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Going International: 15 SEO Steps for a Successful Expansion

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Going International: 15 SEO Steps for a Successful Expansion

The author’s views are entirely his or her own (excluding the unlikely event of hypnosis) and may not always reflect the views of Moz.

Introduction

Expanding your business internationally is an excellent way to grow and scale your company. However, deciding to enter foreign markets involves making several decisions and taking actions that establish your organic presence.

This article will guide you through 15 SEO steps to follow that will allow you to conquer new markets successfully.

Table of contents:

  1. Deciding to go international
  2. Domain best practices
  3. Content transcreation
  4. Technical considerations
  5. Off-page best practices
  6. Bonus: Different search engines

Deciding to go international

Globalization has made it easy for almost any business to expand its presence internationally. If you detect a great opportunity or a fair amount of traffic to your site from a specific country, it could be worthwhile to target this market more thoroughly.

Nevertheless, entering a new market without solid preliminary research can lead to wasted time and resources. To prevent entering a market blindly, in-depth keyword research and competitor analysis can be used to help clarify market potential.

1) Keyword research

Local keyword research will allow you to gather data regarding the search volume and traffic potential of search terms related to your product/service in the local language of new markets. Moz Keyword Explorer is an excellent tool for this purpose. 

Other than search volume, the Difficulty is a key metric to consider, as it defines how competitive your keywords are in the different languages and markets.

An overview of the keyword
An overview of the keyword “electric scooters” in Moz Keyword Explorer.

Note: Be aware of the fact that one-to-one translation of keywords doesn’t always work. Words can have different meanings in different languages, and, in some markets, multiple words and phrases can be used as synonyms for the same product or service.

It is highly recommended to have native speakers of the languages in the area you’re targeting lead your keyword research, as they’ll understand the particular market and culture well. If you don’t have the resources internally to conduct the local research, you could outsource this task to a local expert.

Additionally, using Google Trends to study local keyword trends can be a great way to highlight areas with the highest interest in your product or service. The analysis of the interest over time and interest by region is a quick and good way to identify trends and potential in a market.

Interest in the search term
Interest in the search term “electric scooters” over time and by region in Google Trends.

2) Competitor analysis

Based on the relevant keywords and queries highlighted in the keyword research phase, you can define organic competitors in your new market(s).

Organic competitors are competitors on the Search Engines Result Pages (SERPs) ranking for your target search terms. Some SEO tools, like Moz, will give you an overview of the local SERPs for your queries. Based on the relevant keywords and queries highlighted in the keyword research phase, you can define organic competitors in each market(s). 

Organic competitors might overlap internationally, but might also significantly differ from market to market. It’s worth checking in which countries your main organic competitors are present, in which languages their website(s) is/are available, and how qualitative their content is, as it will help you determine which markets are worth expanding into yourself.

The most attractive markets are obviously the ones with a high search potential and relatively low competition. It is up to you to decide to enter more competitive markets, considering your particular and available resources.

Domain best practices

Much like in your home market, the choice of your domain name and structure in new, international spaces can impact your local rankings, as well as the perception of your brand.

3) Website configuration

Going international necessitates adapting to a different country, language, or both:

  • A multi-regional website is a website targeting several countries (airbnb.com).

  • A multilingual website is a website targeting several languages (tiqets.com).

  • A global website is a website targeting an international audience (theculturetrip.com).

The number of different website versions necessary depends on the audience you want to target.

  • Country targeting means that you want to target one or multiple specific countries. In this case, one website version for each country is needed.

  • Language targeting means that you target an audience speaking the same language. In this respect, one website version in this particular language is required.

The different types and website versions needed depending on country and language targeting.
The different types and website versions needed depending on country and language targeting.

A global website approach can be effective if your audience is already international and has no need for customization (e.g. a marketing blog like the Moz Blog). Nevertheless, most people prefer to browse in their language, and it’s harder for a domain to rank in a specific market when it’s not localized.

4) Brand name vs. localized name

Your domain name can be either a name related to your brand/company or a localized name adapted to the local market.

Some companies choose to localize their domain name, as it allows them to include keywords that are relevant to the target market. This is, for instance, the case for the websites of the Auto1 Group, an automotive company, which adapts its name to each target market:

Example of domain names of the Auto 1 Group with localized domain names for different countries.
Example of domain names of the Auto 1 Group with localized domain names for different countries.

In general, using your brand/company name is recommended, as it allows you to consolidate brand authority and awareness among different markets. However, if your brand name has an ambivalent meaning or is challenging to pronounce in a certain language, it’s preferable to adapt your domain name to the local market.

Example of a branded domain name that needed to be rebranded due to international expansion.
Example of a branded domain name that needed to be rebranded due to international expansion.

5) URL structure preference

Geotargeting means serving the correct version of your website to users according to their location. In this context, the choice of the URL structure is crucial, as it will be an indication for both search engines and users.

Anatomy of an URL structure with different subparts.
Anatomy of an URL structure with different subparts.

