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Getting Started In International SEO: A Quick Reference Guide

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Getting Started In International SEO: A Quick Reference Guide


For many companies, having a global website is one of the best ways to reach a wider audience to grow their business.

As more quick and easy website design services become available, even an individual can start a business by targeting foreign countries via a global website.

The thing is though, having a global website does not make you successful in other countries.

Also, following the standard SEO best practices does not make your global website competitive in all target countries. While there seems to be boundless information about international SEO available, it is a fact that many of them are either outdated or incorrect.

In this post, I’ll cover some of the key areas of international SEO.

What Are The Differences Between International & Regular SEO?

The standard SEO best practices certainly are the foundation of international SEO as the search engine algorithms are very similar, if not the same, from country to country.

I’d say that international SEO is built on standard SEO knowledge and skills.

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So, what makes international SEO different? The main reasons are:

  • Languages.
  • Multiple websites.
  • Popular search engines.
  • Local audience.
  • Local competitors.

While you pay attention to each site, you must keep an eye on the overall performance when you have global websites. Otherwise, your local market websites may be competing against each other or the worst case, may not be indexed at all.

For example, your website designed for Mexico should not outrank or appear in the search results in Spain, if you have a different site designed for Spain.

If you misuse the canonical tag or hreflang tag, certain sites may not be indexed by the search engines or create duplicate indexing.

Should I Go Global? And Where Is My Market?

Before you get into international SEO, it’s always a good idea to review some market reports, stats, and even your own website data to help make the decision.

This is particularly important if you are not sure about the opportunities in different countries or have some convincing to do with your bosses.

Here are some informational sources you can use to decide or prioritize the countries/markets to go after:

  • Government and trade organization websites, such as Trade.gov and WTO.org provide the latest international business and trade news and statistics.
  • Many companies provide Internet-related reports and statistics, such as Internet World Stats, Econsultancy, and McKinsey & Company. There are numerous sites providing information about specific countries, too.
  • Your own analytics data. Do you see anyone visiting your site from other countries? Is there any country that sends more traffic to your site than another? It’s worth paying attention to these markets, especially if any of them are converting already.
See also  19 Advanced SEO Techniques to Double Your Search Traffic

One Global Site Or Multiple Website?

If the market is big enough for you to invest in, definitely go with a separate site for each target country.

Not just for SEO reasons, but also to provide a better user experience to the local visitors, it’s always better to have a dedicated site for each of your target countries. It also allows you to use different designs and content on each site, if needed.

However, this may not be a feasible option for you, at least not at the beginning. In that case, you’ll have a site for each language that is spoken in your target countries.

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It is okay to do this as you may want to test the waters first before you dive in too deep.

Luckily, we can use hreflang tags to tell Google which language and country each site is created for.

Which Domain To Have: ccTLD or gTLD?

If you asked me this question in 2008, my answer was always to go with a ccTLD. The reality is that not everyone can have this option for different reasons.

Luckily, it doesn’t have as much of an impact on your SEO as the search engines have come a long way. We now have other options to geotarget the sites, especially with Google.

Note that some of the search engines such as Baidu still favor websites with local ccTLD.

Also, people outside the U.S. tend to click websites with local TLD over sites with .com or other generic TLDs.

Does Hosting Location Matter?

The location of the website host was one of the important signals for the international SEO related to geotargeting.

However, it’s not as important now that we have other ways to correctly indicate your website’s target market to the search engines and regionally managed CDNs.

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Still, the host location has a large impact on the page speed. Make sure that your site can be accessed in the target countries quickly.

How Should I Go About Alternative Geotargeting?

Perhaps, geotargeting is one of the simplest practices where many websites make mistakes as site owners moved from ccTLDs and local market hosting.

There are several ways to geotarget your websites and pages. Here are some of the popular methods:

  • Geolocation assignment in Google Search Console.
  • Hreflang tag for Google.
  • Language meta tag information for Bing.
See also  14 Essential Local SEO & Listing Management Tools

Side Note: Google now generates the search results based on the searcher’s location no matter which local version of Google a searcher is using.

For example, you used to get different search results from Google.com than Google U.K. (google.co.uk) or Google Australia (google.com.au) even when searching for the same keyword.

But now, you will get the same results in all three Google searches unless you do that search in three different countries.

Google Or Not Google?

While Google is by far the most popularly used of the search engines around the world, in some countries, there are locally grown search engines that are far more popular than Google.

