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International SEO: How to Optimize Your Website for Other Countries

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international-seo:-how-to-optimize-your-website-for-other-countries
Search engine optimization (SEO) is critical to help your brand reach the first page of search results and ideally climb into the top 5 positions for your primary keyword.

But what happens when you want to expand outside of local markets? With Google now seeing more than 3.5 billion searches per day, there’s a massive opportunity for brands to capture new customers. The caveat is that existing SEO practices may not translate — and in some cases, may actually hurt your brand in other countries.

To avoid this potential pitfall, a robust international SEO strategy is critical. Here’s what you need to know about what it is, how it works, how it’ll benefit you, and what steps you can take to create an effective plan.

Ready? Shkojme! Idemo! Vámonos! Let’s go!

International SEO Strategy

An international SEO strategy is a combination of the policies, processes, and practices that your brand uses to optimize search content for other countries. The goal of international SEO is to make it easy for search engines to identify where your business operations are located and what languages you support.

Effective strategies leverage a combination of geographic and language data to develop SEO plans that drive reliable ROI. A strong international SEO strategy will help your company reach new markets and multiply revenue.

What does international SEO do for company websites?

An international SEO strategy for websites focuses on creating content that’s applicable to local markets, as well as developing a website structure that makes it easy for search engines to find and serve the right webpages to the right users at the right time.

Consider a company that sells window shades in the United States and is making a move into Canada. First, you’ll want to ensure Canadian customers are sent to the right pages on your website — pages that contain information about Canadian locations, Canadian shipping times, and fees and costs in CAD.

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You’ll need a website structure that includes both U.S. and Canadian pages and leverages enough metadata that search requests from users will direct them to the right page for their current location.

Does my business need an international SEO strategy?

It depends.

If you have no plans to expand beyond local markets — such as your current city or state — international SEO probably isn’t worth the time and resources required. In fact, international SEO can backfire if your business is entirely local. Customers who land on international pages won’t be happy when they discover you serve a very small geographic area.

On the other hand, if you’re looking to expand beyond country borders, it’s worth spending on international SEO. Given the sheer number of companies competing on the global stage and the increased challenge in ranking highly for relevant keywords, a comprehensive strategy is critical.

Still not sure whether you should go for a local SEO strategy or international SEO strategy?

International SEO vs Local SEO

The biggest difference between local and international SEO is scale. While local SEO is focused on keywords and target audiences within a narrow geographic area, international SEO targets audiences across diverse geographic regions.

There are four primary differentiators between local SEO and international SEO:

  • Cost: Owing to their scale and scope, international SEO efforts come with significant costs.
  • Content: To ensure international reach, you’ll need to create significantly more content than you would for a local SEO strategy.
  • Capture: International SEO expands the target market you’re trying to capture, which necessitates in-depth research to ensure your brand aligns with customer expectations.
  • Competition: Competition for keywords and customers is much greater for international SEO efforts. Instead of simply competing with other businesses in the same local sphere of influence, you could be up against multinational corporations.

Questions to Ask About International SEO

Not sure how to get your international SEO efforts off the ground? Start with these questions.

  1. Where are you headed?
  2. Should you target language or country?
  3. What localization factors matter most?
  4. How can you build local links?
  5. Does social media matter?
  6. Are current keywords good enough?
  7. Do you have the right tools and talent?

1. Where are you headed?

Depending on the part of the world you’re targeting, your international SEO approach will change. For example, if you’re headed to China, the most popular search engine is Baidu, while Yandex is the preferred choice in Russia. Each of these engines have their own approach to SEO, meaning it’s worth doing your research to find out what matters most for rankings.

2. Should you target language or country?

This is a common international SEO question: Are you better-served targeting a specific language or a country? The answer depends on your goals. If you’re looking to appeal to a broad audience regardless of where they live, language optimization may be the answer. If you’re looking to grow brand awareness in a specific part of the world, opt for country-based SEO.

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3. What localization factors matter most?