URLs can be structured in three different ways to target international markets:

  • ccTLD: country-code Top Level Domain (.fr; .de; .nl,…).

  • gTLD: generic Top-Level Domain (.com; .org; .net,…) + local subdirectories (.com/fr; .org/de; .net/nl,…).

  • Subdomain: local subdomain attached to the root domain (fr.domain.com; de.domain.org; nl.domain.net,…).

Note: Some websites use parameters (for instance: www.domain.com ?loc=fr) in order to display the content to users based on their current location. This technique is not recommended for geotargeting. In order to optimize ranking potential, each version should have its own URL.

Overview of different URL structures with their advantages and disadvantages.
Overview of different URL structures with their advantages and disadvantages.

There is no right or wrong setup, as each of these URL structures has its advantages and disadvantages. The choice of the structure has to be made by taking into account the markets you decide to penetrate, the niche you operate in, and your available resources.

The following elements also have to be considered:

  • Depending on the CMS you’re using, the choice of the URL structure might be limited.

  • Some countries have specific regulations regarding domain names. To be able to register some ccTLDs, a local residence or company headquartered in the country is necessary (for example, in Norway).

Buying recommendations for different domain names and variations.

6) International targeting with Google Search Console

For URL structures using a gTLD, you can use Search Console’s International Targeting report to let Google know that your website targets visitors from a specific country. This feature will then be used as a local hint by Google. You can find this report under the “Legacy tools and reports” section in Google Search Console. As you can observe, domains using a ccTLD are geo-targeted by default.

International targeting report in Google Search Console for a French domain using a ccTLD.
International targeting report in Google Search Console for a French domain using a ccTLD.

Content transcreation

“Transcreation” is a portmanteau of the words “translation” and “creation”, and is the concept of adapting a text to a different language and culture. When entering a new market, it’s vital to adapt your website to local users to make it ultra-relevant.

7) Content translation

Creating brand new content is time-consuming. For this reason, when expanding to new markets, most companies choose to translate the content of their original website.

Just like in your home market, the quality of your content impacts your website rankings. Translating content without proper keyword research in the new language, as well as knowledge of your new users’ search intent can lead to poor, irrelevant content that is not adapted to local users. Spend some time expanding your content development processes to account for potential differences.

And remember: everything has to be translated on your page, not solely the body of the content itself. This means translating o-page elements such as image alt tags, URLs, meta titles and descriptions, and headers have to be localized as well. If several languages are detected by search engines, it can send a signal of poor quality and affect your rankings.

8) Adaptation to the new country

Cultural differences

Speaking the language of a country doesn’t mean talking to its people. Every country has its own slang and cultural differences in terms of taste, humor, and mentality.

These characteristics can differ enormously between countries. Hence the need to get the content creation managed by a person native (or at least familiar) with the country and its culture.

Country-specific editorial calendar

It’s important to keep track of the national and religious events and seasons in the different local markets. Each country has its own specificities, and your content and promotions should align with it.

Currency

The currency used on a website must ideally be the one of the targeted country. In the case of a global website, it’s a must to offer users the opportunity to switch currency with a currency selector. Most content management systems offer the possibility to install a plugin to manage this function efficiently.

An example of different settings regarding language, country, and currency.
An example of different settings regarding language, country, and currency.

Means of payment

Whenever possible, it’s good to adapt to users’ preferences and offer them different methods of payment. Some means of payment are popular and specific to some countries, such as IDeal in the Netherlands and Klarna in Sweden.

An example of the ASOS website with different payment methods depending on the country.
An example of the ASOS website with different payment methods depending on the country.

Use of special characters

In certain parts of the world, people:

  • Use a non-Latin language (Cyrillic, Chinese, Japanese,…).

  • Use special characters (ß, ü, å, œ, ç, ø, ñ,…) in their language.

URLs must be written and served only using the ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange) character set. As such, URLs containing special characters need to be encoded into a valid ASCII format by browsers, in order to be adequately processed. Most browsers support non-ASCII characters and serve them unencoded to users. Nevertheless, when copy-pasting URLs in the browser, encoding is visible (see example below).

An example of an encoded URL in the Russian language by Germany's international broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW).
An example of an encoded URL in the Russian language by Germany’s international broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW).

Therefore, the use of special characters in URLs makes them less “share-friendly.” Besides, some search engines have difficulty parsing and recognizing URLs with special characters effectively.

A workaround to this issue is to use phonetic transcriptions. For instance, If you target the Chinese market, you can use Pinyin (the romanization of standard Mandarin) in your URLs, instead of Chinese characters.

Whether you decide to transcribe your URLs or keep special characters is up to you. As always, the best method is to consider it from a user’s point of view, and what type of URLs they would prefer to see.

Local regulations

Local regulations have to be taken seriously and must be respected in order to avoid potential legal issues. For instance, the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) applies whenever you track and analyze data from EU visitors, even if your company is located outside the EU.

Similar regulations apply in other regions. In Japan, they have the Act on the Protection of Personal Information (APPI), and California has the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA).

