International SEO has become an important consideration for any business wishing to export it’s goods & services abroad. Last year the UK held a referendum on it’s relationship with the EU. Which ever side of the fence you sit on this has had profound implications for the UK economy, in both the short and long term, with respect to the potential for growth in UK exports. Currently this growth is fuelled now by the reduced cost of UK goods as a result of the devaluation in the pound. In the long term it is the opening up of potential, new, export markets.
We find, from our discussions with local businesses in Gloucestershire, that there has indeed been an increase in export sales and also enquiries. If you run a business it is likely that you have also experienced this. So the question is how can you capitalise on this increased export potential. Well one thing that iDigLocal can do is help with our International SEO services.
What is International SEO
International SEO is the search engine optimisation of your website with the goal of improving your page rankings for searches carried out by users in other countries. Interestingly, unlike most instances for the UK, the target search engine for SEO is not necessarily Google. For example in China the main search engine is Baidu.
In order that your page features well in international searches there are a number of things to consider:
- Website location
- Website Language
- Localised website content
- Localised backlinks
A lot of this will rely on structural and infrastructure changes. The first part of the path to international search engine optimisation is what countries are you going to target and, given that, what languages are you going to target. For example if you want to target the US language is not the issue, geo targeting is. However, if you wish to target France then language is going to be one of the issues. So you need to ask yourself:
Is location a factor in your international market? if not then you will probably want to focus on language targeting SEO, if it is then geo-targeting seo is you main goal. It’s entirely possible that a international SEO strategy that utilises both aspects of both country and language targeting are called for.
International SEO in practice
There are a number of different things that you can do to improve your rankings outside of the UK. The most important thing is your website’s own domain authority. Many people believe that it is important to manage multiple different websites that each have there own country code specific domain name or ccTLD, e.g. if we wanted to target France then why not have a idiglocal.fr website domain. This may be OK if you have the budget for it. It is costly as you will have to put independent effort into that website’s SEO, above and beyond your main business website domain. If you do not want to double your costs then it is better for your pocket and your business wide SEO strategy to focus on a single domain, increasing it’s domain authority. This can be done by creating separate content for a particular language or region using sub-directories, i.e. www.idiglocal.co.uk/fr/ for French or www.idiglocal.co.uk/us/ for America. This is a much more efficient method of international SEO.
However, saying all that, if you plan on targeting specific countries it may be a good idea to secure those ccTLD domains. That way if things change you have them to use. It also prevents competitors using your brand domain in those locations.
Geo-targeting SEO strategies come into play where the content that you wish to promote changes based on the location of the user. If it is in the same language there are still differences in the content that you may want to present to users, like differences in shipping costs, different currencies, different images or local terms e.g. in the UK its a”bum bag” but in the US its a “fanny pack”.
The first step in Geo targeting is to look to the search engines search consoles where you can specify which portions of your websites content is targeted for a specific country. This is a bit like the ability to target specific Ad campaigns to different countries in, for example, Google Adwords. As mentioned before the best strategy for this may be to use subdirectories. It is important if you want to target different areas of your website to different countries to make sure that it is unique, it is not the same as the content on your main site pages as this will win out.
If the different countries that you wish to target use the same language then there is probably no point in using a language specifier in the header of your page or hreflang tag (more about this later in Language targeting SEO).
A lot of the basis of SEO is keyword targeting so it is important that you create keyword list searches for the different countries you wish to target, they may not result in the same keyword list. The content on your target country specific pages then needs to use any variations in keywords that you country specific search identifies. What you will need to change are:
- Title & meta description
- Navigation, headings, content & images
- Currency, contact details & time
Don’t forget Backlinks from relevant ccTLD domains. Backlinks are an important part of SEO so if you are targeting a country it is a very good idea to start a backlink generation campaign that targets websites with country specific domain names. For the US it is not so obvious, most use .com domains but also many companies use .com as their main domain regardless of location, but for France or Germany you will want to get back links from .fr and .de domains. This shows search engines that other websites in your target countries value your content, increasing your domain authority in those countries.
So now that you have country specific content your will also need to create a localised sitemap in order for search engines to better index your localised web content.
Another aspect of geo-targeting is the location of the website. The general practice was to locate a new website on a different server with an IP/server location in the country you targeted. However, with the advent of Content Delivery Networks or CDNs this is not necessary any more. CloudFlare, for example is a common CDN, a service that can be easily set up as part of our cPanel hosting packages.
Targeting languages with international SEO
The other aspect of international SEO to consider is language. If you have already put a structure in place to target other countries as outlined in your geo-targeting SEO strategy then targeting specific languages is rather similar, the main difference is the extra investment required for translation and keyword targeting.
With tools like Google translate it is possible to rely on automated translation but this is not optimal if you are serious about making in-roads into that target market. The automated translators are not perfect, they are good for simple, straight forward content but will miss subtle nuances of the language. This page for example will not translate very well in Google translate, the language used is too complex, so if you plan on relying on automated translation make sure your content uses very simple and short sentences. Also many people will not favour translated pages. So unfortunately you should budget in the cost of employing human translated content. High quality localisation will give you much better results for your SEO and improve user confidence in your websites content.
If you produce different sections for different languages then one of the most important things that you are going to want to do is to set up hreflang tags correctly. This is a small piece of code that is not visible to users but that search engines see and use to determine what language your content is in. for example the hreflang tag for French will look like this:
<link rel="alternate" href="idiglocal.co.uk" hreflang="en-gb" /> <link rel="alternate" href="idiglocal.co.uk/fr/" hreflang="fr-fr" />
If you wish to target a particular language you will need to include this in the head section of your web pages telling search engines which web page is an alternative version of it in a different language. Note that the English UK version hreflang tag is also included.
So if you want to target new export markets some heavy investment in creating new content and implementing a online presence structure. You have one website and you should be investing in SEO and also in content creation for your current target market. For International SEO you will need to create new content, possibly in a different language. For large sites this is obviously extremely time consuming. The best strategy is to look at what products or services will most likely result in conversions and start there, start small and work your way up, essentially the same as what you will have probably done with your current website.