Search engine optimisation (SEO) enables businesses to be found more easily online by their target market and, therefore, drive more sales. By using the most commonly searched keywords by customers, they can put themselves at the top of search engine rankings and, thus, are more likely to be found by their intended audience.
That’s fine if you have a loyal set of followers in your local, regional or even national market. But what about if you want to go further afield and reach a global audience?
That’s where international SEO comes in. By having an effective international SEO strategy, you can connect with a wider customer base in different geographies and time zones, and sell your product or service almost anywhere in the world, at any time of day.
What is international SEO?
Essentially, international SEO is the same as traditional SEO, but with a global focus. By optimising your website or online content, you can ensure that search engines will identify the countries who want to reach or the languages that you want to use.
How to improve your international SEO
Many of the principles used in traditional SEO apply to international SEO too. Here is a run down of the ones that matter:
All SEO should start with providing the user with the best possible experience. That means making sure all functions and aspects of your website or content are fully optimised. Key areas include site navigation, speed, interface, imagery, trust building and value proposition.
Next, you need to ensure that your content is of the most relevance and value to the end user. When executed on a global scale, that requires engaging local professionals such as content creators and copywriters to write it in order to eliminate any language or cultural barriers, as well as make sure it resonates with readers in that territory.
Following on from this, if you want to reach an audience in a specific country, the best way to achieve that is through language targeting. Some search engines use different language targeting tools, so it’s key to know which ones apply to the place(s) that you are trying to reach. Hreflang tags, which tell the search engines what language your content is written in, are used by most popular search engines. Other search engines use meta language tags, which state the language and country that the content is most relevant for.
It’s also vital to do your research upfront in order to ensure that you have a market for your particular product or service. To do so, first you need to understand your target audience. That requires getting to know their spending behaviours and habits, as well as what keywords they are most likely to search for. Then you can build your SEO strategy around those parameters.
When putting together your website, you need to factor in these keywords, but without sacrificing the quality of your content. In dealing with an international audience, you must tailor your SEO to the specific region or language of your intended reader. There are several different solutions that can be used here, including geotargeting with locale-specific URLs for each version of your website, so that you can reach that particular market more easily. Other options range from subdomains and subdirectories to language parameters, which can be altered as your international SEO strategy changes over time.
By building backlinks from external websites to your own one, you can quickly establish yourself as an authority in that particular area or subject, as identified by search engines. But it’s key to make sure that you work with only established and reputable sources.
Above all, you need to ensure that a search engine can crawl and index your website. That means adding localised URLs and images which are optimised for your target audience in a specific geography or language.
Analytics is the key to ensuring that your website or content is fully optimised for a global market. By regularly checking its performance, you can quickly ascertain how well it’s doing, who is using it, what they are looking for, how long they stay on there and where they navigate to once they have left that webpage.
International SEO is vital for any company serious about global expansion. But first you need to put in place an effective strategy that will allow you to reach these new markets, while continuing to thrive on all fronts.
Daniel Wood is a highly experienced organic marketer who has been helping businesses improve their SEO strategy for more than 10 years. He is SEO Director at GA Agency, an independent digital agency based in London, specialising in international SEO, with an in-house team delivering Paid Media & SEO in over 15 languages.