In the US, accessibility is a serious topic (see the Americans with Disabilities Act). To comply and avoid legal complaints, companies must stick to the internationally recognized Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

If you’re not familiar, inform yourself about the different local regulations.

9) External links

As always, in order to enhance your content, it’s recommended to add outbound links to other relevant local websites.

Outbound links are a good, natural way to provide more insights to your readers and context to the search engines about the topic you are covering.

Search engines pay attention to the quality of the outbound links contained in your content. Therefore, it is important that your content only contains outbound links to authoritative local sources. Authoritative local sources are links to pages that are relevant in terms of quality (resources valuable for visitors, topic-relevant, trustworthy authors,…) as well as in terms of quantitative metrics (organic traffic, Domain Authority, …). Outbound links should be editorially and naturally placed into the content and point to up-to-date resources, ideally in the same local language.

Technical considerations

10) Hreflang implementation

In an international context, the hreflang tag helps search engines (like Google, Yandex, and Seznam) define which URL version of your site should be served to visitors from a specific area, or who speak a particular language.

Hreflang attributes are helpful to prevent indexation issues due to duplicate content, in the case where the same content is delivered in the same language to different geographical areas. They’re used as “hints” by search engines, which are free to ignore them.

Hreflang can be implemented in three different ways: Via the HTTP header, inside the <head> of a HTML document, or within a site XML sitemap.

11) HTML lang & the Content-language meta tag

While Google and Yandex only refer to the hreflang tag instructions, some other search engines (Baidu, Naver, and Bing) use different tags to identify localized content. HTML lang is an attribute that specifies the language used on a web page. The content-language meta tag is used to indicate the language and country for which the page content is intended for. Be aware of what’s needed in the search engine(s) of your new region. 

An example of a hreflang attribute, a content-language meta tag, and a HTML lang attribute for a website with an American-English audience.
An example of a hreflang attribute, a content-language meta tag, and a HTML lang attribute for a website with an American-English audience.

12) IP-based redirection

Location-based redirection is the concept of redirecting users to the correct local interface based on their IP location/browser language.

When IP-based redirection is automatic, it can prevent search engine bots from crawling your website. Most of the time, Google bots are crawling websites with US-based IP addresses. Whenever IP auto-redirection happens, spiders will be limited and only able to crawl a single version of your site, leaving other site variations undiscovered and therefore potentially not crawled and indexed.

Screenshot of tweet from John Mueller explaining that Googlebot crawls mostly from the US.

Moreover, IP-based redirection can have a negative impact on user experience. Imagine you’re in Japan, and you want to read an article in French. You definitely don’t want to be forced to interact with the Japanese version of the domain.

An alternative to geolocation-based redirection is to use non-intrusive geo-based pop-ups/banners or manual location pickers to suggest that users be redirected to the local version of their choice.

Example of a non-intrusive geo-based banner on marksandspencer.com
Example of a non-intrusive geo-based banner on marksandspencer.com
Advice regarding splash pages interfaces.

13) Server location

In the past, your physical server location was used by Google as a local signal, but that’s no longer the case.

Nevertheless, server location impacts site speed, as data must travel via a network of physical cables. The closer a website server’s location is to its visitors, the faster it will load.

If your site’s server is located in a different region than your visitors, you can use a Content Delivery Network (CDN). A CDN is a network of servers geographically spread around the world that host and cache websites’ static assets (image files, JS, CSS).

The benefit of hosting some of your resources on a CDN is to reduce the page load time, as these resources will be served locally near the users’ locations. In addition, some CDNs add an extra layer of protection to your website by providing firewall security features.

Off-page recommendations

Off-page SEO refers to all the activities that you perform outside of your domain in order to increase the user- and search engine perception of its relevance, popularity, trustworthiness, and authority. An off-page SEO strategy is crucial in order to succeed in an international environment.

14) Country-specific link building

Links remain one of the main ranking factors. When entering a new market, links facilitate your site’s discovery by both search engines and users. At the very beginning, SEO should work together with other departments such as PR to build links to their homepage and create brand awareness.

When your site is technically well-grounded and serves users with qualitative content, it’s time to start acquiring relevant, local backlinks. By receiving backlinks from authoritative sources in each targeted country, you’ll be able to compete and impose your local presence.

Establish a country-specific outreach strategy for each market, as each one will be different. Some tactics that work well in one country might not be so efficient in another one. It’s crucial to always adjust your approach to the customs of the individual market in order to build valuable partnerships.

The following practices are recommended in the international backlink acquisition process:

Recommendations for country-specific link building.

15) Local citations and NAP consistency

Local citations are any mention of your business information online. Local citations matter if you are implemented in several countries and have physical addresses, as they allow you to strengthen your local presence. Your website NAP can be found on your website as well as on Google My Business and other social media pages and local directories.

If search engines discover different addresses, they, as well as your users, might be confused. Make sure to remain consistent with your Name, Address, Phone (NAP) in your local citations in the different countries that you are present in. Moz has a free tool to verify the consistency of your citations in the US, UK, and Canada.

