Our Guide to International SEO
If you’re looking to grow abroad in today’s world of business, it’s time to adjust the way you do things. Go back in time to 10 years ago, getting your website translated and then investing in a PR and traditional marketing strategy was enough to get your brand noticed. The problem is that this doesn’t work anymore.
We’re living in a digital world, and the first place people (both B2B and B2C) are going to look is Google…or their local equivalent like Baidu or Yandex. That means you have to be where people can find you, and that’s on the first page of said search engine. Having your website translated doesn’t equal the first page of Google…it’s quite the opposite in fact. You need to appease the mind-boggling algorithms that Google likes to throw our way. And that’s where International SEO comes in – and we’re going to teach you how.
Now, for the rest of this article, we’re going to refer to our search engine as Google. However, please remember that these points are just as valid for countries that don’t use Google. We’d just be here forever if we named every single search engine every couple of sentences 😊
In international SEO, translation DOESN’T cut it
We know we’ve said it before, but we’ll say it again – website translation is outdated. You need to be speaking your clients’ language, and while that may sound like translation – international SEO takes things further.
Just think about how much time you spent on your English (or native-language) content. It’s loads, right? Brainstorming and second-guessing every tiny detail, from the tone you’re looking to use to the wording of the shortest slogan? Writing content is a kind of love it or hate it kinda thing, so we’re sorry if we’re going to give you PTSD by bringing this next point up, but to really excel at international SEO, every single region you’re looking to target needs the same amount of TLC.
Now, we’re not saying that you need to do this all yourselves, luckily 😊 This is where you need to find a reliable partner. You need to find someone who can help you craft marketing copy for that particular market, and someone who can advise you on how to make your content really resonate and drive conversions. While you may think that a translation is a good idea – you need to go further, and this is why.
The problem with translation is that translators are not necessarily writers. They’re amazingly talented at their craft, but when it comes to creative writing (just like in English), it’s not something everyone can do. So, when you’re choosing a team, make sure you specifically look for copywriting agencies that work with international SEO experts who can transform your texts. This way, they’ll be able to give you copy that resonates with the local audience, drives conversions, and fits your brand rather than just translating your English strategy into another language. You’ve seen those funny translation fails on Facebook…translating marketing content simply doesn’t work. (We know all translation agencies say they can do marketing translations but unfortunately from a marketing point of view, they really can’t ☹)
Planning your international SEO strategy
Now that we’ve got the whole point of who to partner with cleared up, let’s move on to planning your international SEO strategy! There’s a little bit more that goes into it than meets the eye, so let’s have a chat about goals and other important bits.
The first thing to keep in mind is that SEO doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a long-term commitment and takes around 6 months to start seeing results, and involves a lot of TLC. Before you get put off by this, one thing we need to mention is that international SEO has long-lasting benefits. Take PPC for example, you turn it off – leads stop coming. If you get into financial difficulties and need to stop SEO for a while, you’re still going to get leads coming in for a while. Plus, once things are going better, you can simply pick up from where you left off. With international SEO, “good things come to those who wait” is a perfect explanation of how it works.
Now that you’ve got your expectations in check (your future international SEO company can thank us later!), it’s time to decide what your goals are. The reason we’re asking is that your goals play a big part in influencing what type of keywords your international SEO agency will go for. Do you want traffic flowing to your website? Or are you looking for very specific, niche leads? If traffic is what you’re looking for, you should be as general as possible when choosing your keywords. A perfect example would be a book store targeting something like “book shops Dublin” – you don’t care who visits as long as they’re looking to buy books! However, if you have a really niche market, and you simply sell cookery books, all your keywords should be about cookery books. Otherwise, you risk irritating people who want Rick and Morty books, not Rick Mortellys cookbook.
Once you’ve got your brief ready for your international SEO agency, it’s time to assemble your team. When you’re dealing with international SEO, you’ll need:
- Native marketers who can provide good-quality keyword research
- Copywriters who can create compelling content in the target language
- IT guys and girls who can help support your website going live
- And if you’re going for an international SEO company…they’ll be able to provide the full package.
There are loads of international SEO agencies out there, so trying to find the right partner for you is tough. Here are some tips to help you find the right one:
- Ask questions – if they’re happy to share their knowledge, that’s a good sign.
- Ask for case studies and sample results – if they can deliver, they’ll be happy to show them off.
- Ask how they work internationally. Do they translate, or do they offer different strategies for different markets? You need the latter, of course!
- You can even put together a little test to make sure they really know what they’re talking about. It takes more than just knowing your buzzwords to really deliver. If you’d like help with testing, you can always get in touch with us.
Planning’s done…let’s move on to the actual SEO fun!
When it comes to international SEO, keyword research should be your first step. There’s a logical reason for this – and that’s because keyword research forms the basis of every international SEO campaign. Based on your keyword choices, copywriters know what to base their content around, and who you’re going to target. If you do the content first, you’re just going to spend extra money by having to get that same content edited, instead of creating the content around the keywords. Genius…huh? 😀
When you’re dealing with keywords, it’s really important to note that each country is going to have different keywords. Everyone searches differently, and sometimes they use different search engines, too. To demonstrate this, let’s take a look at 2 example countries. Say you’re a tool manufacturer. In the UK, people might be looking for the best-quality power tools, however, in the Czech Republic, people are going to be looking for the cheapest power tools. It’s nothing to take offense at if you like to think of yourselves as high-end, it’s all down to culture and mentality. As the seller, you simply need to make sure that your keyword choices appeal to the locals and their way of thinking.
One other thing you should definitely keep in mind is you might have to localize the products your offering. In some countries, your products may simply be too expensive or high-end for that market. You might also have to tweak the content you write. Again, a good example is if you’re a survival equipment company who writes posts on how to survive bear and wolf encounters, and you want to move into the UK and Ireland from the US. You’re going to have to change what you write about to resonate with the locals, as the worst things you can find in an Irish forest are really loud owls.
Our tip? Get your international SEO agency to do a quick sample of your website to see if people in that particular country are searching for your products. If they are, happy days, international SEO is a great idea. If not, maybe re-think and choose a country where there is a need.
Finally, you need to make sure that all of your keywords have search volumes. If you simply translate your keywords, this is going to be pretty unlikely, and it’ll be an absolute waste of time SEOing your site for things people aren’t searching for. (One up for marketers over translation agencies…woop woop!)
Now you’ve chosen your keywords, it’s time to think about writing your content. We’ve spoken a lot about this earlier so we won’t go on about it too long, but when it comes to international SEO content, you need to follow all of Google’s on-page best practices. This includes:
- Text length
- Page title
- Meta description
- Alt text
- Keyword distribution
You also need to make sure that you’re optimizing your website technically and for off-page, too. Unless you’re doing all of the 3, your SEO won’t work. Once you’re done, you’re ready to go live.
As we mentioned earlier, international SEO takes a bit of TLC. You need to be creating fresh content to show Google you’re looking after your site. A great way of doing this is through blogging. Make sure you create content that’ll interest your local audience. Instead of creating one global campaign, you really need to make sure that each country is handled separately, and that you base your content around search terms. After all, it’s great coming up with blogs that you think your clients want to read, but unless they’re searching for that particular service, it’s all going to be for nothing. Moving on from content, you also need to be aware of algorithm updates and work on your existing content to make sure your site is converting.