How to Avoid International SEO Mistakes

International SEO has always been a hot topic for corporate branding and global companies. But the increased ease of communication with people around the world means that these tactics are becoming vital for a growing number of companies.

International search experts Clayton Warwick and Gary Riley of Wordbank and Jeramy Heflin of Safeguard Global recently gave a webinar that highlighted some of the most common risks and their solutions, when it comes to optimization for researchers who live in different countries or speak different languages.

Here are three important tactics from the board on how marketers can prevent international SEO errors.

Develop an international strategy based on the individual

“As marketers, the most important thing we can do is understand who our customers are and when and how they buy,” Heflin said. “When entering new international markets, you are more likely to develop target personalities.”

“It’s okay if these people are different from what they are in your primary markets; in fact, they probably are.

Most of these new customers aren’t ready to buy from the start, so marketers need to guide them through relevant content and experiences before they push for conversions. To aid in this process, Heflin recommends capitalizing on customer personas when accessing international markets. This can help marketers better understand the needs of their new audience.

However, to ensure that these personalities accurately reflect audiences, marketers need to pay attention to international research data to identify market opportunities for their brands.

“We have found that a good tool for measuring this is Google Keyword Planner,” Riley said. “It is great for measuring interest within a market. We recommend using Planner for national and regional keyword research within these new markets.”

Improve the international user experience

“As much as we consider user experience local, it is often overlooked in other markets,” Warwick said. “We’ve customized our user experience based on what Americans like, and it’s critical to having that level of consideration for what users in new markets want their journey to be.”

Warwick recommends that marketers consider using market devices for their product or service. Mobile, in particular, accounts for a large portion of the organic search market (61% as of Q2 2021). And while there are certain industry sectors where more people are searching across the desktop, marketers would be smart to improve on these devices.

“There have been a number of updates from Google that focus on the importance of the mobile user experience and the impact it can have on brands they don’t prioritize,” Riley said.

One way to improve your user experience is to adhere to Google’s Page Experience Guidelines. The Page Experience Update, which began rolling out in June of last year, rewards sites with high-quality user experience cues, such as trusted security, improved page speed, mobile compatibility and more. Marketers can review the Page Experience Report in Google Search Console to ensure that their content delivers good experiences for international users.

Furthermore, Riley says that marketers need to focus on improving actions that are desirable among their international audience: “For low-converting or conversion content, it’s a good idea to test a range of cultural user experience considerations on the main landing pages, especially when it’s a new market and you’re not sure what percentage 100% of the best type of design element that you should use based on your target audience.”

Paying attention to text styles, color palettes, image types, and languages ​​used on your landing pages can help ensure that your content matches these new audience groups.

Improving the user experience with languages ​​for an international audience
An example of a hospitality company that has improved their user experience for international audiences. Source: Clayton Warwick

Make sure that the technical elements are aligned

Marketers should work closely with developers when optimizing their content for an international audience as often overlooked technical issues can get in the way of campaigns.

“Start combing through your site to see areas where you can improve your technical setup,” Warwick said. “Fill in this list for your developers so they can start getting rid of the stuff.”

To be more specific, he noted the importance of page load speed in the marketplace: “We all know how important page speed is to both SEO and paid efforts. We wouldn’t want to waste media dollars sending someone to a site where they would inevitably bounce back.”

Tools like PageSpeed ​​Insights (described below) can help marketers measure the performance of their sites based on Google’s basic web fundamentals and recommended load times.

PageSpeed ​​Insights Dashboard
Google PageSpeed ​​Insights Report

Pagespeed isn’t the only factor that marketers have to consider. Looking at the international markets, CMS and multilingual plugins have the potential to make campaigns on or off. These technological frameworks must be able to adapt to the researcher’s region and language to prevent bad experiences.

“CMS and translation plugins can have a huge impact on how effective search campaigns are, and can impact how many things you can improve and test,” Riley said.

“Depending on how your CMS and translation tools are built, you may not be able to fully optimize the technical aspects, and that may affect search performance,” he added.

At a minimum, marketers should use a CMS that allows them to set language and region information in the hreflang tag. This helps search engines understand the linguistic and geographic context, and ultimately, deliver the results that are most relevant to your international audience.

Our world is more connected than ever, and an increasing number of brands must ensure that their content meets the needs of researchers outside their home markets. Ignoring international SEO considerations can result in wasted search efforts and missed opportunities.

Watch this webinar at the Digital Marketing Repository.


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About the author

Corey Patterson is an editor at MarTech and Search Engine Land. With a background in SEO, content marketing and journalism, he covers SEO and PPC industry news to help marketers improve their campaigns.

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