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International SEO: A Strategy for Success

SEO, whether international or domestic, is subject to understanding the particular markets in which you are planning to target. Simply taking your existing UK based strategy and applying it to international markets is not enough An understanding of foreign language, customs and the foreign market in your niche is essential to campaign success. For example, if you need to rank on Google in the UK and Baidu in China – you may need two completely different marketing strategies.

Research Your New Target Market

As 90% of web users live outside of USA/UK, it is essential to research your target market in that region. Just because you know your target market in the UK inside and out, doesn’t mean the same will ring true overseas. Locating and identifying your target regions/keywords goes without saying in any SEO strategy, but before you decide on the markets you are going to target, you need to research viability and competition using tools such as Google’s Global Market Finder tool. This tool accurately depicts the possibilities a region has to offer in terms of keyword search volumes. It can also determine whether you will be taking a long tail or short tail keyword strategy. This by no means encompasses all the pre strategy analysis you will need to do, but it’s a good start.

Going Native with Content

Don’t jump into a new marketplace with thoughts of translating the whole website to each region and setting up new TLD’s for them all if you don’t need to. If you are targeting a small niche market why spend £££’s on pretty much full new sites. Simply analyse which regions are more lucrative, and decide on whether you are going to put a localised landing page (i.e or minisite for the region. It is worth evaluating each option before deciding to translate an entire site. Whichever approach you take, automated translation is a no no – don’t even go there. Find a trusted, reputable translator (ideally native-tongue) and pay for the translations. They know local colloquialisms and terms that literal translation does not account for, You don’t want to lose custom because your content looks lazy. Accurate and engaging content in any language builds trust and authority. Top Tip: When adding content in a different language, you need to make sure search engines can index this content by adding the correct “Content-Language” meta tag which looks something like this:       

<meta http-equiv=”Content-Language” content=”fr”>

Adopt a Localised link building strategy

Although some regions will support similar SEO techniques, most do vary and when tackling a new marketplace, you need to know how. Link profiles vary from region to region and whilst you may want to stay ahead of the competition – you don’t want to stand out like a sore thumb as you’re heading down a dark and penalty-filled path. Be aware that number of links is one to watch out for as link building may not be highly practiced in some countries, whilst ratios of deep to-homepage links will be different, as will types of anchor text used. Internationally, most of us are at different stages of SEO evolution, some with saturated market places and some without. If you are placing links in genuine, informative articles, written (preferably), or at least translated by, a native-tongued writer – you’re on the right path. Although it can be an admin nightmare having multiple international freelancers on your books, it pays dividends. Again, please do stay away from automated translation!

Andy’s Key Takeaways

  • You don’t have to throw masses of money into branching out to a new country, but just be logical and don’t cut corners.
  • Make sure you use translators and make sure they are good. Even if that means recruiting another native-tongued writer to proof read their work.
  • Don’t copy and paste the current strategy and label it ‘international strategy 2014’ – you will need to research and analyse the marketplace utilising different techniques (and yes, you may even need to think outside the box).
  • However, the main point to take away is that preparation, planning and thorough analysis is the key to any internationally successful SEO campaign.