New technologies and processes have facilitated businesses’ international expansion, and these days there are more and more businesses looking to build their international presence due to the impact this could have on their growth.
There are multiple factors that could influence this decision, whether this is because your local market is saturated with competitors, or a new opportunity to take your brand globally has appeared. This guide will provide you with some useful SEO tips to take into consideration when going global.
What’s international SEO?
International SEO refers to the process of growing your business’ organic presence across different countries.
Once a business decides to go international, one of the most important considerations is to ensure the website is set to be competitive in such markets, as this will help succeed in the expansion.
Why is international SEO important?
With the business’ website being one of the most crucial touchpoints, having an optimised website with localised content could help meet users’ expectations.
Although going global has some challenges, when international SEO is done right, it presents multiple benefits including:
- Access a wider audience: Launching in new countries means that you will get access to a new audience.
- Drive organic traffic & revenue: This goes hand in hand with reaching a new audience. Following the best practices would help maximise your performance and drive more sessions and revenue to your site.
- Provide a good user experience: Users who have a positive experience with a brand are more likely to become repeated customers. Additionally, providing a good user experience is one of the many guidance that search engines require to increase your ranking potential.
- Build brand awareness: Helping to position your brand globally and consolidate in the new regions.
How to set your website to go global?
Once we’ve learned what international SEO is and why it’s important, this section will cover some of the top tips that would help you be successful when taking your brand globally.
- Decide which countries to target
When it comes to deciding what countries to target first, we’d recommend analysing your current online performance as this could help bring some light to what regions to prioritise.
There are different tools that could be used to identify where your current traffic is coming from, with one of the most reliable ones being the countries search results report from Google Search Console.
Ahrefs is another useful tool that would help see which countries are contributing to the total organic traffic to your site.
While these reports are useful, there are other things to consider when making the decision, such as the potential search demand for your products/services, the competitiveness in the market or the business capacity to fulfil orders from such regions, to list some of them.
We’d advise carrying out an initial keyword research to understand demand levels, as well as trends in the market. Some of our favourite keyword research tools include:
- SEMrush or Ahrefs: To carry out a competitor analysis and identify similar search terms.
- Google trends: To get more insights at a city/regional level.
- Keyword planner: To analyse search demand over time and identify seasonality periods.
Once you are set on which countries to launch, it’s time to talk about how to launch on those regions with your website.
- Decide the URL structure
Reaching new countries could be challenging but using the right locale-specific URLs could help you on the way.
We’d suggest following Google’s recommendations on URL structures, which include:
- Country-specific domain:
This is one of the most popular options as it sends clear geotargeting signals and there’s a clear separation of sites. This approach is also useful when the server location isn’t an issue. Some examples:
The downside of this approach is that it obviously requires more infrastructure and it’s expensive. Additionally, a new domain would be needed to target different countries.
- Subdomain with a generic top-level domain (gTLD):
Another option is using subdomains, as it’s easy to set up and it also offers a clear separation of sites.
The con of this structure is that users might not recognise the geotargeting from the URL itself.
- Subdirectory with gTLD
Using subdirectories is probably the easiest way to launch internationally, as they require low maintenance. However, the separation of the sites is harder. They only allow a single server location and users may not reorganise the geotargeting from the URL alone.
There are cons and pros of each of the above, and therefore the decision on which one to use would depend on your business goals and resources.
- International optimisation
Once we know what countries to target and their languages, and a decision on the URL structure has been made, it’s time to ensure the website is fully optimised for each region.
It’s recommended to have as many unique and localised signals as possible. Some of the key optimisation elements include:
All content on the new sites would need to be translated into the local language, not only to offer a good user experience and reduce bounce rate but also to perform well organically.
Even if your expansion is to other English-speaking countries for example, it’s still recommended to optimise your content for the new region, as they may use different expressions/terms.
- Currency and pricing
The right pricing and currency would need to be displayed to ensure users can place an order and complete a transaction.
It’s also important to know the different ways other countries express numerical values, to help with this, we’ve written a useful guide on how to translate and localise values.
Additionally, an understanding of the foreign regulations around pricing and promotions would be key to running a successful online business.
- Sizing and fit
To minimise returns, it’s recommended to have the local size and fitting details.
- Trust signals
Delivery and returns details should be localised, as well as the contact details and any other trust signals on the website.
- Technical international SEO
There are also some technical SEO elements that you would need to implement when launching your website in multiple countries and languages:
- Hreflang implementation
Hreflang tags indicate to search engines the language used on each URL, to serve the right results to users in that language.
It’s recommended to use hreflang tags to help search engines understand the relationship between pages that have similar content in different languages or the same language but with different spelling e.g., British English vs American English.
It’s also important to understand that hreflangs are a signal, not a directive and so it’s recommended to use them in conjunction with the other localisations signals mentioned earlier such as pricing or delivery details.
If you would like to learn more about hreflang implementation, check out our latest hreflang tags guide for beginners.
- Page speed optimisation
Providing a good user experience is key to reducing bounce rate and driving conversions and page load speed is something that will contribute to it.
Using a Content Delivery Network (CDN) is recommended when operating in multiple locations. A CDN is a group of servers distributed geographically which help speed up the delivery of your website content closer to the users.
CDNs will not only help improve the website load times, but they also help reduce the bandwidth cost and improve security against malicious attacks amongst other benefits.
- Domain authority and brand awareness
When planning your international SEO strategy, building your domain authority is something to take into consideration.
Digital PR campaigns tailored to the new regions could help build authority. It will not only help search engines view your brand as a relevant and authoritative source of information but also drive brand awareness to your new audience.
Knowing your new markets and the local media landscape would be crucial to producing successful PR campaigns. If you would like to learn more about how to run a successful international PR campaign check out the latest tips from our international team here at c3.
In conclusion, going global with your brand would be challenging, but the benefits of it would outweigh these challenges. Having the right international SEO strategy in place with a connected approach looking at everything from content, technical and authority will help you be successful.
If you are looking for an international SEO agency to help with your upcoming expansion plan, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Alternatively, you can find out more about our international SEO services online.