Are you a savvy business owner who’s working to stay ahead of the game in today’s ever-evolving online marketing world? If so, then you’re likely aware that having an effective international SEO strategy is crucial for success. But knowing where to start can be difficult when dealing with several different languages and cultural conventions.
It’s time for a revamp of our old article from 2013! Over the years, search engines and keyword research have evolved, and we’re excited to share how we’re using SEO to help our clients succeed. Don’t miss out on the latest tips and tricks in our updated version.
In 2023 we sat down with a few original top global SEO specialists who weighed in on the most pressing international search engine optimization questions out there. They break down how to manage external links, ranking triggers, and keyword localization techniques like never before!
SEO Is Not Dead; It’s Changed
SEO tools, technical SEO, SEO processes, voice search–even organic search and how you target your audience–, has changed in the last 10 years. We’ve become more data-driven and, with AI taking the front seat, it has opened many new options and processes the industry is excitedly exploring today.
I was lucky to be able to stay in touch with all the original international SEO consultants and SEO companies we approached back in 2013. What each one has told me is, “It’s been ten years and the basics of international SEO strategies and SEO standards have not changed”, but a few decided to throw in their hat and gave us an update that we can all use and implement today.
SEO Internationalization Best Practices
When we help a company take an existing brand to a new international market, there are some initial questions we ask before we establish an international SEO strategy. The core areas we focus on are:
- Business Rules
- Technical SEO
- Searcher Intent + Signals
When going international, a company rarely offers all products and services across multiple countries and languages simultaneously. One of the first things to establish with a client is which countries and languages will be included during the international expansion.
Similarly, due to business goals, resourcing, or licensing laws, there are some products or services that may not be offered in all countries. When launching in a new country one of the first questions to ask a client is: which products or services will be offered in the new market? What will not be available?
Determining which countries, languages, services, and products are all vital information in mapping out a timeline and business rules to form an international SEO strategy on things like:
- product landing pages to be created for new market
- product detail pages to be created for new market
- searcher location and language
- Currency + Checkout process (e-commerce)
Having clean technical SEO that is aligned with current best practices is still one of the cornerstones of successful internationalization. When it comes to international SEO much of what search engines are still trying to do is glean strong geo signals from your site (code, content, physical location, etc.,) and match it correctly with a searcher’s location and preferred language.
- Hreflang + X-Default
- Local Signals
- Physical Location (if possible)
Having quality translated content localized to target your new markets will create another strong signal for search engines to match the correct content to the correct users. There is more to international SEO content strategy than machine translating your existing content library, or merely converting the existing pages on your site to new languages.
- Develop a clear content strategy: Identify the types of content that will be most effective for reaching and engaging your target market and create a content calendar to ensure a consistent flow of relevant, valuable content. You may have different content calendars for your multiple markets (e.g., English – UK, English – US, Spanish – MX, Spanish – Spain, etc.)
- Localize your content: Adapt your content to the cultural and language preferences of your target market. This can include translating existing content, creating new content specifically for the target market, and adjusting the tone and style of your content to align with cultural norms. Content must not merely be machine-translated but localized by native speakers, whenever possible.
- Build a strong local presence through content: Create content that showcases your local expertise and knowledge. Establish relationships with local influencers and thought leaders to help amplify your message and increase your visibility in the target market.
Consider setting up local top-level domains if you are really going to establish a presence in a foreign market. But be careful – you will have to optimize and promote all your domains! Depending on your available resources, it might be more feasible to stick to your .com and add new languages or regions to your existing site.
- Don’t just translate your copy but truly localize it, making sure it is well-written and relevant to the local market. I work with Gabriella and her team because they are native-speaking subject matter experts.
- Partner with experienced local industry people and influencers who can help promote your business locally.
- Hire a local law firm and ensure that you operate within local regulations. For example, depending on where you do business, authorities might assess compliance with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and data privacy laws differently.
Topical Depth into Web Content
As an international SEO and marketer of over 25 years, it took me a minute to wrap my head around what has changed in search. If anything has changed, it’s how we approach the SEO process.
Semantic SEO has added more meaning and intent to the content you deliver. Using content as part of your messaging has become refined and more focused on users, therefore, it’s important for us to understand how and where we can improve without reinventing the wheel.
AI and Voice is the Future of SEO
No doubt, Google will continue to prioritize user experience and relevance in its search algorithms, which means that SEO in 2023 will require a focus on creating high-quality content that meets the needs of your target audience and provides a positive user experience across all devices and platforms. Additionally, international SEO strategies in 2023 may involve leveraging emerging technologies such as voice search and artificial intelligence to optimize content for the changing ways in which people search and interact with online content.
Now that Google has evolved to become more refined and attuned to human desires, it’s less guesswork and more strategizing. For example, the pillars of E.E.A.T (expertise, experience, authority, and trust) have become the forefront of building your online image. One can say, SEO experts have gained valuable insight on where to direct your focus to stay ahead in the SEO game.
Content Gap Analysis
Identify gaps in the market, use structured data to improve your visibility in rich snippets, and leverage social media platforms that are popular in the countries you are targeting.
It’s important to continually research and experiment with different approaches to find what works best for your specific business and target audience. Let’s not forget link building; it’s still as valuable to your readers as it is to search engines.
But, like anything in SEO, it can be abused. With the exception of ORM practices, we’ve never set out to get links for our clients; we’ve always done them naturally and organically. That’s not to say link building doesn’t work, it does. Just ask anyone who deals with search results and ranking factors. It’s just not an easy process and can be quite costly.
Markup Tags Important Today
Another thing that has not changed and is still as important today as it was 10 years ago is your markup tags like hreflang to specify different languages and intended audiences for each country. Set up a separate Webmaster account for each country you are targeting, and use geo-targeting rules to ensure your content is visible to the appropriate audience.
The good news is that Google, Yahoo!, and Bing have all jumped on board and use these tags in order to understand the intent of the content. Granted, there are many geo-specific schema tags you can leverage to strengthen the signals including company names, phone numbers, addresses and, of course, geo-coordinates, etc.
Finally, consider using geo-specific schema tags to markup content elements with structured data, such as company names, phone numbers, addresses, and geo-coordinates. By leveraging these tactics, you can improve your visibility in search engine results pages (SERPs) and better reach your international audience.
The world of SEO continues to evolve, and as marketing professionals, it is our responsibility to keep up. We hope this post has served as an informative guide to the greater discussions generated by international SEO experts in 2023 and beyond.
Content topical depth, AI, and voice search are becoming the future of SEO. Content gap analyses, business rules, and technical SEO are even stronger considerations for online businesses. We need to adjust our strategies accordingly. That is, if we want to succeed in today’s modern digital climate.
If all this seems too complex, however, rest assured that there are professionals who specialize in these areas and can provide guidance and expertise when needed. Statistics don’t lie – successful marketing is no longer an option but a necessity for businesses hoping to stay ahead in the ever-evolving digital world. Level up your game with us!