Localization is the process of optimizing your website and content to reflect the local language and culture. Two of the most important factors here are accuracy and common use: First, it’s critical to make sure that translations of any keywords or slogans are accurate — direct translations can open your brand and services to misinterpretations, such as the always-classic “Come alive with Pepsi” slogan translated as “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the dead” in Chinese markets.

Common use is the other concern. The words and phrases used to describe your business and what it does may not be the same in other languages, even if the literal translation of words gives that impression. Find out what words locals use to describe your products and services and use those instead.

4. How can you build local links?

Building local links back to your site also helps with international SEO. Here, it’s a good idea to write articles for local blogs, get a sponsored mention on websites that offer advice or useful information, connect with local social media influencers, and sponsor local events.

5. Does social media matter?

While Google has expressly stated that social media doesn’t factor into international SEO rankings, you can increase brand awareness and local influencer connections with a strong social media presence.

6. Are current keywords good enough?

While your current keywords may help you rank in the top 5 locally, the sheer number of companies competing for these keywords in global markets means you need to take a look at who’s using these keywords, where they rank, and whether other similar keywords might drive better results.

7. Do you have the right tools and talent?

Finally, consider if this is something you can take on yourself or if you’re better off hiring an experienced international SEO company.

Factors That Affect International SEO

Multiple factors affect international SEO, including:

Customer Reviews

Customer reviews on your website or on local review sites can positively or negatively impact your SEO efforts. Better reviews mean better connection with your primary keyword, in turn boosting your visibility.

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Mobile Responsiveness

The responsiveness of your website on mobile also matters to overall search rankings. As a result, it’s worth finding a content delivery network (CDN) capable of providing a top-tier website experience no matter where users are in the world.

Google My Business Account

Your Google My Business Account can help boost your SEO efforts — so long as you ensure to update where your company is operating. This acts as a starting point for Google to seek out geographic and language metadata on your site.

Link Building

The more links heading back to your site from international sources, the better. As mentioned above, it’s a good idea to write for local blogs or connect with influencers to point links back to your website.

How to Develop an International SEO Strategy

Ready to develop your international SEO strategy? Start here.

1. Decide where and who you’ll target.

First, pick your target market and target audience. For example, you might decide to target the larger market of Brazil, then hone in on a subset of that market that has the means and motive to buy your product. The more focused your decisions around “where” and “who,” the better your results.

2. Determine whether you’ll hire an international SEO agency.

Do you want to do the heavy lifting of international SEO yourself or outsource this effort? There are advantages to both — you know your brand better than anyone else, but SEO experts are skilled at understanding local customs and preferences and creating a strategy to match.

3. Conduct international keyword research.

Keywords that work for you at home may not work abroad. This may simply be down to keyword volume, or it may be linked to how customers in your target market refer to your business. For example, trial lawyers in the United States are known as barristers in the United Kingdom — if you’re a legal firm looking to expand operations, this is a critical keyword difference.

4. Choose the right international domain structure.

The domain structure of your website makes it easier (or harder) for visitors and search engines to find your content. Different options include:

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ccTLD

Country code Top Level Domains (ccTLDs) are two-letter domains assigned to specific countries. For example, .us is for the United States, .ca is for Canada, and .uk is for the United Kingdom. To improve international SEO, you may choose to create a unique ccTLD site for each country where your products or services are available.

Example: mybusiness.ca, mybusiness.uk

gTLD

A generic Top-Level Domain (gTLD), meanwhile, refers to domain extensions with three or more characters; these TLDs are maintained by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA). Common examples include .com, .gov and .org.

Using a gTLD means that search engines won’t restrict results based on region, but it may reduce total traffic since many users prefer sites that include their country code TLD.

Example: mybusiness.com

ccTLD or gTLD with subdomains

You can also choose to create subdomains for your site which combine aspects of both ccTLDs and gTLDs.

Example: ca.mybusiness.com

This offers the benefit of a country code and the advantages of a gTLD.

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ccTLD or gTLD with subdirectories

Subdirectories, meanwhile, change the location of the country code:

Example: mybusiness.com/ca/

5. Optimize content for the region and language

Finally, make sure all your content is optimized for both your target region and its local language. This includes double-checking all TLDs, translations, and content assets to ensure they’re aligned with local expectations.

