The digital revolution has now become a truly global phenomenon.
Internet penetration has reached over 80 percent in the European Union, with some countries reaching well over 90 percent. There are 731 million internet users in China which represents only 53 percent of the population – leaving plenty of room for growth.
The internet offers companies and brands a unique way to reach their customer base across geographical borders and regardless of cultural barriers or languages spoken. Reaching out to different populations requires an understanding of what people want in these different countries and then producing content to meet these needs.
It is not as simple as translating existing content into the required languages, but applying SEO basic principles or relevancy and localisation on a global scale, whilst ensure technical SEO content is served in the correct language for the targeted population.
When considering getting started with your international SEO strategy, here are five ways you can scale your existing practices to maximise your potential.
Understand demand variations from region to region
When completing searches from a global perspective, you will find that even within Google, SERP layouts and content types will vary from region to region. For example, a particular keyword phrase might trigger an instant answer in one country but not in another. Google models its SERPs for each region based upon local trends and interests to provide the best possible user experience.
Not only SERP layouts and content change, but so will keywords and traffic rates. You cannot directly translate keywords from one language to another. You must take into account local vocabulary, slang, population and cultural interests.
Different regions will have differing expectations from brands within the same industry sector in terms of what information they want to see before making a purchase decision.
As your international search strategy develops, you must understand that ranking well for a particular search term in one country does not mean that you will rank well for related search terms in another. You must build your content and user experience precisely for that local audience and optimise locally. Before taking any steps towards building an international SEO strategy, you must understand keyword demand and traffic levels within that country.
Build a global framework for your international SEO
You will find that incorporating technical SEO aspects into your international search strategy will be necessary. Primarily, you will need to employ hreflang tags.
The hreflang tag is a piece of html code that helps search engines understand the intended language and country for your content. This will ensure your content is displayed in the right region. For example, a Portuguese language site written for an audience in Brazil will not provide the optimal user experience for those in Portugal because there are differences between the two countries in the vocabulary used, even though both speak Spanish.
The hreflang tag helps ensure that the consumer audience sees the content that has been written and optimised for them specifically to provide the most helpful and relevant experience.
Use of the hreflang also reduces the threat of duplicate content because it informs the search engine that your content has been written with different audiences in mind. Your content for an audience in the US might overlap with content written for audiences in the UK, therefore, the hreflang tag is necessary.
To ensure the correct use of the hreflang tag you can employ these three main strategies:
- Place the tag in the HTTP Header and ensure it is present on every page.
- Place the tag in the sitemap.
- Mark up the page yourself.
It is important to use the ISO 639-1 format for all languages and restrict the size of sitemaps to be no larger than 10,000 URLs or 50mb.
Localise the content you create
Once you have understood how to create a framework for your global audience, you must also create content for the region-specific site. Remember that you must not simply translate your content word-for-word from one language to another.
The content should be localised so that it appeals to the audience in the different region. This requires creating content to reflect keyword research and local search trends for each specific country. You will also need to incorporate local vocabulary and slang and you may also want to work with native speakers to ensure your content means something to those reading it.
If your business has multiple locations, you will need to implement landing pages for each one. You will also want to create content that reflects the region for each of the landing pages. Ideas such as incorporating local landmarks, pastimes and interests will help boost the appearance of each landing page in the SERPs.
Unify differing strategies
For an effective global search strategy you must pull together your global, local and mobile optimisation strategies. Rank countries of where you are most likely to find customers. These rankings will help you to identify priorities. Use your global framework to ensure search engines understand where to display your content to maximise the impact to your targeted audience.
Your local SEO strategy will help guide your content creation process alongside keyword research and working with a native speaker to ensure you produce content that appeals to the local audience.
Finally, mobile traffic outpaces desktop traffic so you must make sure that your content is available for users on mobile devices.
Measure your results
As with any SEO strategy or campaign, when expanding globally you will need to take careful measurements of your progress. You can use the information from your reporting metrics to see where you can improve and refine your international SEO strategy to become more effective.
Factors you should consider include:
- Taking measurements of your presence and ranking in different countries before, during and after you implement your global strategy.
- Track your page rankings to ensure that your pages are ranking correctly in each country. Errors with your hreflang tags and keyword rankings can reduce your relevancy to the local customer base which ultimately hurt your rankings and the ability to engage visitors.
- Measure success and impact of alternative digital channels, such as the Twitter account for a particular country.
There is much more to building an international website than what first meets the eye and you certainly won’t get results by simply translating your content from one language to another. Hopefully these tips should help you move in the right direction as the importance of digital marketing spreads throughout the globe.