Selling to the World: International SEO

Selling to the World: International SEO
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How to ‘do’ International SEO

As I work with businesses in hospitality and food and goods exports I am often asked how to ‘do’ international SEO. Fundamentally, you do it just like you would ‘domestic’ SEO – ideally you have a country-specific domain for your target territory which is hosted in the same territory (or failing that, a dedicated subdomain on your primary website), and then you create good quality content on that site that attracts natural links (saving you the time and immense pain of identifying link partners). Of course you also ensure you have on-page optimisation covered as well. Easy, right? Well, no… let’s face it, it is difficult (or expensive) enough to create high quality content in your own language for your local target market, let alone do that in a different language for a different culture.

So, assuming you don’t (and you shouldn’t!) want to throw in the towel, what are the options? It depends – if you have little or no budget, you need to make friends, and good ones at that! You’ll need to build an international community – don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be a ‘big’ community as it is quality over quantity that matters here – as you’ll be relying on people in your target markets to provide you with local knowledge and a finger on the pulse of what’s hot there. Hopefully, these local market consultants can provide content creation services, or translation services if you’ll be creating the English version of the content based upon their suggestions. Your current customers will be the initial pool you’ll trawl for help, but you can and should get others to help you out by way of offering incentives (discounts, rewards, freebies) through your social media channels. If you can obtain even one contribution, created with the local versions of the keyphrases you want to rank well for, and this piece of content is interesting or funny or informative enough to attract links from other websites in that market, you’ll have leapfrogged your competition by a fair margin, and will most likely start seeing traffic and sales increase dramatically. How much would that be worth to your business? Certainly enough that you could afford to reward your ‘Local Marketer’ well…

Should you be cash rich, but time poor, you should consider employing the services of a local content agency who will take the pain, time and effort out of the job that needs doing. Don’t jump in with both feet; make sure you can see the cost-effectiveness of what the agency is doing for you before signing up for any kind of contract.

If you do end up handling it yourself, here is a checklist for ‘doing’ international SEO:

  1. If possible, register a country-specific domain for your business for every targeted territory, e.g. for Germany, for China etc. If this isn’t affordable or manageable, create country-specific subdomains within your primary domain, e.g. and etc. If subdomains aren’t an option with your hosting package (they really should be though) at a minimum, create separate directories on your existing website for each territory, e.g. and to continue with the same territories as examples
  2. If you succeed in registering a country-specific domain, your local rankings will be helped should you also get to host it within that country.
  3. Do NOT directly translate from English as far as keywords are concerned. Different languages, and even territories using the same language (try booking a ‘holiday’ in North America) refer to what you are selling in different ways – ensure you know what the phrases are locally and include these.
  4. Carry out your keyword search engine research within the language of the territory you wish to sell within – this also means using the search engines that are popular within the territory, e.g. in China, Baidu has more than half the entire market share, while in Russia, Yandex is the major player.
  5. Link Build – local links help local rankings! Create territory-specific content that people within that territory will want to link to. Share your content using social media and in email marketing campaigns. Ensure your local website/subdomain is listed on relevant local directory or business listing websites. Do your best to blog locally on each of your sites.
  6. Local traffic analysis -  Ensure that analytics are in place to identify local keywords as part of on-going local SEO.

“I want to target the entire world, where do I start?!”

If total world domination is your goal, the 12 languages listed below will help you reach the vast majority of the world’s web-surfing population. You can take care of the remainder once you are filthy rich!

1. Arabic / عربي

2. German / Deutsch

3. English / English

4. Spanish / Español

5. French / Français

6. Italian / Italiano

7. Portuguese / Português

8. Russian / Руccкий

9. Japanese /日本語

10. Korean / 한국어

11. Simplified Chinese (People’s Republic of China) / 中文(简体 )

12. Traditional / Chinese

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