At some point, your business might become so successful that its reach exceeds your country’s borders. At this point, you’ll need to conquer new markets—and in many cases, that means leaving the local SEO practices you know and love behind. If you’re looking to participate in the international market, you’ll need to ensure that you’re taking a few important steps. Moving into multiple different nations requires some work, so it’s important to make sure that it’s worth it for your company. You need to go through these steps to see that you have a worthwhile market share there. Here is exactly where you need to start.
Do Some Research
A very typical mistake made by companies looking to go international is assuming that what’s true for one area in SEO is true for others. Spend some time doing research to figure out what sites are jumping towards the top of the search rankings in the countries you want to target and which keywords with which you’ll have the most competitive advantage.
If you’re not sure where to start with your international market, your Google Dashboard can help you understand. Google Analytics can show you where most of your website visitors are physically located. Keep in mind that flags refer to nations, not to languages. If you want to learn more about what languages your visitors speak, you can find some of this in your Google Webmaster Tools. Doing well with international SEO ranking, in many cases, comes down to your willingness to do some research and getting to know your target market.
Choose Your Domain Carefully
Depending on your particular industry, it might be wise to have an entire site dedicated to your new audience. Even if you’re addressing an audience that speaks the same language as those in your home country, having a site created specifically for them is often useful. You’ll want to choose your domain with care—getting a region-specific ccTLD address (like .co.uk) can be a great way to start ranking internationally. Even if you don’t live in the country that you need a ccTLD for, you can still get a region specific domain.
If you don’t want to get a ccTLD, you can opt instead for subdirectories or subdomains on your existing website. Making a sub-page or folder at which you can direct Google Search is a great way to ensure that people searching for you in relevant areas actually get the right results. This can be a little easier than investing in an entirely new domain name, but it can generally lead to similar results.
These domains will act like ccTLD to search engines and indicate via the URL that you are targeting people in a specific nation with that web page. Instead of ending with the country code, it will have a URL like yourdomainhere.com/es/ to indicate Spanish in the United States or yourdomainhere.com/es-mx/ to indicate Spanish in Mexico. Make sure that the content on these pages is correctly translated. As advanced as it is, Google translate can’t translate full ideas correctly. Consider investing in a translation service to get the work done correctly the first time.
Remember that with any of these domain options you can target a specific language or a specific nation. How you choose to proceed will be dependent on who you are targeting. You cannot, however, target a general region. For example, you can build a domain to target Indonesia, but not a domain to target Southeast Asia. Each domain option has different implications for your audience and the intent of your site, so do be sure to choose carefully and do the proper research.
Markup Your Site Correctly
If you are looking to target a language, regardless of whether you want to target a nation as well or not, you should add the correct markup to signal to Google that your content is in a certain language. By adding the hreflang tag, you can indicate which language the site, domain, or page is written in. The hreflang will look something like hreflang=”es-mx” for Spanish in Mexico or hreflang=”pt-br” for Portuguese in Brazil. Using these tags will also help Google to understand that this content is in a different language and you will not be penalized for any possible duplicate content on these pages.
In addition to using the correct markup, create a sitemap for your site, particularly if you are opting for subdomains or subdirectories. This will further help search engines to find your content and rank the pages you want ranked in particular countries.
Tailor Your Content
Finally, try to tailor your content to the audiences that you want to reach. Factors like readability are just as important in every market, so ensure that all the content you create is relevant and useful. Make sure that the content is in the correct language for the region or nation you are reaching. Additionally, consult with someone who is native to that area to ensure that everything is culturally relevant and applicable to your users.
To improve your site for foreign visitors, there are a few other things you’ll need to adjust. For starters, make sure that any pricing is in the appropriate currency. Additionally, make sure you are using keywords that are applicable in the target language. Not every keyword will translate directly, so make sure you are using keyword research tools that give you multiple language options. Finally, consider what other major search engines may be used in that nation. For example, Yandex is the main search engine in Russia and Baidu is used in China. What these sites require to rank well may be different from what Google looks for.
Ranking internationally is really a matter of changing the way you look at SEO. Take a look at where you want to rank, and then begin to tailor both a site and content to customers in those areas. With some effort, you’ll get a higher search rank and begin to make an impact in a new market.