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International SEO – How to scale your SEO efforts in more countries?

International SEO

Your online business is working well and you are thinking about taking the next step and scale to one or a few additional markets. This is fantastic! Expansion was a problem we had at iZettle. We started back in 2011 in Sweden and grew progressively to be active in 11 markets to date.

What do you need to think about when you internationally expand your business and want to attract organic traffic from various locations? I will guide you in this article to succeed in this really important transition for your business.

What is International SEO?

First things first, what do we call international SEO?

In simple words, International SEO is the effort of localisation of your content and website in order to attract relevant local visitors in the countries you are entering.

People have different search behaviours and of course languages based on their location so you need to adapt to these factors in order to rank on search engines.

Identify potential

Before entering a new market, it’s crucial to do a proper market analysis and identify the opportunities and threats that you could encounter.

I suggest that you ask yourself these three questions:

  1. Do you already have visitors from the market(s) you want to enter? Check where your visitors are coming from in Analytics.
  2. Is your product / service trending and generate searches in the new market(s) you want to go to? Do a keyword research around the main terms for your business in the local language using Google Keyword Planner and analyse the main ones in Google trends.
  3. Who are the competitors? Use SEMrush to easily determine who your top competitors in each market are.

Answering these 3 questions should help you to take a final decision and identify if the expansion is worth the effort.

Choose the website structure that works for you

The first choice you will have to make when localising your content is the domain you will use.

You can either keep the same domain that you are currently using and create a local directory for your new market or use different websites in each market.

I would recommend the first alternative when you have a strong brand and own a .com domain. This is for example what Apple or Nike chose and what we decided to do at iZettle as well. Even if running everything on one website, I would strongly recommend you to buy the local domains and redirect them to the relevant directory to avoid cybersquatting.

You can also adopt a single domain per market like for example in Sweden which became in France or in Brazil. This can make sense for quite technical sites and of course when your current domain name is already localised or means something odd in another language.

Here is some help from Google to read more about the pros and cons for each alternative.

Technical aspects

When you can, you should localise as many elements as you can, such as URLs, title tags, meta description, image alt and more obviously the currency.

Google recommends as well to uses the rel=”alternate” hreflang=“x” attributes to serve the correct language or regional URL in Search results. More info here.

Localize your content

Probably the most important part and the most time consuming will be to localise your content. You need to go back to your market research and map the most important keywords you identified according to your website structure. It can be tempting to just automate the translation with some Google translate plugins. DON’T. DO. THAT. EVER.

 You need to adapt to local preferences. People use different wording to name the same thing depending on their location so don’t go with direct translations. Think Global Act Local.

Get feedback from locals and continuously improve your content.

Build local relationships

When entering a new market you will need to build your popularity and make sure your website receive relevant links. This will help you to bring relevant referral traffic but also to increase your chance to rank in this market.

Identify who are the main influencers in your industry, the main sites that could be interested to share the news about your product / service and let them know you exist.

Measure the results

When you have done everything and that you launched in a new country it’s essential that you monitor the results.

Build a dashboard in Google Analytics to follow the progress of the organic search traffic in the new market(s).

Also, one thing that many website owners forget is to add a webmaster tools access for each country. You can do that even if you use the same website for all countries. In GWT, you will be able to specify the country your target for each domain, subdomain or subfolder in the international targeting section. In Google Webmaster tools, you will also be able to monitor the incoming links you receive, the crawling issues you might have and much more.

Last but not least you should also monitor the evolution of your rankings in the different markets. This is where RankWatch comes in and can help you to track your results.

Here is Aleyda Solis‘s infographic on International SEO –

Expanding to new markets is a really exciting journey and I wish you good luck in your effort to grow your business if you have additional questions regarding international SEO feel free to drop a comment below.

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