8 steps to crafting SEO strategies for international markets
- SEO success in international markets requires a curiosity for other cultures because there are numerous things other countries do differently.
- There are a few essential technical elements such as domain and hosting which are non-negotiable when targeting a different country.
- Targeting an international market can be lucrative, but your business must be financially and logistically prepared.
There are several reasons why a business may wish to engage with international markets. It may be that it needs to increase its customer base, diversify company revenue streams, reach more receptive audiences, enhance brand reputation, or mitigate against the risks associated with economic downturns.
Whatever the incentive, tapping into international markets requires more than simply translating your website into another language.
This diverse and potentially lucrative move demands an understanding of nuance and cultural differences. SEO itself varies across different countries and digital spaces, requiring marketers to navigate several complexities.
To ensure your international SEO strategy resonates with your target audience, we’ll give you the key information about this issue and 8 essential steps to crafting an effective strategy. Let’s dive in.
Things to consider when going international with your SEO
First things first. Ask yourself, “is this the right time?” There are several factors that may make this the wrong time to go international. So, consider the following:
- How stable is the country politically and economically? – Political unrest and economic volatility can significantly impact business operations.
- What’s the competitive landscape like? – This will give you insights into any potential challenges and market trends that could influence your decision.
- Is there a market for your product or service here? – This sounds obvious but it’s still noteworthy. Thorough research should be conducted to understand the demand for your business’s offering as this will dictate your marketing efforts significantly.
The answers to these questions should give you a confident insight into whether now is the right time to start SEO efforts for international markets.
You’ll also need to assess the logistical situation of targeting international markets. Consider the following before you decide:
- Will you be able to manage the supply chain if your SEO efforts are successful?
- How much are shipping costs to this country?
- If applicable, do you know which local suppliers and distributors you’ll use?
If your SEO efforts are going to attract customers, you’ll also need to think about your customer service offering:
- What are local expectations of customer service?
- Will your customer service be available in the local time zone?
- Can you offer customer service in the language of your target customers?
Though these factors aren’t directly related to your international SEO efforts, they will quickly become important considerations once customers start buying your products or services. Therefore, these logistical factors and customer services must be in place before your strategy gets off the ground.
Different search engines
One unavoidable consideration is the fact that different regions have unique digital ecosystems.
Across different countries, leading search engines vary. Understanding the mechanics and preferences of these local search engines is crucial to tailoring your SEO strategy effectively. While Google is dominant in many countries, don’t overlook local search engines like Baidu in China, Yandex in Russia, or Naver in South Korea. Examining the SEO best practices for the search engine you’ll be targeting will be crucial to your strategy’s success.
In addition, you’ll need to think about keyword usage. Keywords that work well in one language may not have a direct translation or the same search volume in another. Conduct thorough keyword research in the local language, considering cultural nuances and local dialects.
These considerations are fundamental in the foundation stages of your SEO strategy, and should not be skipped.
It will be crucial that you understand the culture of the international market you are hoping to engage with. Values, behaviours, preferences, and expectations will all impact how your strategy is received. So, make sure you know how these things could affect your use of keywords and content creation.
Simply translating your content isn’t enough. It must be culturally relevant and sensitive – you may wish to include local references or images to appeal to users even more.
Another way to culturally assimilate your international SEO efforts is to build relationships with local influencers, businesses, and media outlets. Partnerships and alliances can provide valuable insights, resources, and market entry support. In addition, this may also lead to some useful backlinks.
User experience (UX) is another important consideration for international SEO efforts. Design elements that resonate in one country may not have the same impact in another due to varying interpretations of colour, symbolism, and aesthetics. For instance, a colour that signifies prosperity in one culture may be associated with mourning in another.
Ensuring that a website’s design, content, and structure feel familiar and intuitive to users in a specific region can significantly enhance engagement and conversion rates, thereby supporting the effectiveness of SEO efforts.
The technical setup of your website is another important consideration of international SEO because it impacts how search engines will interpret and rank your site in different regions. Consider the following:
- Using a country-specific domain (like .fr for France or .jp for Japan) can boost your rankings in local searches.
- Hosting your site on a local server can improve load times for local users.
- If your site is available in multiple languages, use hreflang attributes to tell search engines which language you are using on a specific page. This helps in serving the correct language version of your page in search results.
If you want your international SEO strategy to perform well, these technical considerations will be key in its initial stages.
In many international markets, especially in developing countries, users primarily access the internet via smartphones. Ensuring your site is mobile-friendly will be vital to the success of your SEO efforts.
In addition, you’ll need to check whether there are any bandwidth limitations in the area you are targeting. E.g., Cuba is known for its slow internet, with one fibre optic cable serving its population of 11 million people.