Oh, and don’t forget the hreflang tag. This HTML attribute specifies the geographic area and language of a webpage. It’s used to differentiate similar webpages aimed at different audiences so that search engines don’t count them as duplicate content, and it looks like this:

Tools for International SEO

The right tools can also help you maximize the impact of international SEO by providing actionable data around traffic, click-throughs, and time spent on your site. Some of the most popular tools include:

HubSpot

HubSpot’s SEO software allows you to create an international content strategy, gives you live tips to improve your on-page SEO, and lets you organize your website in a way that’s easy for both search engines and users to understand.

Google Search Console

Google Search Console lets you see what queries are driving traffic to your site, determine your position on Google Search, and analyze global site impressions.

Ahrefs

Ahrefs is an all-in-one SEO toolset that lets you optimize your site, analyze your competitors’ rankings, and find the best keywords for your brand.

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Moz

Moz offers site audits to determine potential issues, tracks keyword rankings across more than 170 search engines, analyzes backlink profiles to evaluate performance, and offers keyword research tools to find out how you stack up against the competition.

Semrush

Semrush lets you identify high-value local and national keywords, analyze the backlink profile of any domain, and track your site’s SERP positions daily.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics is an interconnected suite of tools that helps you analyze the impact of your website content worldwide.

International SEO Best Practices

No matter what approach you take to international SEO — language-focused or country-based, outsourced or in-house — the same best practices apply. Let’s take a look at them below.

1. Answer questions in the region’s native language and in the right context.

If there’s one thing to get right for international SEO, it’s making sure you’re speaking the same language as your customers. This means doing your research to ensure you’re always answering questions in their native language and in the appropriate context.

2. Translate existing content carefully.

While translation tools provide a literal conversion of words and phrases, they’re often not used this way by locals, meaning customers will quickly recognize that something isn’t quite right. Instead of translation, what you’re really looking for is “transcreation” — you want to recreate the same content but using the culture and language of your target market as a guide.

3. Consider the entire user experience in your strategy.

International SEO isn’t just about keywords and content. It’s also about making sure the entire user experience — from filling out forms to viewing prices in local currency or accessing multimedia assets that include native speakers — is seamlessly aligned across your site.

4. Avoid automatically redirecting users based on their IP address.

While it’s critical to serve content that matches local user expectations, don’t make the decision for them. Instead of automatically redirecting where they land based on their IP address, give them the option to choose their preferred region.

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SEO: Improving Your International Impact

The right SEO strategy sets your brand apart from the crowd. And while this is important in home markets, it’s even more critical if you decide to go international, because it will ensure your website is optimized to support high-value content and keywords across regions and countries. By considering local customs, language, and context, you can boost consumer engagement, improve search engine results, and maximize your international impact.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in March 2018 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

Improve your website with effective technical SEO. Start by conducting this  audit.  

Originally published Dec 24, 2021 7:00:00 AM, updated December 24 2021

Source: Eli Schwartz

SEO

A Guide To Organizational Nirvana

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A Guide To Organizational Nirvana

SEO project management is a strategic framework for promoting your website’s visibility, increasing brand exposure, and gaining credible leads through search engines.

It relies on a comprehensive integration of SEO into an array of business workflows that ensure search optimization best practices are reflected throughout each stage of digital content creation and other processes relevant to managing your digital presence.

Why SEO Project Management Matters

Effective integration of SEO into marketing, website, and development, or an agency team, can be highly challenging.

Even in this day and age, many employees haven’t had experience working with SEO pros.

They may not understand the value that SEO can offer their existing workflows or believe these workflows function sufficiently well without it.

So, it’s critical to explain the key benefits of SEO in ways that demonstrate how they can be applied to various team needs across different departments and actively improve each.

What Should Be Included In SEO Project Management

The following initiatives are just some of many that SEO professionals can use to advocate for process integration as part of your SEO project management efforts.

