globe_chromeI don’t know about your business, but everyday, we seem to get more and more requests for an SEO campaign with a global reach. It’s a cakewalk for us since we cover thirteen languages and work with vendors and partners in six countries, but what if you’re not an International agency? What if you’ve been getting requests from the Netherlands, or Saudi Arabia – how do you address or even consider working with that market?

Reaching Across the World

Networking is going to be your best friend. When I first started working with global companies, I could only cover five languages since I happen to speak them and in some cases, have lived in those countries. Therefore, it was a no-brainer for Level343.  I spoke to a couple of people I had in my Twitter following, Google + and Facebook. I built a relationship with them. I didn’t ask them for anything; actually it was the other way around. I gave them respect by paying them a consultation fee.  I didn’t just waste their time and chat with them for hours.  I hired them by the hour, thereby establishing our agency as someone they should consider partnering with.

Global Search Engine

Living in the US, we sometimes forget that the rest of the world is not searching on Google.  In some countries, Yahoo has a huge share of the search traffic, whereas in China it’s Baidu. Japan is Yahoo!, and the Czech republic is Seznam. You’re probably wondering why looking at other search engines is important. Well, if you’re doing proper SEO, then you need to know what search engines each country is using. By the way webcertain has a great resource for a global breakdown on search engines.

Dealing with Cultural Differences

When you’re dealing with a foreign management firm or PR agency, they’ll often do things differently, from the contract they use to the process they deal with.  I’ve had to go back and forth on one contract at least six times, because their lawyers wanted certain language included. I can tell you, tracking changes and sending the paperwork back and forth to our lawyer became an expensive proposition, but I built that into the cost since I knew from experience this would happen.  Therefore, don’t be shy and add a project management fee. I start with a minimum of five hours for PM when dealing with an International contract.

But what comes along with that is not just dealing with contracts and being a liaison for the project, but it’s about giving your clients quality work. Therefore, if you’re going to deal with a European country be ready to wake up early in the morning in order to talk to them. Skype is always a great way to do this, but the connection sometime is wonky, so look for other options, too. GoTo Meeting has been a lifesaver for us on several meetings.  The connection also seems better.

Make sure you understand their goals. Before you even sign a contract with a new company, the whole process should be in writing. What we’ve done to alleviate some of the extra hours is we now have a lead SEO strategist in that specific country. Therefore, trust has to be established, since they will be representing your part in the project.

International Markets

International Markets

Consideration When the Contract Starts

Use local writers when possible. It’s not rocket science, but a lot of companies I’ve spoken to have a huge block when it comes to translations. They think if they can get a translator they can simply translate the content to that specific language.  Personally, I would strongly advise against that. When writing for a specific foreign market, the nuances, slang, and linguae are not going to be adequately addressed in a simple translation. One example I can give you is the translation of Black Friday, in French.  Here in the US, it’s a huge day for consumers. Everything from clothes, software, toys, TV’s etc.  However when translated into the French Language it’s Vendredi Noir. Simple right? Wrong. It’s a horrible time in French history including Canadian French.

Register the domain in the country you are looking to market to, if possible. Again, this will take some effort and partnership on your part. But if you’re serious about building a global community of buyers, then registering at Google Places in that country will give you a better head start than a company that’s not local. As a matter of fact, Matt Cutts responds to that question in this video can the geographic location of a web server affect SEO? Remember – if it makes sense for your business, then do it.

Make sure your <meta http-equiv=”content-language” content=”en-us”> is set properly. Geotargeting is really important. As you may have heard in Matt Cutts’ video, Google will give preferential treatment if they see a .de, .fr, it since they will consider it as making sense for that area.

XML sitemaps are also important – you need to register them with the search engines. If you‘re using subfolders for different regions, then don’t forget to create a separate sitemap for individual countries and be sure to register it in GWT (Google Webmaster Tools) under a different website.

Please note – registering subfolders separately in Google Webmaster Tools is allowed as long as you’ve designated a different geographic target for each subfolder.

In conclusion, all search engines will look at social signals globally. So don’t forget to add those signals in your campaign. At the end of the day, off-page, regardless of whether you are doing it locally. nationally or internationally, will still be your strongest signals. Therefore, if you’re in France, make sure you are creating a relevant link building campaign with local companies and directories. Are you being reviewed? Make sure the reviews are coming from a local review site that’s relevant to that country.  After it’s all said and done, you can grow your coverage one country at a time, and make sure you’re appealing to that market.