Bonus: Different search engines

When talking about search engine optimization, we mostly consider Google, as it’s the most used search engine in the world. Nevertheless, in some markets, Google is not the largest search engine.

For instance, in China, most people use Baidu, and in Russia, people use Yandex. Other popular engines are Naver in South Korea, Seznam in the Czech Republic, and Yahoo in Japan.

Whenever you intend to enter these markets, you have to take time to research and be aware of some specificities related to these search engines. For example, below are some key international SEO elements to take into consideration for Baidu.

Overview of the Baidu search engine.

Conclusion

Deciding to expand your business or website into a new market is not something that should be hastily attempted. From the SEO side, it requires a lot of thought, careful consideration, and time to do it right.

When entering a new market, your international SEO strategy should consist of:

  • Studying market potential.

  • Choosing the right domain and URL structure.

  • Geotargeting and adapting content to local users.

  • Developing authority and traffic locally.

From choosing the right structure and geotargeting, to writing compelling content adapted to your local audience, an effective plan has to be designed that takes into account your company resources and market potential for effective and successful expansion.



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MARKETING

MarTech’s marketing operations experts to follow

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MarTech's marketing operations experts to follow

Marketing operations is what makes the magic happen. These are the folks who see that your martech stack doesn’t get stuck. They are the maestros, modelers and makers who make sure the trains run, the data is digestible and that you have the programs you need. Where would we be without them? That’s too scary to think about. Here’s our list of MOps experts who have the ear of the profession.

Darrell Alfonso

Darrell is director of marketing strategy & operations at Indeed and the former global marketing ops leader for AWS. He’s the author of “The Martech Handbook: Build a Technology Stack to Acquire and Retain Customers.” In addition to speaking at many conferences, Darrell was named one of the Top Marketers in the US by Propolis 2022 and among the “Top Martech Marketers to Follow” in 2020 by Martech Alliance. He’s a regular and popular contributor both to MarTech and the MarTech conference; you can find all of his articles at this link.


Eddie Reynolds

Eddie has been in business a long time, starting his first company when he was 14. “A pretty minimal enterprise,” he told one interviewer. “I had a tax ID number, a legal entity, and a company name. I even had the IRS coming after my dad for sales tax that I failed to report properly.” Today he is CEO and revenue operations strategy consultant of Union Square Consulting. He publishes The RevOps Weekly Newsletter and the podcast RevOps Corner. Eddie’s large LinkedIn following attests to the quality of the insights he shares there on  sales, marketing, service, and admin roles. 


Sara McNamara

Sara is an award-winning marketing and sales operations professional whose work has been recognized by awards from the likes of Salesforce (Pardot), Adobe (Marketo), Drift, and LeanData. She is a Senior Manager, Marketing Operations at Slack and a martech stack (+ strategy) solution architect. That and her passion for leveraging technology and processes to improve the experiences of marketers, sales professionals, and prospects, explains why she’s a regular guest on MOps podcasts.


Ali Schwanke

Ali is the CEO and founder of Simple Strat. The firm specializes in helping companies get the most out of HubSpot — from CRM strategy and setup to marketing automation and content creation. She is also host of HubSpot Hacks, “the #1 Unofficial YouTube show for HubSpot Tutorials” and has been a guest speaker at the MarTech conference.


Mike Rizzo

Mike’s career in marketing operations showed him that there is a real and significant MOps community. That’s why he founded MO Pros/MarketingOps.com, the fast-growing online community for people in marketing operations. He is also co-host of Ops Cast, a weekly podcast. 


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About the author

Constantine von Hoffman

Constantine von Hoffman is managing editor of MarTech. A veteran journalist, Con has covered business, finance, marketing and tech for CBSNews.com, Brandweek, CMO, and Inc. He has been city editor of the Boston Herald, news producer at NPR, and has written for Harvard Business Review, Boston Magazine, Sierra, and many other publications. He has also been a professional stand-up comedian, given talks at anime and gaming conventions on everything from My Neighbor Totoro to the history of dice and boardgames, and is author of the magical realist novel John Henry the Revelator. He lives in Boston with his wife, Jennifer, and either too many or too few dogs.

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Is a Marketing Degree Worth it in 2023?

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Is a Marketing Degree Worth it in 2023?

If you’re thinking about getting a degree at any age, it makes sense to think about the value of that degree. Is the qualification needed for the career you want? Are there alternative paths to that career? Can you develop better skills by gaining experience in work? 

All of these are perfectly valid questions. After all, getting a degree requires a pretty large investment of both time and money. You want to know that you’ll get enough return on that investment to make it worthwhile.

Why marketing?

When it comes to marketing, a lot of entry-level jobs list a bachelor’s degree as a requirement. That doesn’t mean there aren’t alternate ways to get into marketing but having a relevant degree certainly makes your resume more competitive. 

