One of the most common pain points international companies have is that their international websites don't perform as well as their local (let’s say English) website. And that’s mainly because international websites aren’t normally given the same amount of TLC as their English website.
What happens is that companies usually have a digital marketing agency that handles all their national-level SEO, including strategy, audits, lots of careful planning when it comes to content strategy, plus technical optimization and link building too. But internationally, that’s not the case. Typically, companies try to replicate their English SEO strategy abroad, focusing on translating the English content into a different language and sometimes creating content from scratch. Are you beginning to see the problem here? Let’s break it down even further.
International SEO strategy = one strategy for each market
SEO strategies are not all created equally, especially on an international level. The bottom line is that SEO (whether local or international) is both a science and an art form, and when done well, it can make or break your website.
No magic rule or golden trick equates to a successful international SEO strategy. However, by having a strategy for each of your markets, you’re going to be taking advantage of so much potential. It may sound like a lot of work, but if you’re spending lots of money on localization efforts that aren’t seeing a great return, surely, it’s better to invest in a strategy.
Having an international SEO strategy in place means that you’ll be giving the following much more consideration, which will lead to much more productive results:
- Not everyone uses Google, Facebook, and Twitter. By researching channels, you can make sure you’re where your audience is at.
- Buyer behavior and culture. There’s no point trying to sell a product to a market that doesn’t need it or going in with a strategy that doesn’t resonate.
- International competitors. While they may be international for you, for locals in your target market, they’re who they normally buy from. So don’t discount them because you might think they’re too small to make a difference. Chances are they will give you some really good insights.
- Market-specific insights. By doing your research for each market, you’ll get insights into what people in your target market really want, allowing you to target your SEO and content around that.
- Off-page and technical optimization. These are things that people often forget when expanding internationally, but they’re important if you want your website to rank.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again – not everyone uses Google. If you’re looking for a truly international presence, you need to target local search engines. Here’s an example of some channels you need to consider if want a truly global international SEO strategy.
- China – Baidu
- Japan – Google & Yahoo
- Russia – Yandex
- Ukraine – don’t use Yandex because it is banned: SEO for Google instead.
- Korea – Google & Naver
Using your English (or source language) keywords isn’t the best idea regarding keyword research. Even if they’re adequately localized, you’re not giving yourself the freedom to explore local trends and opportunities.
Using St. Patrick’s Day as an example, people in the US might love having a piece of content all about Paddy’s Day, but using the same piece of content for Ireland will have the Irish rolling their eyes and thinking, ‘typical tourist.’ But if you adapted that post and wrote about Oktoberfest instead, that’d be something Irish readers would find much more interesting.
And to get these kinds of insights, all you need to do is get a bit creative. Below, you can see how some keywords have been changed to something more culturally relevant, which is what you should be doing with your content.
Each Country Needs a Content Strategy
For companies with an international brand presence and websites that focus on producing content in various languages, content adds up quickly. Aptly managing content on such a massive scale requires a large team of stakeholders to ensure high-quality content across the board.
You'd need a team of people responsible for research, optimization, and tracking for each language you publish content in. While it may be tempting to save time and resources by creating content in one language and then translating it into other languages, there is greater value in creating original content.
For one, you get to focus on local trends as mentioned above. Plus, did you know it could save your company money?
You might find that some content doesn’t resonate in a particular market, and no one is searching for it. Rather than spending money on a good quality localization or transcreation, having an international SEO strategy can tell you what not to translate, leaving you a budget for content creation instead. Plus, you’ll get all the brownie points for keeping Google’s helpful content update in mind!
Include SEO in Your Content Plan from the Get-Go
SEO is often overlooked and considered the last step when it comes to content creation, which is ill-advised.
It should be incorporated from the beginning when content planning. This way, you can target the right audience with the right content and avoid keyword cannibalization (when you target the same keyword in several places within your site, you end up competing with your own content and hurting your organic performance).
As a strategy, including SEO from the beginning helps you manage your expectations and set achievable goals. However, to accomplish this, there needs to be room for adjustments (sometimes many) made along the way.
International SEO Strategies Need To Include Off-Page & Technical Optimization
While we all know domain authority is not one of Google’s ranking factors, you do need to have backlinks. Gone are the days of simply buying as many backlinks as you can. Now, you need to think about user experience. Backlinks should be all about getting traffic to your website, which is why international backlinks are so important. If you rely on your English backlinking team and strategy, you risk English links to German websites, and which will affect your UX, because, let’s be honest, English speakers don’t want to land on a German website. So, you need to find German websites to link to your German site.
There’s so much more to international SEO than just hreflang tags. And this is why technical optimization is so important for your foreign language websites, too. This isn’t just the case for Google, but imagine if you're putting all this time and effort into creating a Chinese website, only to find out that it’s not technically optimized for Baidu? As the ranking factors are vastly different from that of Google, this all needs to be part of your international SEO strategy.
International SEO requires constant optimizing
A solid international SEO strategy is an ongoing endeavor. It’s not something that you can do once. You need to work on it constantly to see results, just like you’re doing for your English website. This is why having an SEO agency like Argos that can handle international markets is crucial. We can ensure your website is constantly maintained, with SEO at the forefront of everything you do.
Reach out to us at Argos Multilingual and ask about our international SEO services as part of our creative services portfolio. As a translation and localization company driven by quality in everything we do, we'll work closely with you to develop a leading SEO strategy for your company.