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SEO & Local Market Orientation For International Expansions

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SEO & Local Market Orientation For International Expansions

In my last column, I addressed the business benefits of an International SEO Strategy, and the first benefit was to complement your broader global strategic plan.

This is a critical alignment especially when it comes to how you plan to deploy websites to target these markets.

Managing multiple global websites not only requires resources to create and maintain but also must add value for users in the target market.

How Many Market Sites Are Too Many?

Over the years, I have seen many companies translate their website into another language like Spanish or Arabic and then attempt to “maximize their investment” by cloning a local version to every market that speaks that language.

For one company, this approach resulted in 1,600 separate websites and over 18 million web pages most of which were not getting indexed as the pages were considered duplicates by Google.

Image from Twitter, June 2022

On Twitter recently, John Mueller from Google answered a question from a post asking if having English language versions for EMEA markets was a good strategy.

His response was, “It looks like you have 78 URLs for the same content.”

He went on to say, “It looks like it’s the same page, there’s no real reason for us to index multiple versions.”

Develop Your Local Market Orientation

Local Market Orientation is the delicate balance of managing the expectations and needs of customers in a foreign market with the objectives, resources, and capabilities of your organization.

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In your planning, you must consider each potential market relative to localizing to local business requirements, user behaviors, user expectations, language, currency, and any other elements that will foster customer engagement in the market.

Simply cloning an existing website into another language and then submitting it to Google is not sufficient.

An earlier article suggested tools that help you identify new markets that have both consumer demand and make it easier to conduct cross-border business.

Your content strategy will be driven by your local market orientation forcing you to plan across the entire conversion chain helping determine should this site be a single language global site, localized market site, or language-specific site, and whether technology adjusts to the user on-demand or dynamically.

This matrix will often drive your technology requirements.

Too many companies realize too late in their expansion process you do not do business with countries or regions but with people.

You cannot escape the Rubik’s Cube of variations when it comes to transacting with people.

People within a target market speak a specific language, use a specific currency and live in a specific location.

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Dedicated Market, Language, Or Currency Sites

Companies that do plan to expand globally need to make several both long and short-term decisions.

Looking into their crystal ball what does their full expansion look like?

Expanding to a single additional market is vastly different from multiple markets in different parts of the world.

In the early stages of expansion, these decisions can be easy.

An Austrian company can target Germany relatively easily since they both speak German, use the Euro, and have cross-border shipping agreements.

In this case, do they even need another website?

Simply enabling a shipping calculator and VAT tax management may be all that is needed.

It gets more complicated when a U.S. website wants to target Mexico.

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It will need a way to organize its Spanish web pages, covert prices to Pesos, ensure that the purchased products it can be shipped to the customer’s location in Mexico, and let consumers know if there are any additional costs for tariffs.

Once you have the Mexico infrastructure we may be tempted to expand further south into Argentina, Peru, or Chile.

Should we leverage the same Spanish language website and use a currency converter and shipping manager or are there specific market requirements and linguistic differences that will force us to use separate market websites?

I have seen several companies launch “EU” websites to target the European Union using the Euro.

They clone the global site on a “.eu” domain, convert prices to Euro, and assume they can magically target this region using a common currency and legal structure.

Sounds logical but despite using the same currency most of the markets speak different languages, which results in them failing to attract sufficient visitors to be viable.

Visual Or Technical Orientation

Once you have decided on your web structure you will need to consider the use of a visual orientation like forcing a user to engage a country/language selector to choose which site they want or technical orientation using either the visitor’s physical location or language preference to route them to a specific website.

There are many articles about the challenges of using the user’s local internet address to route users to specific websites based on where they accessed the site and the potential cultural errors of using a national flag of one country to represent a language across different markets.

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For either method, it is critical that you test the implementation to ensure search engines can access all available content for either method.

Typically, selection pages set a cookie recording a user’s selection to eliminate the selector step in the future.

While great for users, search engines are often blocked from accessing any of the paths as they will not accept cookies preventing them from accessing any of the local websites.

Similarly, with IP and language detection, the system is designed to route users to specific versions of the website.

This is very common for ecommerce websites with market-specific pricing and/or rules for doing business in specific markets.

Unfortunately, this will often restrict search engines from entering these websites.

This makes it critical to ensure there are exceptions to the rules to allow search engines, including Google, to access any webpage they request as you don’t know where they crawl your sites from.