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Topic Ideation

Use keyword research to uncover topics and themes for content that will allow you to rank for keywords and terms that are important to your business.

This research can uncover white spaces for new content or opportunities to update existing content.

Content Calendar/Seasonality Recommendations

Analyze keyword popularity and usage seasonality to decide when to publish or update content.

Brief Support

Provide recommendations for keywords that should be used throughout the piece, including the title tag, on-page title, meta description, headers, body content, social copy, and alt text.

Traffic Projections

If keyword research and recommendations included in content are based on monthly search volume (MSV) and estimated eventual rank, then estimated organic traffic/users can be calculated.

While these estimates can’t be directly applied to other channels, keywords are still an indicator of intent.

So, by including keywords with decent MSV, you know there’s interest in the subject matter.

And by writing content you know your audience is looking for, you might also encourage additional traffic from content shares and clicks from email links.

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Copy Review

Reviewing copy within the context of keyword research supports existing SEO efforts to make sure the correct keywords are included.

That way, they are used to match the audience’s search intent, where the right range and volume of topics adequately support the subject matter.

So there isn’t too much business jargon or too many company-centric terms that audiences may not be familiar with.

Overly niche or branded language likely won’t mean much to most searchers when they see it on the search engine results page (SERP).

Content Publication

Ensure findability through the correct setup of the new website URL.

Without proper SEO implementation, you’ll risk Google (and other search engines) potentially being unable to find your content, rank it well, or absorb all the content you’ve written.

If you want your content to be findable in search engines:

  • It has to be marked as indexed.
  • It should have title tags and meta descriptions – these are the best way to help convince searchers to click through.
  • It should include alt text on images relevant to your content so Google can understand the image’s context and for accessibility purposes.
  • It should link to internal and/or external content correctly and usefully.

This should help the content reach its full potential of driving organic traffic and avoid mistakes that reduce findability.

Reporting

Proof of the value of SEO, or any effort, comes down to the numbers.

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You’ll need to demonstrate how the keywords you are actively going after raise your ranking and how the prominence of your content grows on Page 1 of SERPs.

To accomplish this – and to report on how your optimizations and the new content you create – increase each of the following:

  • Website visibility in search engines.
  • Clickthrough rates (CTRs) from search engines.
  • Organic traffic from search.
  • Conversions from search traffic.

Collectively, these can help prove the significance of SEO work and the value of incorporating it into project management plans.

Content Optimization

Ongoing SEO reporting should focus not only on the impact of new content, but also the role of existing content.

Instead of wasting time, effort, and money creating net new content, SEO can provide insights into the opportunities to help existing content reach its full potential.

It can offer guidance for the most up-to-date language, topics, and themes to incorporate, and which reflect what is most relevant to audiences.

Updated and more accurate content will help improve website jurisdiction on the subject matter and support any existing SEO authority.

And when Google recrawls a recently updated site, it gives the content a new life and can make it more likely to show up higher in SERPs.

Why Get Buy-In First Before Implementing SEO PM Processes

Before setting up new processes or jumping into making structural changes, it’s important to get buy-in from all of the associated team members and leadership.

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Set up meetings with interested parties, including creative, product, demand gen, PR, events, marketing execs, and company thought leaders, to understand the benefits of implementation.

Reframe each conversation based on the goals, key performance indicators (KPIs), and expected outcomes.

But consistently share the main point: SEO should never be an afterthought.

SEO starts in the brief creation and research phase.

It should be prioritized throughout, serve as quality control before and after publication, and be reported on to prove results.

Demonstrate the value of the SEO workflows and objectives listed above to highlight why incorporating SEO should not be considered optional, but a necessary part of content and webpage creation.

Dedicating time to connect with team members will help prevent pushback – or at least reduce negative feedback – because they will understand the upsides.

How To Create Effective Cross-Team SEO Project Management Processes

When it’s time to begin integrating your SEO efforts into larger team processes, follow this holistic set of actions:

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  • Establish.
  • Collaborate.
  • Finalize.
  • Share.
  • Implement.
  • Test.
  • Track.

