4 Key Areas of International Focus on SEO to Enter a New Market

It stands to reason that companies successful enough to grow to the enterprise level may one day become international.

For a business owner, it’s an exciting and frightening prospect. You have a chance to present your brand and your offers to customers in different countries.

On the other hand, this effort will be about replicating the success you’ve had in your home country.

On the other hand, marketing yourself in the United States will be different than marketing yourself in France, Germany or Australia.

Your website will play a huge role in serving your international clients, which means international SEO is required.

At the most basic level, doing international SEO means targeting specific countries and languages ​​on your website.

But just having these pages is not enough for international users to search for them. How will you optimize for better placement and greater visibility on Google and other search engines?

Make sure that you focus on these four core areas of international SEO to give your site the best possible opportunity in new markets.

1. Create the correct URL structure for international pages

Enterprise and large-scale websites will have a large number of pages, possibly in the hundreds or thousands. When you’re in the e-commerce marketplace, these product and category pages add up quickly.

One of the primary steps you need to take if you want users in another country to find what they want on your website is to create your international pages for the right audiences using the appropriate country-coded URL structure.

Take this example.

Let’s say you are an online consumer electronics retailer in the US, and you have done your research to show that you are able to 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 British audiences, i.e. the pages Google will show to users searching from UK.

The first and perhaps the most important step is to create UK central web pages that are built with URL structures that indicate that the content is intended for UK users.

There are several ways you can do this. Many international websites choose the country code for their international URLs using a ccTLD, which in this example would be “.uk”.

Other options include creating:

  • Country coded subdomain (uk.websitename.com).
  • subfolder on your original website (websitename.com/uk).
  • A whole other field (newwebsitename.com, optimized only for British users).

You decide for yourself which approach is best.

For example, you might think that creating a separate domain for each new country you’re expanding into is a bad idea. Your organic traffic data will be split between your websites, preventing you from seeing everything at a glance.

Subdomain and subfolder paths allow you to view the international versions of your site separately while allowing you to collect all organic traffic data in one place.

In any case, telling search engines which version of your website is customized for each country is essential to ranking the right audiences. Come up with a way to move forward with this before you do anything else.

2. Go all in experience page for international users

Country-specific URL structures are good for getting your international pages ranked for the right audiences.

But let’s say you get the “.uk” subdomain version of your site to rank for British users. These users then go to the site and notice that you are using American English instead of British English.

This may not be a huge deal at the moment, but it’s still somewhat unconvincing.

Then, when checking your rates, these UK users can only see the costs in US dollars.

They will need to convert dollars into sterling and know what they will owe to make a purchase. But why put your potential customers through it?

Just like with traditional SEO, international SEO needs to consider user experience.

Whether you serve web pages for British audiences that share English with the US or for Italian users who speak a completely different language, make sure you translate all of your website content for your target users.

You can use any translation tool to do this but the story doesn’t end there.

You will need to lock whether 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-language versions of all of your pages specifically for German-speaking people, remember that German is spoken in Germany, Switzerland, Belgium and Luxembourg.

You don’t want Google to leave these last 3 countries out in the open with its search results by only showing pages in German to people in Germany.

To solve this problem, you can add hreflang tags for specific countries.

In this case, you will have signs for other countries using their letter abbreviations.

Therefore, the German language itself would be “hreflang = de”, while you could use “hreflang = de-ch” for German speakers in Switzerland.

In terms of currencies, you should be sure to look at the currency options on Shopify, Woocommerce, or the platform you’re using to decide which currencies you’ll accept.

Ideally, you will be able to accept any national currency of the target country.

You may also want to have country-specific resources on each translated page of your website to address user concerns about tax, customs, and shipping.

3. Be aware of international differences in keywords

When you are a large enterprise website that is expanding into different countries, you also need to be very 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 terminology may differ (“elevator” in the US, “elevator” in the UK).

You can use tools like Semrush and Ahrefs to search for keywords according to search volume in different countries.

This is where things can get a little tricky. Depending on local elements like culture, weather, language, and history, your customers may have their own common words for things.

Take, for example, American English speakers who say “bike” in informal conversation much more often than they say “bike”.

You will need to take the time to research terms used in the target countries and translate them correctly as necessary if you want to rank your pages according to the most relevant terms.

With corporate and other websites being extensive, this search can take a long time. It’s nice to know you can do this before you commit to expanding internationally.

4. Follow the links received from the domains of each country

The last point to cover is that, as an enterprise website that attracts users in many countries, you will need backlinks to aid in this effort.

If you have experience with SEO, you already know the benefits of high quality backlinks.

The caveat to remember in international SEO is that your backlinks must come from websites that have the same ccTLD as the version of the website you’re showing people.

So, if you have a copy of your site for Japan, it makes sense that most of the backlinks are from websites with “.jp”.

This makes sense from a user experience perspective.

Japanese users who follow those external links and find the Japanese version of your site will not be affected by suddenly finding an English page.

Your international link building strategy will depend on the products you sell and the market segments you sell in. Only you will know the best strategy for getting links to your pages from the appropriate domains.

Just think: “What types of backlinks does Google associate most with the credibility of my site?”

SEO for international organizations needs all your attention

It takes a lot of time and effort to get your international SEO right, but if you are a company that is expanding across national borders, make sure your website works for you and not against you.

Put the work into creating great experiences for your international clients, and this step could end up paying you dividends for years to come.

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Featured Image: Pixel Hunter/Shutterstock

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