Growth industry

Marketing skills are in demand in the current jobs market. According to a recent report from LinkedIn, marketing job posts grew 63% in just six months last year. Half of those jobs were in the digital and media sectors, meaning digital and content marketing skills are highly valued

Personal Development & Career Path

The reason for this increased demand for marketers is tied to the rise in digital marketing. New methods of marketing have continued to develop out of the digital sector. This means that marketers capable of creating engaging content or managing social media accounts are needed.

This leaves a lot of room for personal development. Young graduates who are well-versed in social media and community management can hit the ground running in digital marketing. Getting on this path early can lead to content strategist and marketing management positions.    

What are the Types of Marketing Degrees?

When we say marketing degree, the term is a bit too general. There are a lot of degree paths that focus on marketing in major or minor ways. The level of degree available will depend on your current education history, but the specific course will be down to your personal choice. 

Associate, Bachelor’s, or Master’s?

Recent statistics suggest that 74% of US marketing professionals hold a bachelor’s degree. 9% have an associate degree and 8% have a master’s degree. Here’s a quick overview of the differences. 

Associate degrees – 2-year courses that cover marketing and business in a more basic way than bachelor’s qualifications. They’re designed to give students the basic skills needed to apply for entry-level marketing jobs.   

Bachelor’s degrees – 3/4-year courses that cover business and economics. There is a range of bachelor’s courses with marketing at their core, but you’ll also cover wider business topics like management, communication, and administration. 

Master’s degrees – 2-year courses, usually only available if you’ve already completed a bachelor’s degree. MA or MBA courses are designed to develop a deep understanding of complex business topics. They are highly specific, covering areas like strategic marketing or marketing analytics. 

Free to use image from Pixabay

Marketing Specific or Business General? 

This is down to personal choice. There are general business degrees that will cover marketing as a module as well as marketing-specific degrees. There are also multiple universities and colleges, both offline and online, offering different course platforms

If you’re looking at a specific job role or career path, then research which type of degree is most relevant. Remember that you will need to add to your marketing skills if you intend to progress to management roles in the future. 

Check the Modules & Curriculum

This is important, and not only because it lets you see which courses align with your career goals. Marketing has changed significantly over the last decade, even more so if you go back to before the digital age. Many business courses are still behind on current marketing trends. 

What Jobs Look for a Marketing Degree?

Once you’ve got your marketing qualification, what jobs should you be looking for? Here are some job titles and areas you should watch out for, and what qualifications you’ll need for them.

Entry level

If you’re starting with a degree and no experience, or work experience but no degree, take a look at these roles. 

  • Sales/customer service roles – These are adjacent roles to marketing where most companies do not ask for prior qualifications. If you don’t have a degree, this is a good place to start.
  • Marketing or public relations intern – Another possibility if you don’t have a degree, or you’re still in education. 
  • Digital/content marketing associate – These roles will almost always require an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. A good grasp of new digital and social marketing techniques will be required to succeed. 
  • Copywriter/Bid writer – This is a good route into marketing for those with journalism or literature qualifications. These roles combine aspects of marketing, creative writing, and persuasive writing. 
  • SEO specialist – A more focused form of marketing centered on SEO content optimization. If you know how to optimize a blog post for search engine rankings, this role is for you. Bachelor’s or associate qualifications will be a minimum requirement. 
  • Social media/community manager – Since these are relatively new roles, we tend to see a mix of degree-qualified marketers and people who’ve had success fostering communities or online brands but don’t have on-paper credentials.  

Free to use image from Unsplash

Career Progression

If you have an MA or MBA, or significant experience in one of the above roles, then you can look at these more advanced roles for your career progression.

  • Digital Marketing Manager – A role for experienced marketers that involves running campaigns and coordinating marketing associates. 
  • Senior Marketing Coordinator – A department management level role. Responsible for overall marketing strategy and departmental performance.  
  • Content Strategist – A specialist role that focuses on content strategy. Designing content plans based on demographic and keyword research are a core aspect of this role. 
  • Marketing Analyst – This role involves analyzing customer behaviors and market trends. If you want to move into analysis from a more direct marketing role, you’ll likely need specific data analysis qualifications. 
  • Public Relations Specialist – The public voice of a large organization’s PR team. Managing a brand’s public perception and setting brand-level communication policies like tone of voice.   
  • Experiential Marketing Specialist – This area of marketing is focused on optimizing the customer experience. Experiential specialists have a deep understanding of customer psychology and behaviors. 
  • Corporate Communications Manager – Communications managers are responsible for company-wide communications policies. This is an executive-level role that a marketing coordinator or public relations manager might move up to. 

Average marketing salaries

Across all the roles we’ve discussed above, salaries vary widely. For those entry-level roles, you could be looking at anything from $25 – $40K depending on the role and your experience. 

When it comes to median earnings for marketers with a bachelor’s or master’s degree, we can get a bit more specific. Recent statistics from Zippia show us that $69,993 p/a is the average for bachelor’s degree holders and $80,365 p/a for master’s degree marketers. 