If your target country is one of those below, you’ll need to pay some extra attention to monitor these local sites and for additional optimization work.

  • China (Mainland, Simplified Chinese language).
  • Russia and Eastern European countries.
  • South Korea.

Do I Need to Care About Other Search Engines?

While Google is by far the most popularly used search engine around the world, in some countries, there are locally grown search engines that are very popular.

By ignoring these search engines, you are ignoring huge business opportunities in those countries.

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If your target country is one of those below, you’ll need to pay some extra attention to monitor these local sites and for additional optimization work.

  • China (Mainland, Simplified Chinese language) – Baidu.
  • Russia and Eastern European Countries – Yandex.
  • South Korea – Naver.

Of course, even in the countries where Google is most popular, ignoring other popular search engines including Bing limits your business potential.

Translation And Localization

Your global sites should not be the copied and pasted version of your home country website in different languages, though I see that happen to many websites.

Yes, translation and localization of website content are one of the first steps. But then, you need to optimize the sites for each country’s local audience from messaging and offerings to the overall user experience of the site.

A site with popular and well-performing content in the U.S. market may not do as well in Asia or in South America and may require additional content edits and optimization work.

For these reasons, it is important to conduct the keyword research in each targeting country from the standpoint of understanding the local interests and the words they use.

Keep in mind that although the translators or the translation agencies provide a correctly translated document, they may not use the same words that people use to search the information.

See also  Google: Why Fixing Core Web Vitals Already Boosts Rankings via @sejournal, @martinibuster

Do I Need To Build Links For Each Website?

It’s a hard, “Yes.”

Even when you have one global site with all country or language sites under the same domain, you still want to build links to each site even when you already have tons of links pointing to your domain.

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It is because your home country website is likely to have links coming from external sites that are in the same home country.

In order for your global websites to be competitive in each country, you need links from country-specific to the website.

For example, you want to gain links from websites in India or targeting India to your Indian website. Having links from local websites is a good indication to the search engines that your website is designed and suited for that country.

What Else Should I Consider Before I Go Global?

One of the biggest challenges that most companies with global websites face, even the multinational Fortune 100 companies, is the local resources.

No one has the luxury of having unlimited resources in each target country, and this can become a major bottleneck especially since SEO is not a one-off project but requires continued efforts.

The key is to plan task and responsibility allocation between the headquarter and local offices such as:

Now, you may not have any offices or representatives in other countries, or no resources available in local offices.

In those cases, you need to consider whether you’d want to hire one or multiple outside resources.

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Conclusion and Takeaway

International SEO is built on top of the standard SEO best practices.

The optimized website doesn’t always produce an optimized global website even after it is translated, and there are several key points in both technical and content optimization efforts that need to be considered.

In fact, adding more languages and content creates more work due to the duplicate content and geotargeting issues as well as the link building.

A global website is a great way to expand your market reach, but it also requires extra resources and budget to do international SEO right.

You do not need to target many languages and countries.

Research your business opportunities using your own data as well as market reports from trusted authorities to decide where you want to be visible in the search results.

More resources:


Featured Image: Sozina Kseniia/Shutterstock

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How Data Is Reshaping The SEO & Digital Marketer’s Landscape

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How Data Is Reshaping The SEO & Digital Marketer's Landscape

There is a new data revolution happening, and it’s sweeping across the industry so quickly that many SEO and digital marketers are struggling to make sense of the insights and intelligence at their disposal.

To utilize this opportunity, marketers need to evolve their mindsets and use technology to analyze multiple data formats and understand the new opportunities it can bring.

SEO marketers of today and digital marketers of tomorrow will need to extract, structure quickly, and manipulate data to drive the most critical business outcomes.

Data has always been mission-critical to digital decision-making.

The Economist, back in 2017, declared it the world’s most valuable resource.

Fast forward to today and the future, and we can see that the exponential growth of data fuelling this revolution is staggering.

According to the IDC, the amount of digital data created over the next five years will be greater than twice the amount of data made since the advent of digital storage.

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Think about that for a second!

Flash drives, for example, were introduced in 2000.

This means that in the next five years, marketers will have to analyze and make sense of 2x the data created in the last 22 years!

The Data Revolution Means More Sources & Complexity For SEO

The data revolution has gone on for some time now, and it’s changed our concept of what counts as “data,” rightfully so.

In the past, we thought only numbers mattered.

But, in this new digital world where everything is converted into ones and zeros, data is broader and contains text, audio, and visual information – all bits waiting to be processed!

