With Brexit looming, and more businesses looking to operate overseas, it’s important to remember that companies aren’t just exporting their products, but also, their websites.
If you’re a business looking to broaden your enterprise overseas, everything needs to be translated and tailored towards local cultures, business, and people.
Firstly, you need to consider target countries, then how you will differ from already established competitors, alongside the necessary keywords (alongside other factors) that fit alongside markets in a particular country.
With this in mind, it’s important for companies to align their business strategies to their target markets, as these will not be the same in every country.
There are many guides about International SEO, but the majority promote a product rather than give you a full insight into what is actually needed for an international SEO campaign.
So, let’s break it down some of the most common things that need to be considered and make it all easier to process.
A new barrage of competitors
When conducting business in a new country, you can already guarantee that there will be someone else offering similar services to yourself.
You need to think about businesses that rank in the chosen country for the exact same product or service, how established are, and what PR activities that they do, such as charity work.
You’ll also need to research what keywords and search volumes they are utilising, what content is like, what their USP might be, who links to their website, and what is being said about the brand.
If you are still struggling, sometimes it helps to look from a user experience perspective, how does their site work? How easy is their site to go through? Are there good internal links throughout the site?
Think about whether you would buy from them over your own company objectively, as well as how rooted they are in the community. Sometimes there’s an opportunity, while at other times it may be best to leave them behind and look for a different country to start off with.
Look as much into your new competitors as you can, but also learn from what they are doing and emulate this on your own site — especially with the bigger name or more well established competitors.
Which search engines do you need to consider in other countries?
While Google is popular in the USA and UK (as well as the majority of other countries), some search engines are more popular elsewhere.
In China, the most popular and main search engine is Baidu, while others such as Haosou and Shenma try to compete, Baidu continues to surpass these to the point where now they have directed their interests towards AI.
In Russia, the main search engine is Yandex and during May 2017 held 54% of all online search (this is one search engine that has been mentioned by SALT.agency in the past through The Ultimate Guide to Yandex Algorithms).
Both China and Russia have a huge population, which makes for a massive new market to explore and optimise for, and this is covered by our blog post about global search engines.
Keyword research on a global scale
It goes without saying that different countries have different sayings, as even in the UK, we have different names and slang terms for products, so you can bet that there are a whole new range of keywords to go through across different countries.
With each keyword, there’s a few things to consider such as:
- The keyword itself – this will need translating into different languages and that keyword may not have the same search volume in one language or country as it does in another.
- Hollywood terms and type of keyword – There may be different Hollywood terms in different countries. A Hollywood term is a standard term that anyone would use in a search. For example, if you rented houses, the Hollywood term would be “rent a house” as it’s generic and everyone will want this term. The trick is to make it more specific to a location or person, but this will depend on how well you know your target country.
- Longtail keywords – These contain at least three words and are more used to target specific audiences rather than a wide audience. An example of this could be “houses to buy in Leeds city centre”. This would be useful if you know a few specifics about your audience in the country you are targeting.
- Search Volume – There are different search volumes (amount of times people search for a specific keyword) and you can guarantee that the search volume for a keyword in one country will be different for the others, so this is something to bear in mind.
However, in terms of keyword research and keywords in general, the same rules still apply in that you should not stuff keywords, and they should be well spaced and placed throughout webpages.
What about keeping content the same but translating it?
That’s always an important one to think about, as language used in the UK may come the completely wrong way in another country once translated.
Keep content basic but effective and attractive, and use a variation of keywords from your keyword research.
To help handle your different language and or country versions, if you are using WordPress, we would recommend a plugin called ‘WPML’.
To learn more about this, please look at Using WPML to take your business international.
Technical elements of great importance
Hreflang tags are one of the most important technical elements to implement on a website going with different language/country versions.
A hreflang tag is an indicator to search engines, and tells them which language version of a page it is looking at, and there are multiple ways to implement this, but we suggest placing tags in the head section of a website or <head>.
An example of a hreflang tag would be:
<link href=”https://example.com/en-gb/” hreflang=”en-gb” rel=”alternate” />
<link href=”https://example.com/en-us/” hreflang=”en-us” rel=”alternate” />
In the above example, the first line of code is telling search engines that this page is in English (en) and is aimed at the country Great Britain (GB).
You can get a list of all the language and country codes from anywhere on the internet, but the main country codes if you’re looking in terms of European countries are “de” for Germany, “en” for English, “fr” for France, and “es” for Spain.
If your wish is to define the hreflang tag for the German language and Germany in general it would look like this:
<link href=”https://example.com/de-de/” hreflang=”de-de” rel=”alternate” />
Because of the tag, search engines will now view this as appropriate for people with default browser settings to German.
There is a lot more about hreflang tags to go through, but it is a very intricate process that is best discussed with your resident SALT.agency technical expert.
Domains, sub-folders, and subdomains
There are a few different structures, so it just depends which structure you wish to go with.
Let’s take an example of UK/US France (FR) and Spain (ES):
Top Level Domains
You have different TLDs (top level domains) for each country version.
This architecture can be very expensive and you need to have a focus for every country, so if you are selling your product across six countries, this can get very expensive.
Also, if you are just shipping to that country and you do not have a physical address in the country of choice, this is not the option for you, as this requires you have a physical address in that country.
Below are a few examples of different TLDs:
Subfolders bolt onto the existing root domain for the country or language, which means the domain will keep all its power and the subfolders will be the ‘arms’ that reach into different country’s search engines. For example:
Then there are sub-domains, which are probably the most difficult to implement.
The idea is that you have a different subdomain for each language. For example:
For further information about all three of these methods, it’s worth reading International SEO: Country Targeting vs Language Targeting by Dan Taylor.
There is so much more to think about when going international. And it’s worth remembering that your website is the gateway, and you need to make your gateway and website as known and accessible as possible.