Conclusion

While there’s no easy answer to the question of how many global websites you should have or the number of pages within each, the best practice is to make the decision based on your business and market needs rather than just because you can.

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Managing a successful multinational web presence does require detailed planning to ensure that the content you deploy adds value to users in the target market that encourages engagement.

At the same time, it should satisfy Google’s increasingly strict requirements of being relevant, authoritative, and unique enough to warrant it being indexed.

More resources:


Featured Image: ktasimar/Shutterstock

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SEO

8 Pillar Page Examples to Get Inspired By

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8 Pillar Page Examples to Get Inspired By

Pillar pages are high-level introductions to a topic. They then link to other pages, which are usually more detailed guides about parts of the main topic.

Altogether, they form a content hub.

Example of a content hub

But not all pillar pages look the same. 

In this guide, we’ll look at eight examples of pillar pages to get your creative juices flowing.

Excerpt of beginner's guide to SEO by Ahrefs

Key stats

Estimated organic traffic: 1,200
Backlinks: 6,900
Referring domains: 899

Overview of Ahrefs' beginner's guide to SEO in Ahrefs' Site Explorer

This is our very own pillar page, covering the broad topic of search engine optimization (SEO)

Why I like it

Besides the fact that I’m biased, I like the custom design we created for this page, which makes it different from the articles on our blog. 

Even though the design is custom, our pillar page is still a pretty classic “hub and spoke” style pillar page. We’ve broken the topic down neatly into six different chapters and internally linked to guides we’ve created about them. There are also custom animations when you hover over each chapter:

Examples of chapters in the SEO guide

We’ve also added a glossary section that comes with a custom illustration of the SERPs. We have explanations of what each element means, with internal links to more detailed content:

Custom illustration of the SERP

Finally, it links to another “pillar page”: our SEO glossary

Takeaway

Consider creating a custom design for your pillar page so that it stands out. 

Excerpt of Doctor Diet's ketogenic diet guide

Key stats

Estimated organic traffic: 92,200
Backlinks: 21,600
Referring domains: 1,700

Overview of Diet Doctor's ketogenic diet guide in Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Diet Doctor is a health company focusing on low-carb diets. Its pillar page is a comprehensive guide on the keto diet. 

Why I like it

On the surface, it doesn’t exactly look like a pillar page; it looks like every other post on the Diet Doctor site. But that’s perfectly fine. It’s simply a different approach—you don’t have to call out the fact that it’s a pillar page. 

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Diet Doctor’s guide is split into 10 different sections with links to its own resources. The links bring you to different types of content (not just blog posts but videos too).

Video course about keto diet for beginners

Unlike the classic pillar page, Diet Doctor’s guide goes into enough detail for anyone who is casually researching the keto diet. But it also links to further resources for anyone who’s interested in doing additional research.

Takeaway

Pillar pages need not always just be text and links. Make it multimedia: You can add videos and images and even link to your own multimedia resources (e.g., a video course).

Excerpt of Wine Folly's beginner's guide to wine

Key stats

Estimated organic traffic: 5,600
Backlinks: 2,800
Referring domains: 247

Overview of Wine Folly's beginner's guide to wine in Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Wine Folly is a content site devoted to wine knowledge and appreciation. Its pillar page, as expected, is about wine. 

Why I like it

Wine Folly’s pillar page is a classic example of a “hub and spoke” style pillar page—split into multiple sections, with some supporting text, and then internal links to other resources that support each subsection. 

Supporting text and links to other resources

This page doesn’t just serve as a pillar page for ranking purposes, though. Given that it ranks well and receives quite a significant amount of search traffic, the page also has a call to action (CTA) to Wine Folly’s book:

Short description of book; below that, CTA encouraging site visitor to purchase it

Takeaway

While most websites design pillar pages for ranking, you can also use them for other purposes: capture email addresses, sell a book, pitch your product, etc. 

Excerpt of A-Z directory of yoga poses

Key stats

Estimated organic traffic: 11,100
Backlinks: 3,400
Referring domains: 457

Overview of Yoga Journal's A-Z directory of yoga poses in Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Yoga Journal is an online and offline magazine. Its pillar page is an A-Z directory of yoga poses.

Why I like it

Yoga Journal’s pillar page is straightforward and simple. List down all possible yoga poses (in both their English and Sanskrit names) in a table form and link to them. 

List of yoga poses in table form

Since it’s listed in alphabetical order, it’s useful for anyone who knows the name of a particular pose and is interested in learning more. 