  • Machine-based and human-generated data are growing at a rate of 10x faster than conventional business data.
  • Machine-created data is increasing exponentially at a 50x the growth rate. This data revolution is primarily marketing-driven and consumer-oriented who are “always on.”
  • In just the last 18 months, the volume of site processing data we have been generating at BrightEdge has increased by 11x!
See also  21 YouTube SEO Tools to Boost Your Video Rankings

As a result of these increasingly demanding trends, SEO and digital marketers need to adapt and become more like data analysts and scientists in approaching the extraction of structured data insights and business intelligence – without adding more manual work.

Fortunately, SEO is well-positioned to take advantage of this new data revolution.

  • Increasing your keyword universe – More keywords mean more data points to look at with reporting and fuelling insights. While focusing on conversion rate metrics is very important, it wouldn’t be possible without opening the scope of your audience and getting more people in the door. SEO has drifted away from writing for a primary dedicated keyword and is now way more advanced with advancements in search engines like Google’s understanding of intent of searches through RankBrain and BERT.
  • Increasing your search footprint – will also help you discover unexplored of informing your future content strategy or ideate new keyword ideas. However, sometimes you might miss the boat, like the transition of Content Management Systems slowly turning into “Experience Platforms” as they offer more functionality to meet the needs of today’s webmaster or marketer.

Read More On SEJ

Data Is The Currency Of An Accelerated SEO & Digital Age

By 2025, Worldwide data will reach 175 zettabytes.

But unfortunately, the human brain can’t process, structure, and analyze all that data.

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So technology engines have to help, and digital marketers should be the driver.

There is a massive opportunity for companies that can utilize data to create more engaging experiences.

A recent study showed that 95% of business leaders recognize this as their biggest growth lever over the next three years, which means there’s plenty at stake here!

See also  International SEO: How to Optimize Your Website for Other Countries

Robust data analysis ensures decisions are evidence-based and have more accountability.

Drawing on existing and new data sources to fully integrate business acumen and analytical skills into decision making, sourcing, managing, and analyzing large amounts of unstructured data will ensure continued use and success.

SEO began with data and has evolved.

From the introduction of real-time SEO in 2019 and Page Experience Updates in 2021, SEO’s future lies again with data and the creation of intelligent systems. Here marketers can leverage combined data sources that structures data for them.

As a result, they can achieve business objectives and stay ahead during all data and digital transformation stages.

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Read More On SEJ

Technology & AI Are Helping SEO Evolve

Advancements in technology and, in particular, AI and Natural Language Processing has meant that SEO and digital marketers can become data analysts without having to become an actual data scientist.

This is key to unlocking structured insights from your company’s big data to make more precise predictions about what is coming next based on existing information.

Digital marketers can evolve, understand key trends, and learn in new areas such as:

  • Predictive modeling of future trends and forecasting based on multiple types of data.
  • Real-time identification of opportunities and intelligence.
  • Digital research at scale with both historical and real-time data.
  • Leveraging automated visualizations for various stakeholders.
  • Improved data security and compliance.
  • Market and business intelligence at a macro level.
  • Consumer behavior at the most granular level.

SEO and digital marketers can learn critical skills such as statistics, data analysis, data visualization, and strategy.

See also  Using Google Translate to Autogenerate Content? via @sejournal, @martinibuster

AI, NLP, and machine learning are helping them do this without needing expertise in computer programming and software applications.

What digital marketers must do is combine their communication skills and analytics skills with stakeholders who cannot think outside of the advertising box.

Read More On SEJ

Data Analysis & Intelligence As Competitive Advantage

The application of technology will be the driving force behind the next generation of data analysis technology.

Therefore, SEO and digital marketers of today should learn how to better utilize insights from data analysis.

It’s becoming more apparent that the marketing platforms of tomorrow will require the capabilities of data analysis and science infrastructure at their core.

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The future of marketing will blend technological know-how, business sense, and an understanding of data analysis.

The next generation of SEO will touch all components of marketing, from video, email, and voice, to digital performance of content.

SEO and data science will converge into one evolved discipline that drives omnichannel acquisition and democratizes data.

Marketers who embrace this new era of SEO will be well-positioned to succeed in the years to come.

Data is reconfirming its role as the new competitive advantage, and as SEO and digital marketers, you must evolve if you want to be part of the future.

More resources:


Featured Image: ra2 studio/Shutterstock

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