Image sourced from Zippia.com

Marketing Degree Pros and Cons

So, the question we asked above was “Is a marketing degree worth it?” Yet, in truth, it’s not a simple yes or no answer. The question you need to ask is “Is a marketing degree right for me?” Here’s a summary of the pros and cons that might give you some answers.  

Pros

  • Degree holders have better job prospects and higher earnings potential in marketing
  • You can study highly specific skills with the right courses
  • Gain soft skills like communication and collaboration

Cons

  • High time and money investment required 
  • Diminishing salary returns at higher levels
  • Can be a restrictive environment for self-starters and entrepreneurs

What are Marketing Degree Alternatives?

If you want to stick with education but don’t want to invest four years into a degree, then accredited online courses can provide an alternative. This can be your best choice if you wish to upskill in a specific area like running conference calls from Canada

If higher education really isn’t your thing, the other option is gaining experience. Some businesses prefer internships and training programs for entry-level roles. This allows them to train marketers “their way” rather than re-training someone with more experience.  

Free to use image from Unsplash

How to Decide if a Marketing Degree is Right for You

Ultimately, choosing to do a marketing degree depends on your goals, your preferences, and your talents. Consider all three factors before making your choice. 

Career Goals

Do you want a management position that needs marketing knowledge? What areas of marketing interest you? What skills do you already possess? Answering these three questions will help you define your career path. That will narrow down your course choices. 

If you want to get better at selling small business phone systems in Vancouver, you don’t need a four-year course for that. If you want to develop into high-level marketing roles, then you want that degree. 

Personality

You don’t need a specific personality type to work in marketing. Your personality and interests might determine what area of marketing would suit you best though. For example, if you’re outgoing and creative then public relations or social media management might be for you.    

Investment & Return

Money isn’t everything. But, if you’re going to put the resources into getting a degree, you want to know that you’ll get some return on your investment. From the figures we quoted above, it seems the “optimal” qualification in terms of salary return vs. time and money investment is a bachelor’s degree. 

Average earnings for marketers with a master’s qualification were only $10k higher. This suggests that you’re not really getting a significant financial return for the additional investment. Of course, if that master’s leads to your dream job, you might see it differently.  

Final Thoughts: Forge Your Own Path

Is a marketing degree worth it in 2023? The short answer is yes. Whether that means a marketing degree is right for you, we can’t tell you. Hopefully, though, this guide has given you the information you need to make that choice. 



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MARKETING

How the LinkedIn Algorithm Works in 2023 [Updated]

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How the LinkedIn Algorithm Works in 2023 [Updated]

LinkedIn bills itself as “the world’s largest professional network” — and they have the numbers to prove it. With over 875 million members in more than 200 countries and regions, LinkedIn is immensely popular and well-used. On top of the sheer size of the platform, nearly 25% of users are senior-level influencers; about 10 million are categorized as C-level executives, and LinkedIn classifies 63 million as “decision makers.”

If you’re a B2B marketer or brand, you probably already know this social media platform offers you an excellent opportunity to reach your target demographic. However, seizing that opportunity is easier said than done since LinkedIn uses a unique algorithm to serve content to users.

In this article, we will walk through how the LinkedIn algorithm works in 2023, best practices for beating the algorithm with organic content, and how brands can elevate their presence on the platform.
 

What is the LinkedIn Algorithm?

 
The LinkedIn algorithm is a formula that determines which content gets seen by certain users on the platform. It’s designed to make each user’s newsfeed as relevant and interesting to them as possible to increase engagement and time spent on the platform. In this way, the LinkedIn algorithm is similar to the Facebook or TikTok algorithm, though LinkedIn’s is slightly more transparent (which is good news!). 

In fact, LinkedIn itself is a good source for demystifying the algorithm and understanding what content is prioritized for members. But the general function of the LinkedIn algorithm is to review and assess billions of posts every day and position those that are most authentic, substantive and relevant to each user at the top of their feeds.  

How the algorithm achieves that function is a little more complex.
 

How the LinkedIn Algorithm Works in 2023

 
 
LinkedIn users’ feeds don’t show posts in chronological order. Instead, the LinkedIn algorithm determines which posts show up at the top of users’ feeds, meaning that sometimes users see older or more popular posts before they see more recent ones.

Several factors influence the LinkedIn algorithm, and the factors change relatively often. Let’s take a closer look.
 

1. Assess and Filter Content by Quality

 
When someone posts on LinkedIn, the algorithm determines whether it’s spam, low-quality, or high-quality content. High-quality content is cleared, low-quality content undergoes additional screening, and spam content is eliminated. 

 

  • Spam – Content flagged as spam can have poor grammar, contain multiple links within the post, tag more than five people, use more than ten hashtags (or use expressly prescriptive hashtags like #follow, #like, and #comment) or be one of multiple postings from the same user within three hours. 
  • Low-quality – Content categorized as low quality isn’t spam but is judged as not particularly relevant to the audience. These posts can be hard to read, tag people who are unlikely to respond or interact, or deal with topics too broad to be interesting to users.  
  • High-quality – “Clear” content is easy to read, encourages engagement, incorporates strong keywords, uses three or fewer hashtags, and reserves outbound links to the comments. In other words, it’s something your audience will want to read or see and react to in a substantive way.

