International Search

With many companies realising the true value of digital sales - and some for the first time - Craig Harbour, Digital Specialist at Web Events Group explains why it's worth giving some thought to looking outside of the UK market and embracing international SEO.

While many businesses are understandably struggling with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic there are others that have been able to increase their focus on, or pivot to, online sales as demand has grown for certain services and interest has grown in certain sectors. According to a recent survey by Globalization Partners and CFO Research, 45% intend to continue with their current global expansion plans, even if they may be slightly delayed. 

Regardless of your business' size, if you’re feeling confident in its potential for international growth and thinking of launching your brand in different locations across the world, there is a lot to think about, such as getting to grips with international taxes and hiring staff in each location.

However, one of the biggest considerations is your website. How will you market to an international client base? What are the steps to take to make sure your site is attracting customers around the globe? Let's look at why focusing on search engine optimisation (SEO) is essential and what to do to make sure you’re optimised for a global audience.

Why focus on SEO?

To make a business operate successfully online, it’s important that the website is up to scratch. Technical details, such as making it easy for customers to check out the goods in their virtual shopping basket, must be ironed out early on.

However, to get to the stage where customers reach the virtual checkout, customers first need to be able to actually find websites providing what they’re looking for – and the chances are they will use a search engine as their first port of call. Therefore, your site must be optimised in such a way that gives it the best chance of gaining top positions in a user’s local search engine – and ensuring that you are targeting appropriate keywords for that country.

If you’ve been operating for a while, it’s likely that you’ll already know that getting the SEO right means you’re more likely to attract customers. When you’re planning on launching in international locations, the significance of your SEO only increases - as what works in one country might not always work in another.

“If you’re planning on going global, you’ll need to understand what potential customers want and the search terms they’re likely to use when seeking out your products and services,” said Chris Shelbourn, Head of International SEO at London-based digital marketing agency, Ingenuity Digital.

He continued: “Words, phrases and terminology differ from country to country - even for countries that use the same language (like the UK and USA). So, you need to establish what the most commonly used phrases are in each of your target regions. That’s a key starting point for international SEO, as it will help dictate other elements of your international SEO strategy such as content and on page optimisation.”

What SEO services do we need to introduce?

A specialist in SEO will be able to ensure that onsite optimisation is accurate for the country that each international business is targeting. Existing web pages are analysed, key search terms are identified, and areas that can be optimised are flagged.

After this, there are several ways to enhance the website so that it’s specifically targeting the audience in the country you’re expanding to.

  1. Content

To have successful content, you need to make sure it’s informed by the technical data. Writing content that not only includes relevant key terms but also answers the questions that potential customers are asking, is likely to make Google see that your site is a relevant and trusted resource. This, in turn, makes it more likely that your website will be ranking on page one of the search results.  

Chris says that the main tools his agency uses for keyword research work for most countries and languages, so will be good to use for your international SEO campaigns. He recommends:

- Google Keyword Planner

- Check your Google AdWords/Analytics accounts – keywords that convert well in pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns will often also convert well in SEO, so you can source data from here

- SEMRush Keyword Magic Tool

- Answer The Public

If you're working with an SEO specialist, they should be able to draw upon data from their previous clients' campaigns and their team’s experience across a range of market sectors.  

The concept of EAT (Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness) is now a key part of how Google assesses and ranks web pages, so by writing content that demonstrates your website’s expertise, authority, and trustworthiness, you are helping to position your brand as a leader in the field.

  1. Outreach

Another way to use SEO to make your brand known in your target location is through outreach. This means writing content for key publications and media outlets in the country you’re expanding to while including relevant links to products and services on your site. To do this, it’s worth having a team that knows the language of the country and can translate your content for you.  

  1. Digital PR

This is similar to outreach; however, it can incorporate elements of traditional PR campaigns, primary research and stunts, aiming to spark interest from a range of news outlets and media types. For instance, you might commission a survey based on something that’s important to your potential customer base. The findings of the survey data can generate interest from newspapers and TV channels, while also linking to the corresponding pages on your site. 

These are just some of the ways to use SEO to expand your brand internationally. By fine tuning your site, you can place yourself as an authority in the countries you’re setting up in.  

Contributed by Craig Harbour
Neina Sheldon
Article by Neina Sheldon
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