SEO has become one of the most important tools for Internet marketers and businesses that are looking to expand their online presence. By improving their rankings on the search engine results page, businesses are able to increase their chances of being found by potential customers or clients. Quality SEO is invaluable to a business because any time a user searches for a search term related to their business, the company has the chance of being discovered and the opportunity to convert that user into a customer.
For companies that are looking to grow outside their current market, international SEO can help them reach people across the globe. Worldwide recognition through international search engine optimization is coveted among websites that are trying to grow and reach international status.
By configuring your website for international traffic and identifying which countries and language you want to reach, you can increase your chances of getting to the first page of search results in the international markets you want to target.
The Starting Block: Optimizing Your Website
The first step to ensuring your website is ready for international search engine optimization is to verify that all of the technical and “back-end” aspects of your website are properly configured. Your website’s architecture and structure are hugely important to the way search engines like Google will rank your site.
You need to take the time to develop and craft meta descriptions for your website, its pages and its various posts. Meta descriptions are essentially data about data. These small blocks of text tell Google algorithms and search engine crawlers what each page is about. Completing this step and making sure it complies with industry and digital standards is hugely important.
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Another important thing webmasters and organizations should consider is their keyword selection and deployment process. Keywords, in a nutshell, are search terms used by users when they are seeking for a specific type of information. Implementing keywords on a website and using them in meta descriptions considerably raises the probability of a website being pulled when someone is searching for a related topic.
If you are looking to gain an international audience, you need to take some time to research how keywords are being used in your industry. A proper keyword planning strategy will understand which keywords users are searching for and try to implement those into your website and your SEO plan of action.
Stay Relevant: Publishing Content
Search engine optimization is never guaranteed and your ranking can change at any moment. But there are a few things you can do to stay on top of the search results page, one of which is to continuously publish good content and establish yourself as a high-quality site.
In order to keep your audience engaged, you should be publishing smart, intelligent, viable and useful content that will provide them some sort of value. You want to give them content that will inform them, teach them, and help them make decisions that affect their personal and professional lives. You similarly need to refresh this content on a regular basis so it stays relevant and meaningful.
The importance of quality content cannot be underrated or undervalued. The more qualified content you offer internet users, the more organic traffic you are likely to attract. You need to make sure your content matches the keywords you want to rank on, but don’t try to overstuff your content with keywords because search engines will identify these sorts of scams. Instead, focus on creating material that people actually want to read.
While this may seem intimidating, the truth is there are a few simple steps you can take to ramp-up your content output. Start by creating a blog and posting a few times a month. Write about things you know well: your industry, the market your business operates in, or current events that may influence your business.
Once you see the benefits provided by quality content, you will have the incentive to continue creating new material.
Linking Up with Other Websites
Google and the other search engines are hard at work towards building a community where people share information readily. One of the ways they are advocating for that is through linking. This makes citing other websites, pages and articles an effective search engine optimization strategy.
By linking to other websites in your content, you can give authority to whatever you are saying. Through back linking, other pages can link to your website. If you can get high quality sites to direct to your website, Google will understand that you are a significant resource for a given topic. The more quality websites you have pointing to yours, the more clout and credibility you get. This has a significant impact on your SEO score.
Website owners often ask: “How can I get quality backlinks from other websites? Most major websites have never heard of me or my product.” The truth is there isn’t one perfect answer to this question, but there are some steps you can take to help improve your website’s linking relationships.
Start by building partnerships on the web. You can try writing as a guest blogger on an authoritative website in exchange for a link back to your website. Similarly, you can try a content sharing program with other websites that are related to your own. Give them a place to publish content in exchange for a place on their website and a backlink. Or you could focus on getting press releases and other PR material published on the web with a link pointing to your site.
There isn’t one perfect way to establish quality links to and from your website, but if you take the time to build good relationships, you can get some really powerful backlinks from other sites on the web.
Use Social Media to Your Advantage
Every internet marketer knows that social media is a powerful tool in connecting with audiences and building brand awareness. But not a lot of people know that proper social media marketing can also help with your international SEO efforts. Google works closely with social media websites so it is undoubtedly in your interest to be active on social media websites.
