July 15th, 2019

Expanding into new markets is a thrilling time for any business, but it can also be a risky one. You’re moving up in the world, moving into new, uncharted markets (at least by you) and are eager to make the most out of the exciting opportunities that they offer. However, there’s also the risk that it won’t pan out. When you decide that you want go international with your website, it’s an all or nothing scenario. You can’t dip your toe in the water when it comes to making changes to your website to best target your new audiences. You have to take the plunge. 

So how do you know that your cannonball jump into the online global marketplace is executed correctly? Well, it’s all about making the correct first step. Once you’ve decided on one path, it can be extremely difficult to switch to another. But before we deep dive into the wonderful world of international SEO, we want to make sure you understand how SEO works beforehand. Otherwise, the rest of this article is going to be extremely confusing and unhelpful.

What is international SEO?

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation. In layman’s terms, it refers to the process of optimising your website to increase its chances of ranking higher in search engine results. The higher your website appears in the rankings, the more likely you are to be clicked on by users, and the more likely you are to have a higher conversion rate of users to customers. Pretty straight forward. 

Stick the word ‘international’ in front of it, and the optimisation process takes on a specific aim. Instead of simply trying to rank higher in SERPs (search engine result pages) for general keywords – for example, ‘seo agency’ – your SEO strategy is deliberately aimed towards targeting audiences across the globe. These audiences are made up of individuals grouped together either by a common language or location. 

Why isn’t normal SEO enough?

If your SEO agency or in-house SEO gurus know their stuff, their SEO strategy will be targeted towards a specific audience. And the chances are, this specific audience will be within your own country of operation (if you haven’t expanded beyond your own borders yet). This means that all their hard work to increase your authority within your industry will probably be within the boundaries of your country. 

Of course, this doesn’t stop you being found by users from across the world before internationally expanding, but their efforts will be, or at least should be aimed towards building up your relevance and authority to a specific audience. In order to target multiple audiences across the world who are differentiated by their language or country, you need to have an SEO strategy that is aimed towards each target group. Personalisation is key when it comes to effectively targeting different audiences, which is why you can’t expect your domestic SEO strategy to work for every country, language or user. 

How to implement international SEO?

First things first, you need to work out who you’re targeting. There will be a significant difference in approaches for targeting users in France and targeting French-speaking users worldwide. Once you know who exactly you’re targeting, you’ll be able to decide which route to go down – either language targeting or country targeting. 

Why do you have to pick either or? Well, language targeting and country targeting put you in front of completely different search audiences. If you want to expand into America, language targeting would not help you target this specific audience effectively. It may sound obvious, but it’s limiting to associate countries with specific languages. English isn’t just spoken in England. French isn’t just spoken in France. Targeting English or even American English speakers through language targeting would attract American English speakers from across the globe, not just in America. This isn’t ideal if you can only provide your services in America, disappointing any users who speak American English but live outside of the States. 

Once you know whether you want to target location-specific or language-specific online users, you can then move onto the next step on your path to global domination – choosing what you’re going to do with your website. 

Choosing language or country targeting will impact the technical changes you make to your website in order to internationally expand online effectively. Different combinations of ccTLDs, subdomains, subfolders, hreflang tags and geo-tagging will target different online users. If you want to know more about language targeting, our blog post on Implementing International SEO For A Multi-Language Website will tell you all you need to know. If it’s country-targeting you’re after, our Implementing International SEO For Multinational Websites covers all bases for country-specific SEO strategies.

Looking for an experienced international SEO agency? Well you’re in luck, we just happen to be international SEO specialists. See for yourself by checking out how we helped blow LTD internationally expand. If you want to find out more about how we can help you internationally expand online, call our team on 0203 176 7662 or email us to kickstart the conversation.  

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