 

2. Test Post Engagement with a Small Follower Group

 
Once a post has made it through the spam filter, the algorithm distributes it to a small subset of your followers for a short time (about an hour) to test its ability to generate engagement. If this group of followers likes, comments or shares the post within this “golden hour,” the LinkedIn algorithm will push it to more people. 

If, on the other hand, the post is ignored, or your followers choose to hide it from their feeds (or, worst of all, mark it as spam), the algorithm will not share it further.  
 

3. Expand the Audience Based on Ranking Signals

 
If the algorithm decides your post is worthy of being sent to a broader audience, it will use a series of three ranking signals to determine exactly who sees it: personal connection, interest relevance and engagement probability. 

These signals boil down to the level of connection between you and the user who potentially sees the post, that user’s interest in the content’s topic and the likelihood of that user interacting with the content. We’ll break down exactly what these ranking signals are further in the post.
 

4. Additional Spam Checks and Continued Engagement Monitoring

 
Even after a post is pushed to a broader audience, the LinkedIn algorithm continues monitoring how users perceive it in terms of quality. If your content is marked as spam or entirely ignored by the new audience group, LinkedIn will stop showing it to those audiences. On the other hand, if your post resonates with new audiences, LinkedIn will keep the post in rotation. So long as the post gets a steady stream of engagement, posts can stay in circulation for months.
 

8 Best Practices to Make the LinkedIn Algorithm Work for You

 
 Understanding how the LinkedIn algorithm works is the first step to reaching more people on LinkedIn and ensuring your content is well-received and engaging. The next step is optimizing your content based on the factors the algorithm prioritizes to maximize its effect. This is where mastering the ranking signals comes into play.

Here are eight tips for crafting high-performing LinkedIn content:
 

1. Know What’s Relevant to Your Audience

 
Relevance is what the algorithm prizes above all other content qualities. For LinkedIn, relevance translates to engagement, which leads to more time spent on the platform, which results in more ad revenue and continued growth. Following this tip will win you points in the “interest relevance” and “engagement probability” ranking categories. 

The entire LinkedIn ecosystem is set up to prioritize highly relevant content. To ensure your posts are relevant, create content focused on your niche and your audience’s specific needs and interests. As LinkedIn’s then-Director of Product Management Linda Leung explained in 2022, “we are continuously investing in the teams, tools, and technology to ensure that the content that you see on your feed adds value to your professional journey.” 

Use customer research and analytics from other social media platforms to learn more about what your audience wants to know. Focus on creating high-quality, valuable content that helps professionals succeed in formats they prefer (for example, videos, which get three times the average engagement of text-only posts). But above all, posting content that is personal and has industry relevance is vital. 
 

2. Post at the Right Time

 
As with most things, timing is crucial for successful LinkedIn posts. It’s even more critical when considering the “golden hour” testing process integral to the algorithm’s rankings. Remember, how much interaction a post gets within the first hour after it’s published determines whether it gets pushed to a broader audience. That means posting at the optimal time when your followers are online and primed to respond is a central factor to success.

You are the best judge of when your top LinkedIn followers and people in your network are most likely to be on the platform and engaging with content. But for the general public, data suggests the best time to post is at 9:00 a.m. EST on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Cross-reference these times with your own analytics and knowledge about your audience — like a common time zone, for example — to find the best time for your posts.
 

3. Encourage Engagement

 
Your post format can play a significant role in user engagement. The LinkedIn algorithm doesn’t explicitly prioritize videos over photo and text posts, but LinkedIn’s internal research has found video ads are five times more likely to start conversations compared to other types of promoted content. 

Asking a question is another great way to encourage interaction with your post. If you’re sharing industry insights, open the conversation to commenters by asking them to share their opinions or experiences on the topic. 

Additionally, tagging someone in your LinkedIn post can expand its reach, but only tag relevant users and people likely to engage with the post. You don’t automatically get in front of a celebrity’s entire following just because you tagged them. In fact, the algorithm’s spam filter can penalize your post for that. But when you tag someone relevant, the tagged person’s connections and followers will also see your post in their feeds. 
 

4. … But don’t beg users to engage

 
The LinkedIn algorithm penalizes posts and hashtags that expressly ask for an engagement action like a follow or a comment. In an official blog post from May 2022, LinkedIn said that it “won’t be promoting” posts that “ask or encourage the community to engage with content via likes or reactions posted with the exclusive intent of boosting reach on the platform.” Essentially, content that begs for engagement is now considered low-quality and should be avoided.
 

