It makes sense that companies that are successful enough to grow at the enterprise level may one day go international.
For the business owner, this is an exciting and daunting prospect. You have the opportunity to present your brand and your offers to customers from different countries.
On the one hand, this effort will be to replicate the success you have had in your own country.
On the other hand, marketing to the United States will be different from marketing to France, Germany or Australia.
Your website will play a huge role in serving your international customers, which means international SEO is necessary.
At the most basic level, practicing international SEO means targeting specific countries and languages on your website.
But it is not enough to simply have these pages available to international users. How will you optimize for better placement and visibility on Google and other search engines?
Be sure to focus on these 4 fundamental areas of international SEO to give your site its best possible chance in new markets.
1. Establish the right URL structure for international pages
Enterprise and large-scale websites will have a ton of pages, probably hundreds or thousands. When you’re in the e-commerce market, those product and category pages add up quickly.
One of the main steps to follow if you want users from another country to find what they are looking for on your website is to create your international pages for the right audiences using the appropriate country-coded URL structure. .
Take this example.
Suppose you are an online consumer electronics retailer based in the United States and you have done research to show that you will increase your profits if you expand into the UK market.
You’ve already done all the SEO for your US-based pages, but now you need to create and optimize pages for a UK audience, i.e. pages that Google will show for users searching from the UK.
The first, and perhaps most important, step is to create UK-centric web pages, built with URL structures that mean the content is aimed at UK users.
There are several ways to do this. Many international websites choose to country-code their international URLs with a ccTLD, which in this example would be “.uk”.
Other options include creating:
- One country-coded subdomain (uk.sitename.com).
- A subfolder on your original website (websitename.com/uk).
- Another domain entirely (newwebsitename.com, optimized for UK users only).
You will have to decide for yourself which approach is best.
For example, you might think that establishing a separate domain for each new country you expand into is a bad idea. Your organic traffic data will be split across your websites, preventing you from seeing everything at a glance.
Subdomain and subfolder routes would allow you to view international versions of your site separately while allowing you to collect organic traffic data in one place.
Either way, telling search engines which version of your website is for each country is necessary to rank with the right audiences. Design a way forward with this before you do anything else.
2. Go All-In On Page Experience for International Users
Country-specific URL structures are ideal for getting your international pages to rank for the right audiences.
But let’s say you get the “.uk” subdomain version of your site for UK user ranking. These users then visit the site and notice that you are using American English rather than British English.
It might not be a big deal right now, but it’s still a little off-putting.
Then, after checking your prices, those UK users can only see the costs in US dollars.
They will need to convert dollars to pounds and figure out what they will need to make a purchase. But why do this to your potential customers?
Just like in traditional SEO, international SEO must consider user experience.
Whether you are serving web pages to a British audience who shares the English language with the United States, or to Italian users who speak a completely different language, be sure to translate all of your website content for the users it is intended for. destined.
You can use any translation tool to do this, but the story doesn’t end there.
You will want to determine if Google is showing this version of your page to the right audience by adding hreflang attributes to your pages.
Hreflang tags are signals that tell Google the language used on the page. Why is this important?
Because then Google will show that version of the page to users who come from IP addresses that speak that language.
Of course, keep in mind that languages are not necessarily confined within national borders.
If you create German versions of all your pages specifically for German speakers, remember that German is spoken in Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, and Luxembourg.
You don’t want Google to leave those last three countries in the cold with search results by showing German pages only to people in Germany.
To solve this problem, you can add hreflang tags for specific countries.
In this case, you would have tags for other countries using their letter abbreviations.
So German itself would be “hreflang=de”, while you would use “hreflang=de-ch” for German speakers in Switzerland.
When it comes to currencies, you should make sure to check out the currency options on Shopify, Woocommerce, or whatever platform you’re using to select which currencies you’ll accept.
Ideally, you will be able to accept whatever the national currency of the target country is.
You may also want country-specific resources on every translated page of your website to address user concerns about taxes, customs, and shipping.
3. Be aware of international keyword differences
When you are a large corporate website that grows in different countries, you should also be fully aware of the differences in keyword trends between countries.
There is the problem of keywords appearing in completely different languages in other countries. However, even in countries that speak the same language, the terms may differ (“elevator” in the United States, “elevator” in the United Kingdom).
You can use tools like Semrush and Ahrefs for keyword research based on search volumes in different countries.
This is where things can get a little tricky. Depending on local things like culture, weather, language, and history, your customers may have their own common words for things.
Take the example of American English speakers who say “bicycle” in casual conversation much more often than they say “bicycle”.
You will need to spend time researching the terms used in your target countries and translating them correctly if necessary if you want your pages to rank for the most relevant terms.
With corporate websites and other large-scale sites, this search can take a long time. It’s good to know you can do this before you commit to expanding internationally.
4. Look for backlinks from country-specific domains
The final point to cover is that as a business website with users in many countries, you will want backlinks to help you in this effort.
If you have any SEO experience, you already know the benefits of high quality backlinks.
The caveat to remember in international SEO is that your backlinks should come from websites with the same ccTLD as the version of the website you are showing people.
So if you have a version of your site for Japan, it makes sense that most of your backlinks come from websites with a “.jp”.
This makes sense from a user experience perspective.
Japanese users who follow these external links and find the Japanese version of your site will not be disturbed by the sudden discovery of an English page.
Your international link building strategy will be based on the products you sell and the market sectors where you sell them. Only you will know the best strategy for acquiring links to your pages from the appropriate domains.
Just think, “What types of backlinks would Google most associate with the trustworthiness of my site?”
International business SEO needs your full attention
It takes a lot of time and effort to achieve international SEO success, but if you’re a business that spans national borders, make sure your website is working for you rather than against you.
Go all out to create exceptional experiences for your international customers, and this decision could end up paying you dividends for years to come.
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