Recent SEO stats show that 46% of all Google searches globally are centered around seeking local information. This not only emphasises the need for strong rankings, but also the huge impact on a company of attracting site visits from relevant audiences across multiple markets. If implemented correctly, international SEO can deliver fantastic ROI versus traditional paid media.
These 8 tips will help companies become masters of international SEO.
For convenience, it’s common for marketers to directly translate their site without considering variations in local search behaviour. However, to deliver the best SEO and UX it’s crucial your site structure, taxonomy and strategy fully reflect local preferences.
These elements should be based upon in-depth analysis to identify hyperlocal content gaps, linguistic variations, local search popularity peaks and competitiveness, etc. Often, a particular search topic will exist in multiple markets, but with different levels of popularity. In other cases, they may be equally popular but searched for in different ways.
There are a range of tools which collect international keyword data, from Google Keyword Planner to paid for tools such as SEMRush.
Hreflang tags, indicating which page should be presented to visitors based on location and language, are one of the hardest SEO elements to successfully implement, yet they are crucial to manage a global site.
An incorrect hrelflang tag strategy can lead to duplication, cannibalisation, and serving visitors the wrong pages – all can cause major drops in performance.
You should always use the correct country codes and avoid common mistakes, such as the widespread usage of EN-UK instead of the official EN-GB tag for UK content. Hreflang tags only get picked up by Google if implemented reciprocally. This means they only function as part of a global strategy.
Links remain powerful ranking factors. Driving inbound links from localised sources sends powerful signals that your site is relevant for a specific audience, ultimately boosting local SEO.
Likewise, a tactful internal linking structure is a good opportunity to support localisation efforts. Linking towards credible local sources, such as local news sites, is an effective way to indicate which market your content caters for.
Another common mistake for international sites is to serve all urls in English, with a modest indicative market variance. For example, a page about car repair for France might read as domainname.com/fr/car-repair.
Typically, this is because the original site is created in English, and a similarly structured, replicated variations easier to manage from a dev perspective. As this can prove tough to maintain, many companies take an 80/20 approach, with most content globally aligned and a minority focused on localisation to align with market opportunities. Ultimately the more localised urls, the better for users and search engines.
When a language is spoken globally, spelling and expressions often vary. Hence even if a site exists across multiple markets in the same language (such as US and UK for English, or Spain and Latin America for Spanish) using the right dialect and semantics is key.
For example, in Argentina people use the pronoun ‘vos’ in place of ‘tú’, common in most Spanish-speaking countries. Likewise, words like ‘trainers’, ‘football’ (and certainly ‘pants’) refer to different things in the US and UK. Using the correct language makes it more likely to match user searches, and ultimately rank.
Formatting can also vary from one country to another. For instance, in France dates begin with the days, but with months in US and years in China. Other formatting differences to consider include currency types, measurement systems, etc.
Business sites should be optimised to be found via local search. This is crucial in the age of mobile, and the growing reliance on location-based queries.
Claiming and consolidating Google My Business profiles provides prospective customers with key information (address, phone number, opening hours, etc.) while strengthening your local SEO positioning and brand awareness.
While there are many things you can do to optimise international websites, Google guidelines remain global. This means good practices apply across the board, in particular when it comes to tech.
Regardless of location, an outstanding UX is paramount to rank. In practice, this means delivering content at speed, via a responsive design which renders well across all platforms and is easy to navigate. Note: no matter where you come from, 404 pages are irritating.
Set a measurement plan tailored to your global ambition. Individual sites should be measured based on local rankings, and compared with local competitors. You should pay attention not only to how much traffic you get, but also where it comes from. If your site is correctly optimised, most visits should come from your primary target market.
Consider reviewing data from other prominent sources in a country. For instance, Yandex is Russia’s leading search engine. Installing local analytics platform such as Yandex Metrica and Search Console can provide additional insights to inform a content strategy.
By Valentin Boulan, global director of SEO operations delivery, Green Park Content