What I also like is that Yoga Journal has added an extra column on the type of pose each yoga pose belongs to. If we click on any of the pose types, we’re directed to a category page where you can find similar kinds of poses: 

Examples of standing yoga poses (in grid format)

Takeaway

The A-Z format can be a good format for your pillar page if the broad topic you’re targeting fits the style (e.g., dance moves, freestyle football tricks, etc.).

Excerpt of Atlassian's guide to agile development

Key stats

Estimated organic traffic: 115,200
Backlinks: 3,200
Referring domains: 860

Overview of Atlassian's guide to agile development in Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Atlassian is a software company. You’ve probably heard of its products: Jira, Confluence, Trello, etc. Its pillar page is on agile development.

Why I like it

Atlassian’s pillar page is split into different topics related to agile development. It then has internal links to each topic—both as a sticky table of contents and card-style widgets after the introduction: 

Sticky table of contents
Card-style widgets

I also like the “Up next” feature at the bottom of the pillar page, which makes it seem like an online book rather than a page. 

Example of "Up next" feature

Takeaway

Consider adding a table of contents to your pillar page. 

Excerpt of Muscle and Strength's workout routines database

Key stats

Estimated organic traffic: 114,400
Backlinks: 2,900
Referring domains: 592

Overview of Muscle and Strength's workout routines database in Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Muscle and Strength’s pillar page is a massive database linking to various categories of workouts. 

Why I like it

Calling it a pillar page seems to be an understatement. Muscle and Strength’s free workouts page appears to be more like a website. 

When you open the page, you’ll see that it’s neatly split into multiple categories, such as “workouts for men,” “workouts for women,” “biceps,” “abs,” etc. 

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Workout categories (in grid format)

Clicking through to any of them leads us to a category page containing all sorts of workouts:

Types of workouts for men (in grid format)

Compared to the other pillar pages on this list, where they’re linking to other subpages, Muscle and Strength’s pillar page links to other category pages, which then link to their subpages, i.e., its massive archive of free workouts.

Takeaway

Content databases, such as the one above, are a huge undertaking for a pillar page but can be worth it if the broad topic you’re targeting fits a format like this. Ideally, the topic should be about something where the content for it is ever-growing (e.g., workout plans, recipes, email templates, etc.).

Excerpt of Tofugu's guide to learning Japanese

Key stats

Estimated organic traffic: 39,100
Backlinks: 1,100
Referring domains: 308

Overview of Tofugu's guide to learning Japanese in Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Tofugu is a site about learning Japanese. And its pillar page is about, well, learning Japanese.

Why I like it

This is an incredible (and yes, ridiculously good) guide to learning Japanese from scratch. It covers every stage you’ll go through as a complete beginner—from knowing no Japanese to having intermediate proficiency in the language. 

Unlike other pillar pages where information is usually scarce and simply links out to further resources, this page holds nothing back. Under each section, there is great detail about what that section is, why it’s important, how it works, and even an estimated time of how long that stage takes to complete. 

Another interesting aspect is how Tofugu has structured its internal links as active CTAs. Rather than “Learn more” or “Read more,” it’s all about encouraging users to do a task and completing that stage. 

CTA encouraging user to head to the next task of learning to read hiragana

Takeaway

Two takeaways here:

  • Pillar pages can be ridiculously comprehensive. It depends on the topic you’re targeting and how competitive it is.
  • CTAs can be more exciting than merely just “Read more.”
Excerpt of Zapier's guide to working remotely

Key stats

Estimated organic traffic: 890
Backlinks: 4,100
Referring domains: 1,100

Overview of Zapier's guide to working remotely in Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Zapier allows users to connect multiple software products together via “zaps.” It’s a 100% remote company, and its pillar page is about remote work. 

Why I like it

Zapier’s pillar page is basically like Wine Folly’s pillar page. Break a topic into subsections, add a couple of links of text, and then add internal links to further resources. 

In the examples above, we’ve seen all sorts of execution for pillar pages. There are those with custom designs and others that are crazily comprehensive.

But sometimes, all a pillar page needs is a simple design with links. 

Takeaway

If you already have a bunch of existing content on your website, you can create a simple pillar page like this to organize your content for your readers. 

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Keep learning

Inspired by these examples and want to create your own pillar page? Learn how to successfully do so with these two guides:

Any questions or comments? Let me know on Twitter.  



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