Social media usage
Social media may play a big role in your SEO efforts. Since different regions favour different platforms, this part of your strategy may have to adapt. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter are widely used in many countries, but others like WeChat in China or VK in Russia are more prevalent in certain regions.
Finding out which platforms your international target audience uses most will help you tailor your strategy and boost your engagement rate, improving your SEO performance as a result.
Fines and penalties are the last thing you want when embarking on a new venture. The legal landscape of digital marketing varies from country to country. So, it will be important for you to be informed about local regulations concerning data privacy, advertising, and online content before creating your strategy.
Since collecting user data is often commonplace in SEO efforts, marketers should be aware of what they’re allowed to do. Plus, some countries have differing regulations on accessibility. If these are not met, your pages’ positions in the SERPs could take a hit.
You’ll need to ensure your domain doesn’t clash with any existing trademarks, as legal disputes could disrupt online operations. Compliance is an essential part of marketing in a new country, and it could be the determiner of your SEO strategy’s success.
The popularity of voice search differs internationally, but you should check its status in the country you wish to target. If your research reveals voice search is popular with your target market, you shouldn’t miss the opportunity to cater to it.
While voice recognition is becoming increasingly sophisticated, there are still several complexities creators must overcome to optimise their content:
- Consider how different cultures phrase queries – one country may favour formal language, while another favours colloquial speech.
- Voice search often yields more conversational and long-tail queries, so content must be optimised for natural language patterns unique to each region.
- Incorporating local slang and speech nuances can improve visibility in voice search results.
Optimising for voice search requires a deep understanding of how different cultures phrase queries and adapting to these linguistic variations can make a big difference in capturing the spoken queries of an international audience.
Shopping behaviours vary globally, and this should be a consideration in your international SEO strategy. For instance, Japanese consumers value detailed product information and a high level of customer service, while bargain-driven shopping is prevalent in the US. In Scandinavia, there’s a strong preference for sustainable and eco-friendly products while live-streamed shopping events are popular with consumers in China.
Understanding the behaviour of your target market is crucial in any strategy, and international ones are no different. You may decide to use this information to tailor your wider marketing strategy or e‑commerce platform, adapting things like product listings or checkouts.
Tailoring your efforts to customer preferences will do wonders for engagement and sales. So, look into local trends to see whether your strategy could be changed for the better.
8 steps to crafting SEO strategies for international markets
While there are lots of important considerations to targeting international markets, we like to make things simple. So, here are the 8 most crucial steps to crafting your international SEO strategy:
1. Research and adapt to local search engines
Since search engines are the indispensable component of an SEO strategy, this first step is unforgettable. It’s crucial that you understand the dominant search engines in your target markets (like Baidu in China or Yandex in Russia), any of its recommended best practices, and tailor your SEO strategies accordingly.
2. Conduct localised keyword research
Keyword research is another indispensable ingredient in SEO strategies. Therefore, we must highlight the importance of performing in-depth keyword research specific to each language and cultural context, accounting for local dialects and search behaviours. This will set your content on the right track, ensuring it’s in the best possible position to be ranked highly.
3. Embrace cultural sensitivity and localisation
In any international endeavour, it’s helpful to understand the culture’s norms and behaviours. Your strategy’s content should align with these, considering cultural nuances, local references, and societal preferences.
4. Opt for local domain and hosting solutions
Using country-specific domains (like .de for Germany) is a sure-fire way to place your webpages in a good position for high ranking in the SERPs – as can hosting your website on local servers. These two technical solutions can be instrumental in international SEO success, making them a top priority for new strategies.
5. Implement the hreflang attribute for multilingual sites
Similarly, using the hreflang attribute is a simple but effective way of signposting your site to your international target users. This will direct search engines towards the appropriate language version of your site, ensuring users find the content in their preferred language.
6. Prioritise mobile optimisation
As always, the importance of mobile optimisation in the SEO sector cannot be overstated. Focus on creating a mobile-friendly website, especially for markets with high mobile usage, and consider bandwidth constraints in developing regions.
7. Integrate local social media platforms
Social media can play an influential role in boosting your online visibility and engagement rate, resulting in better SEO performance. Therefore, it’s important that you identify and leverage popular social media platforms unique to each market.
8. Build local backlinks
Building backlinks is one of the most significant things you can do to boost a website’s SEO performance. In an international arena, it’s prudent to seek backlinks from local sources which are relevant to your target market.
By being inquisitive about your target market’s culture and adapting your website’s technical elements to cater to other countries, you can develop an optimised strategy that engages your ideal customers.