is important no matter what kind of content you’re generating, but one thing you need to seriously consider is whether you’re optimising for international SEO as well. Let’s take a look at 10 things you need to consider if you’re thinking about international SEO.
1. Whether you need to go international
First, it’s important to make sure that going international is the right decision for you. This will depend entirely on whether you identify a significant subsection of your audience in a certain country that needs international content, or whether it’s worth optimising for certain countries depending on audience concentration. You might not need to adapt or branch out your website, so think carefully before you start making decisions. You can use Google Analytics to help you with this.
2. What your competition is doing
As ever, you should be conducting careful market research regarding your competition, and putting together an international SEO strategy is no different in this regard. It’s still important to know what your closest competitors are doing, because you can use that information to help you tailor your international SEO. Is there a keyword area or country that your competitors are missing, for example? That could be your way into a new niche. Could you adapt a competitor’s strategy for yourself?
3. What your URL will look like
It’s not just about the content. The way you structure your URL is important too, as it communicates to Google what kind of website you’re setting up. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that you’re setting up a delivery business and that you want to branch out into France, and take a look at a few examples.
- jonesdeliveries.fr – here, you’re making an entirely new website based in France, but it’s still your company’s name in the domain
- fr.jonesdeliveries.com – this is a subdomain, which is part of the original domain but geared towards your new international audience
- jonesdeliveries.com/fr – this is a subdirectory, which is simply another directory added to your original website
- jonesdeliveries.com/?lang=fr – finally, you’re using a generic top-level domain (gTLD), which is much more convenient for you
Each of these approaches has its own pros and cons. Running a new website is inconvenient, but it’s a great way to target specific countries. However, creating subdirectories or gTLDs is more convenient and less directly geared towards specific audiences. You’ll have to make the decision about what approach to take for yourself depending on your needs.
4. Translate your content well
Naturally, if you’re going to branch out into different countries and areas, then you’re going to need to make sure that you translate your content. We can’t stress this enough: it is not good enough to run your content through Google Translate. Though it’s a convenient service for end users, it has a huge margin of error, meaning that a native international speaker is definitely going to notice discrepancies and problems with a Google Translated post. Hire a professional translator; you’ll notice the difference.
5. Think carefully about which countries to expand into
You should let your decision on where to expand be guided not just by audience numbers, but by conversions as well. For example, if you notice that you have a huge audience in a faraway country, you might be tempted to create a new e-commerce website for that country, but in reality, it won’t result in more conversions due to inconvenience. Making a careful decision in this respect is critical if you want to achieve success.
6. Don’t force your audience to go to your new page
Let’s say you’ve made a new Jones Deliveries website for France (jonesdeliveries.fr). The last thing you want to do is to force French customers to land on that page and never to see your original website. For many reasons, they may prefer to visit the English homepage, or one for another country. If you can, allow them the choice. It’s preferable to ask them when they land if they would like to switch to their country’s page, but if they say no, don’t force them.
When you’re crafting local content for certain countries, it goes without saying that you should be prioritising obtaining local backlinks for those countries. That means looking for other local websites that will backlink to you rather than going with your country of origin. The reason for this should be obvious; it will let you build strength and authority within a local search engine, as the French version of Google will naturally lean more towards French websites.
8. Write content specifically for your new audience
While you should definitely think about translating your content for a new audience, you should also be prioritising constructing new content. Naturally, a different country will have different content needs, and there will be lots of local bloggers and writers looking for an opportunity to write. It’s a good idea to hire locals to write your content for you; after all, they know the area much better than you do and can tailor what they’re writing to this new audience.
9. Think about local search engines
Did you know that Google is banned in China? It’s true – unless you use a VPN or some other unapproved method, you actually can’t use Google in China. Locals usually use Baidu, which is the Chinese equivalent of Google, and it has different rules and algorithms to Google. If you’re expanding into China – or any other place where Google isn’t used – then you need to make sure you’re au fait with the differences in local search engine practices, too.
10. Focus on details
If you’re not building an entirely new website from scratch, it can be easy to forget to translate certain things. Comments sections, forms to fill out, and various subdirectories and pages of your website could all be things that you miss when you’re thinking about what to translate, so make sure you’re not overlooking anything. Go through your site with a fine-toothed comb and make sure that you’ve translated everything you need to translate.