Establish The Role Of SEO In Your Company And/Or Department

Establishing the overall role of SEO will be most helpful for deciding where to start your efforts.

It will also help inform which of the above SEO project management integrations are most valuable to your current team, organization, and needs.

Begin by establishing a thorough understanding of these two sets of processes:

  • Existing content processes.
  • Existing web/development processes.

Establish the players involved across content creation for existing content processes, including copy, design, strategy, planning, social, etc.

You should also consider communication platforms, order of operations, timelines and deadlines, primary KPIs, any existing SEO efforts, and anything else included between the initial stage of a piece of content’s inception, to its eventual publication and tracking.

For existing web/development processes, understand the technical steps required for a piece of content to go live.

Who is responsible for creating a new page?

Is the content management system (CMS) self-service and user-friendly to someone outside the dev team, or is more extensive programming knowledge required?

Who, if anyone, is responsible for ensuring SEO best practices are followed? Is there anything built into the CMS that makes incorporating SEO components easier?

Are there any structural implications for the site when creating new content? Are there any other technical SEO considerations?

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It may take a while to answer all these questions and figure out what else you need to know. But these are good starting points for understanding where SEO needs to be integrated.

Determine A New Set Of Collaborative Processes For Content Creation And Optimization

Once you’ve obtained a fairly comprehensive understanding of your team’s processes, it’s time to inject SEO into the spaces where it should live – or decide how to alter SEO’s current role to provide the greatest benefit.

Here’s an example of an SEO-driven content creation process:

  • Team member ideates content topic.
  • The team lead approves topic.
  • SEO expert creates content brief.
  • Content Lead reviews content brief and provides feedback.
  • SEO and Content Lead align on the final brief.
  • Content Lead sends brief to the writer.
  • Writer submits first draft of content and submits for review to Content Lead.
  • Content Lead reviews first draft and provides edits as suggestions to Writer.
  • Writer finalizes draft and submits for final review to Content Lead + Manager/Team Lead.
  • Writer ideates & then submits all blog design needs. (For example, hero/header image, product image, charts, graphs, images for social posts, etc.)
  • Designer creates graphic elements.
  • Writer sets up content CMS/website platform.
  • SEO reviews setup in CMS/website platform and provides feedback.
  • Writer makes any other edits from SEO.
  • Writer publishes the article.
  • Writer QAs published content to ensure correct implementation.
  • Writer creates copy for social media channels.
  • Writer updates content records to include new content.
  • Writer and SEO track content performance.

While multiple processes could be created to account for various content owners and creators, this example shows one of the more extensive ways that SEO can be involved with content.

Finalize New Processes By Getting Leadership Approval

While you’ve hopefully already received buy-in from leadership and other team members and departments, request additional approval once your proposal is complete.

Sharing the start-to-finish process of SEO and content integration will show just how many ways SEO can contribute to the content process, all of which should help increase findability and traffic.

Comprehension of the full picture should help increase appreciation of SEO efforts to optimize the entire workflow, thus further advocating for SEO and building on your buy-in.

Share The New Processes With Team Members

Open communication is critical any time processes change.

Make sure no one feels blindsided or disconnected from the efforts they’re involved with.

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Additionally, ensuring your whole team has visibility into your plans can help improve awareness, adoption, and accountability.

Communicate Plans By Leveraging The Right Technology

One of the most successful ways to do this is by leveraging the right technology to communicate and track updates.

And the best way to publicize these processes is to include them in a project management or project tracking software system.

Whether or not you currently use software for team and project management, devote time to identifying the best PM technology for your team’s needs.

The optimal software should include at least these five capabilities:

  • Calendar view.
  • Tasks for multiple owners.
  • Document editing and management.
  • Commenting, tagging, and communicating within the platform.
  • Integrations with core tools.

Implementing The Right Project Management Software

Programs like Asana allow you to build out project templates that include each task, and accompanying subtasks, of your plans with project descriptions, expectations, and links to relevant documents.

Each can be assigned to an individual with due dates or a range of start and end dates.

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These platforms can send emails, Slack updates, and other notifications about you and your team members’ tasks to help keep each of you informed about your assigned workloads.