5. Promote new posts on non-LinkedIn channels

 
LinkedIn doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and neither do its users. Content that gains traction in other channels can help boost LinkedIn posts and vice versa. Sharing posts on your website, other social media platforms, or with coworkers can spark the initial engagement required for a viral LinkedIn post. Promoting content on other channels can also encourage inactive LinkedIn users to re-engage with the platform, and that interaction will be interpreted as net new engagement for your post.
 

6. Keep Your Posts Professional

 
As the “professional social networking site,” LinkedIn has a well-honed identity that extends to the type of content it favors. Specifically, business-related content that users will find relevant and helpful to their careers or within their industry. 

This might seem common sense, but it can be tempting to think that content that earns lots of clicks or likes on other social media platforms will perform similarly when cross-posted on LinkedIn. Unfortunately (or fortunately), hilarious memes, TikTok dance clips and personal videos don’t resonate with the LinkedIn algorithm. 
 

7. Avoid Outbound Links
 
 

The urge to include an outbound link in a LinkedIn post is real, especially for B2B marketers using LinkedIn to generate leads and traffic to their websites. But this is universally regarded as a tactic to avoid. LinkedIn wants to keep users on the platform and engaging; link-outs defeat that purpose. Therefore, the algorithm tends to downgrade content that includes an outbound link. 

Posts without outbound links enjoyed six times more reach than posts containing links. Does that mean there’s no room for a link to your brand’s website or blog with additional resources? No. But the best practice is creating content that encourages a conversation and letting the audience request an outbound link. If you feel compelled to link to something off-platform, include that link in the comments. 
 

8. Keep an Eye on SSI

 
LinkedIn has a proprietary metric called the Social Selling Index, which measures “how effective you are at establishing your professional brand, finding the right people, engaging with insights, and building relationships.” Per LinkedIn, social selling leaders create 45% more opportunities than those users with lower SSI scores.

A higher SSI boosts users’ posts closer to the top of their audience’s feeds. While this impacts post visibility for individual posters rather than brands and companies, it remains a significant influence on LinkedIn’s algorithm and is worth noting. 

Source: Business 2 Community
 

An Overview of Ranking Signals on LinkedIn’s Algorithm

 
 
As mentioned earlier, there are three ranking signals the LinkedIn algorithm uses to rank posts in a user’s feed:
 

  1. Personal connections
  2. Interest relevance
  3. Engagement probability

 
And here’s how each signal impacts a post’s ranking:
 

Personal Connections

 
In 2019, LinkedIn began deprioritizing content from mega influencers (think Oprah and Richard Brandon) and instead began highlighting content from users’ personal connections. To determine a user’s connections, LinkedIn considers these two things:
 

  1. Who a user works with or has previously worked with
  2. Who a user has interacted with before on the platform

 
At the top of the feed, users now see posts by people they engage with often and by anyone who posts consistently. Users also see more posts from connections with whom they share interests and skills (according to their LinkedIn profiles). 

That said, as of 2022, LinkedIn is also “creating more ways to follow people throughout the feed experience,” including thought leaders, industry experts, and creators that may be outside of a user’s network. So it’s important to remember that personal connection is just one factor influencing post ranking.
 

Interest relevance

 
Relevance is another of the three ranking signals – and in many ways, the most important one. LinkedIn explains on its engineering blog: “We already have a strong set of explicit and implicit signals that provide context on what content a member may find interesting based on their social connections and the Knowledge Graph (e.g., a company that they follow, or news widely shared within their company).”

LinkedIn also uses what they call an “interest graph” that represents the relationships between users and a variety of topics. This lets the LinkedIn algorithm measure the following:
 

  • How interested users are in certain topics
  • How related are different topics to one another
  • Which connections share a user’s interests

 
The algorithm also considers the companies, people, hashtags, and topics mentioned in a post to predict interest. To maximize the interest relevance ranking, you have to understand your target audience and craft content that they’ll find relevant.
 

Engagement Probability

 
Interaction plays a significant role in a post’s ranking on LinkedIn. The platform uses machine learning to rank interaction in two ways:
 

  1. How likely a user is to comment on, share, or react to a post based on the content and people they have interacted with
  2. How quickly a post starts receiving engagement after it’s published. The faster users interact with a post, the more likely it will appear at the top of others’ feeds

 
Users who regularly interact with others’ posts in their LinkedIn feed are more likely to see interactions on their content, which in turn means that they’ll be more likely to show up on other people’s feeds.
 

Elevate Your Brand’s LinkedIn Presence

 
The LinkedIn algorithm can seem intimidating, but it really isn’t. It relies on a series of rules and ranking measures that can be understood and mastered to present users with content they find helpful in their professional lives.

Knowing that the algorithm prioritizes engagement, relevance and connection will help get your posts in front of more LinkedIn users and improve your overall performance on the platform. And by following the eight best practices outlined in this article, you’ll be able to keep your audience’s interest and create plenty of opportunities for them to engage with your content. 

Tinuiti helps brands strengthen relationships with new and current customers through expert social media strategy and brilliant creative. Reach out to our Paid Social services team to learn how to start advancing your LinkedIn strategy today.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in September 2021 and has been regularly updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

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