International SEO: Why It’s Important and How to Do It Successfully

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You’d be hard pressed to find a marketing department today that doesn’t prioritize SEO. But many companies don’t realize they could be missing out on new business opportunities by only targeting their SEO strategy to English speakers in the U.S.

Recent research reveals that 73.2 percent of Internet users speak languages other than English (InternetWorldStats.com). This comes just as countries in Asia-Pacific, along with Argentina, Mexico, Brazil, Russia and Italy are driving e-commerce sales growth worldwide. The data is pretty clear: To effectively compete in today’s global market, companies that have customers around the world – or multilingual customers in the U.S. – need to think about translating their websites, mobile apps and other digital content, and then optimizing each for relevant organic search ranking, traffic and conversions.

Mastering the International SEO Process

While the thought of the global SEO process can be overwhelming, it doesn’t have to be. Here’s a quick cheat sheet to help you get started down the international SEO path.

1. Conduct an initial analysis to identify your current international organic Web traffic and search status.

Before doing anything else, it’s important to identify and analyze your current international traffic by answering the question: Which countries and languages have brought more (and better) organic search visibility, traffic and conversions in the last year? Analytics tools like Google Analytics can help you easily identify this information, along with data such as which languages have been bringing not only the highest volume of traffic, but also the highest quality traffic, with the greatest number of conversions.

Once you have identified your top countries and languages, you can then analyze their traffic volume and quality, looking closely at their behavior and trends over time. Other key things to look for include: how well your content is performing by country and language, and which queries your international audience have been using to search for your services, products or content. This information will give you a snapshot of your website’s current international organic search activity.

2. Research your potential international search markets.

Next up: Identify and prioritize the most important international markets for your business. Keyword tools like Google AdWords Keyword Planner, SEMrush and keywordtool.io, which are multilingual and multi-country, can help you identify the search terms used by your audiences across the globe, as well as the number of times keywords are searched – so you can verify the potential search traffic that could be attracted by ranking in those countries. They can also help you determine the competitors – those websites already ranking for your relevant keywords – for each of your international markets.

Although these tools will help you identify how to best optimize for search, it’s important that you are also using a translation management software platform so you can easily implement the right topics, terms and phrases for each target country and language.

3. Establish an SEO-friendly website.

Now that you have a prioritized list of international markets to consider for business expansion, it’s finally time to establish an SEO-friendly website. The first step in this process is to determine the best international website structure for your business – language or country targeting.

Once you’ve selected a language- or country-targeted Web structure for each one of your international versions, the next step is to optimize them so it’s easier for search engines to identify their relevance. Web content, in addition to the overall user experience, should be optimized for your target languages/international audiences. This means translating into the proper languages and using your identified keywords. It’s also a good practice to link to and from your different language or country website versions so search engines can discover them and users can switch between them.

Competing in Today’s Global Market
Although there are many considerations that factor into a company’s ability to compete in today’s global market, translation and international SEO are among the most important. Following these basic steps will help you jumpstart your international SEO strategy and put you on the path to rapidly building your company’s global awareness.

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