Similarly, social media serves as a great outlet to push your content and make connections with other internet users. If you develop a quality social media strategy, you can encourage users to share your content and engage with it by commenting and liking it. All of these efforts will help to get more eyeballs on your content and more organic traffic to your website.
Localizing Content for Local Audiences
One of the most important steps in international search engine optimization is localizing your content to match the audiences that you want to reach. This means providing accurate information to users based on the area they are located in.
For example, if you have an English-language website, you can’t assume it is appropriate for both American and British audiences. First, you need to make sure the proper vernacular is used; even though both countries speak English, there are nuances in the regions that make American-English and British-English very different.
Also, you need to display prices in U.S. Dollars for the American audience and British Pounds for the U.K. audience. What about time zone and shipping times? How do they differ between the different regions? As you can see, there are many different website aspects that need to be customized to regional audiences.
There are a few ways to begin “geo-targeting” your audience and customizing your website’s content to their region. You need to start by localizing your content, like the example above. Make sure the language, currency, time zone, look and feel, and contact information on your website are appropriate to the regions you are operating in. Provide a local phone number that works, and even a local address if you have an office or contact person in the country they are located in. By adding a local address, you are telling both your audience and Google where you are located which will help optimize your placement on the rankings page.
Language is an important aspect to focus on. Don’t use Google Translate or some other automatic translation service; stick to native speakers that can accurately translate your website into local languages. You can also use tools like an hreflang tag to tell search engines which language your website is available in.
Another localization factor is Google’s business listings. On their results page, Google lists three businesses that may be relevant to a search based on the user’s location. These listings are shown at the top of the search results page, before the organic rankings, meaning if you are able to make it into one of those three spots, you have hit the SEO jackpot.
Also, don’t forget the importance of your website architecture. Besides the technical aspects of having a properly designed site, there is another international search engine optimization advantage to website structure: organizing your location-specific content.
There are a number of ways to do this, but the general idea is to create a group of items that are all language or location-specific. You should organize your website’s hierarchy in a way that is easy to understand and bundles all similar content together so Google can easily index your different, language-specific sites.
You can do this by using subdomains and subdirectories, or by implementing country code top level domains. Country code top level domains influence the ending to your website’s URL to identify the area where your website is registered.
For example, if you have both an English and French version of your website, you may want to consider using the .us and .fr country code top level domains. Search engines generally consider these top level domains when ranking websites and they can influence your SEO.
Research is the Key to International SEO Success
Overall, international search engine optimization is more complex and difficult than focusing on SEO for one market. There is so much to consider and implement, and sometimes it can be difficult to understand where to get started. That’s why performing a heavy amount of research before diversifying your SEO efforts will make the whole process easier to swallow.
There are a few things you should get an understanding of before you begin international SEO. Do some research to get a feel of how your website ranks in the different markets you are considering. See how much traffic is coming to your website from different countries, and how much of it is organic and how much is paid
Once you’ve identified some regions of interest, perform keyword research for the different countries and languages you have picked. You need to get an understanding of how keywords are searched in different languages and regions and which keywords are being used for which industries. There are a number of tools available on the web to help you make these evaluations.
Similarly, you want to develop a full understanding of your potential audience, who they are, and how they use the internet. Not all international users are created equal and factors like language and culture can have a real impact on how audiences use the internet. Before taking any international SEO steps, you need to have a full picture of your audience’s characteristics and behavior.
Lastly, don’t forget to identify and analyze local competitors. While you may have monopoly in one region of the world, you might encounter hundreds of competitors in another. This evaluation will help you determine in which regions it’s worth entering into the market, and which regions are best left ignored.
In the end, international search engine optimization is a serious task that shouldn’t be done hastily. If you are considering international SEO, take the time to fully understand what you are getting yourself into and be sure you have all the tools necessary to optimize your website to the best of your ability.
Don’t hesitate take the leap into international SEO; after all, if you are able to successfully expand your business to the global community you may see a huge increase in profits and growth.