As long as the tasks are set up properly, you can be assured that each team member clearly understands the new expectations, timing, and dependencies between SEO and other departments.

And all will have clear visibility into deadlines, so you don’t have to remind them.

Setting Up And Sharing The New Processes In The PM Software Before Launch

Be very clear and direct when it comes to implementing new project workflows before kicking them off.

Communicate with the content team and relevant product team members about:

  • What the new processes entail.
  • How each is set up in the PM software.
  • How much time each team member has to complete each project phase.
  • What parts of the project are contingent on other parts – especially what is needed for SEO to kick off their research.
  • Which project will be the first to implement the new processes.

Take in any feedback, and update the process as needed.

Implement New Project Workflows

Now the work begins.

Follow the flow you’ve created to build out content from scratch or refresh it.

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Test

With all your comprehensive planning (and some luck), your new SEO integration efforts will go off without a hitch.

But just in case, carefully test and follow the progress and completion of the first few iterations.

Confirm if everything is going according to plan, whether there are any flaws or gaps, if the assigned SEO has the resources they need, and if there is any team feedback.

Be mindful of expected deadlines, whether more lead time is needed, and if, given everything else you and your team members are expected to accomplish, your whole team can deliver the best SEO-driven output throughout each stage of the process.

If not, don’t hesitate to make changes to your plans.

It’s better to delay full implementation than to proceed in a way that doesn’t allow you to substantiate the full impact of your efforts.

Track Performance Of Content That’s Been Created With Your New Processes

Lastly, tracking your efforts is critical for maintaining buy-in on any SEO project management strategy or process.

Measure Performance

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Measure your performance against historical benchmarks of similar content – focusing primarily on organic traffic and activity from organic search.

Decide which organic KPIs are more important to you; for example, traffic to your blog, form conversions, time on page, or newsletter subscriptions.

Then, identify and establish projections for each.

Your projections should be based on things like historical performance, ranking expectations, MSV for targeted queries for new content, and promotional plans that drive traffic.

Increased traffic across non-organic channels can be an additional way to measure the success of SEO efforts since keywords represent search intent, so you know audiences are looking for the content you create.

If they see it in email, social, or ads and click at a higher rate, you can infer that the search intent applies to other channels.

Set Up Reporting

Start your reporting by first identifying your data sources.

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For website analytics and site traffic, you may be using Google Analytics or Adobe.

For form conversions or newsletter subscriptions, you’ll be using a MAP.

Connect with the owners of these tools, like an expert on your marketing automation team, to determine what can be automated and how you can begin to build reports to track KPIs.

Even without automated resources, there are plenty of free tools and APIs to help.

For those with more resources, this is where investing in an SEO platform can really help aggregate all of your data in one place to analyze and extract key insights.

Uncover Insights

Once you have your reporting in place, review your content’s performance regularly.

Start off with more frequent and granular readouts to become familiar with the nuances of the data, so you can begin to identify small trends.

Before you present to leadership, step back and show a holistic overview of the impact of your efforts.

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Make sure you consider how long it’s taken Google to start ranking a new piece of content and when it begins to drive organic traffic.

Report on whether the content created through your new SEO project management system speeds it up.

The same applies to the amount of time it takes for conversions to start – and hopefully spike – after certain efforts.

Then analyze the types of content and topics that perform best.

Feed Learning Back Into Content Optimizations

Use all of this reporting to your advantage, and translate your findings into optimizations for your process and your pages.

Conclusion

While most content roles and skills have found ways to integrate themselves into the content research, creation, and optimization processes, SEO often struggles to emerge as a consistent, let alone required, part of team project management.

However, by approaching SEO project management with specific tasks in mind and a process that incorporates them, you’ll have the best chance for success – especially when the process can be carefully woven into the existing efforts of your team.

It can take time, but it will ultimately show strategic initiative thinking that demonstrates holistic knowledge of an effectively optimized process, resulting in measurable performance improvement towards reaching your goals.

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Featured Image: Andrey_Popov/Shutterstock

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