Gaining the International Edge: SEO Tips and Tricks
One of the most beneficial features of the digital community is that there is always room for expansion. Traditional geographic borders have been ablated and you now have access to a truly global audience. Of course, the main question is whether or not you are ready to take the leap. Assuming that you wish to expand your current operations, content creation is (once again) king.
The only possible issue is that catering to an international audience requires a slightly different approach in regards to search engine optimisation. Curating quality content will require time, experience and insight. This is why the team at Textbroker has created this sure-fire guide so that you can supersede any challenges that await. Let us first look at a handful of content creation options at your disposal, as well as what strategies should be adopted at an early stage.
Creating Internationally Oriented Content: Your Basic Concerns
Assuming that you are dealing with a marketplace where English is not the primary nomenclature, you may be required to use machine translation software or the equivalent human counterpart. However, we are really only scratching the surface. There are many additional SEO intricacies that must be addressed, and naturally, this can be easier said than done.
While it is indeed important to ensure that any translation is syntactically and grammatically accurate, you will often have to address another core concept. Namely, the text in question may need to be organically adapted in order to resonate with the buyer persona of an entirely new region. This is when international SEO strategies begin to diverge from more standard techniques. Let us, therefore, delve into how you can adapt to an increasingly diverse online marketplace.
Appreciate the SEO Requirements of Different Search Engines
Most of us are at least moderately familiar with the SEO algorithms associated with Google, and a handful of business owners may even consider themselves to be experts. However, what if your firm will be listed on a foreign SERP such as Yandex (Russia) or Baidu (China)? Would it be wise to assume that the requirements are the same? This can prove to be a dangerous mistake to make.
What in the Blazes are “Hreflang” Tags?
We are already aware that Google has begun to place a growing importance upon location-specific SEO practices. It, therefore, stands to reason that this very same concern should be addressed when constructing content for a foreign market. This is when a strange type of HTML code known as “hreflang” (yes, you read that correctly) comes into play.
Simply stated, these tags are used to tell search engines which language is present on a specific page. As a result, the engine will display this result for readers who are searching in that language. As this is slightly confusing, let’s look at an example.
Imagine for a moment that a user who is located in Barcelona entered a Castilian or Catalan query that is associated with your website. If hreflang tags are present within the embedded HTML, the individual will be automatically redirected to a page that displays the associated language. Note that these very same tags can also be used to denote specific versions of a language (such as American English and UK English). If you are able to present the right content to your audience, conversion rates will obviously improve.
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Website Design Considerations
Although this may be surprising, there can be times when a website will need to be slightly modified in order to accommodate texts of different languages. This arises from the fact that certain phrases and expressions can be more verbose when translated from English. Conversely, some businesses have noted that Chinese and Japanese will take up less space than English due to the characters that are employed. In either scenario, what was once a seamless presentation may suddenly appear cramped or imbalanced.
Once you have obtained the desired text, plug it into the relevant page before the section in question goes live. You can then better appreciate how it will appear when viewed in real-time scenarios. Common web design platforms such as WordPress offer a “sandbox” feature that vastly simplifies this process.
Placing Your Content in Context with the Audience
This is a lesser-known strategy, and yet, it is just as important as the more technical aspects of international SEO. While the material in question needs to resonate with the intended reader, adapting the content to a specific region is just as critical. Here are some metrics which you will likely need to address:
- Currency conversions
- Measurements (such as inches versus centimetres)
- Time zones
- Rules and regulations of a certain country
This type of flexibility serves two purposes. First, it illustrates that you appreciate the nuances and cultural preferences associated with your target audience. Secondly, it will enable you to build a sense of authority and transparency within a highly competitive marketplace.
Local SEO Practices
Previous Textbroker Expert Centre blogs have already discussed the importance of local SEO strategies in terms of SERP rankings within major search engines. These are just as relevant when dealing with an international audience. We need to remember that well-known portals such as Google and Bing are used by billions of consumers around the world (even when accessed in a foreign language). Thus, the very same rules apply.
Local SEO boasts several advantages including:
- Your business will gain more exposure throughout the targeted region.
- Inbound traffic will increase when relevant searches are performed.
- Your online presence will be augmented.
- More specific search criteria are an excellent way to pre-qualify potential leads while weeding out more generic queries.
- It is often possible to reduce your advertising costs.
Make it a point to read our blog devoted to local SEO practices to clarify and reinforce the points mentioned above.
Examining the Competition
Expanding your marketing practices into an entirely new region can be daunting at best and downright frustrating at worst. While all of our suggestions will certainly come in handy, it is likely that you will still require additional insight. So, why not take some time in order to appreciate the approaches adopted by similar businesses?
Those who are already successful can serve as excellent examples of which tactics seem to work best with the audience in question. However, we are not talking about plagiarizing any content or violating copyright laws. Instead, we are simply stating that there is nothing wrong with gleaning a bit of much-needed inspiration when taking a foray into a rather strange marketing environment.
If you were waiting for keyword changes to be mentioned, you are to be applauded for such foresight. We already know that keywords have represented the bedrock of a solid SEO strategy since the halcyon days of the Internet. So, it makes a great deal of sense that you will need to take these phrases into account when tackling a new international marketplace. The only challenge is that coming across the right words can be slightly obtuse when dealing with an international audience. Thankfully, Search Engine Journal has highlighted these useful tools to consider:
- Ahrefs Keyword Explorer
- Keyword Tool.io
- Rank Tracker
However, there can also be times when you are dealing with a slightly different English-speaking region. This is when linguistic nuances could very well make or break your SEO campaign. For instance, Americans say “pants” while the United Kingdom prefers “trousers”. Likewise, flip-flops are associated with sandals in many English countries, yet they are known as “thongs” throughout Australia. In the latter case, it should be apparent that an innocent error could very well cause a great deal of digital consternation.
Domain Name Modifications
Domains are the digital “billboards” that have been engineered to present your products and services to the end-user. This is why suffixes have always been important if you wish to present your business in the best light. This is also why some endings are more transparent than others (examples include .com, .co.uk and .org). In the same respect, there are a handful of suffixes which can actually detract from the trustworthiness of a firm (Symantec has highlighted .biz, .country and .download as prime examples). However, what about dealing with different countries?
It is prudent to remember that many visitors will be more likely to visit a website if its domain name is linked to their unique region. This is why it is often wise to proactively modify the domain ending (such as .fr, .es and .ca) to create a sense of domestic familiarity. These are commonly known as “country code top-level domains” (ccTLDs). As some individuals are wary about browsing a website that is not immediately associated with their region, this can also be an excellent way to enjoy a higher level of inbound traffic.
Idioms, Expressions and Customs: The “Soft Side” of International SEO
Take a moment to consider these well-known expressions that will often be found within sales-oriented texts:
- Strike while the iron is hot
- Get the ball rolling
- A massive paradigm shift
- Hit the nail on the head
- In the pipeline
Although these make perfect sense to native English speakers, we need to remember that they will often lose much in translation. This is just as true when translating expressions from a foreign language back into English. Here are three rather amusing examples:
- Sin pelos en la lengua: “Without hairs on the tongue” (Spanish): To be outspoken.
- Morgenstund hat Gold im Mund: “The morning hour has gold in its mouth” (German): The early bird gets the worm.
- At-Tikraar yu’allem al- Himaar: “Repetition teaches the donkey” (Arabic): Practice makes perfect.
Therefore, it is clear that idioms should only be employed when you are completely certain that they will translate properly. This is particularly the case in terms of branding and mission statements, as you could otherwise be caught with your pants down (or Skägget i brevlådan in Swedish, which literally translates to “caught with your beard in a mailbox”).
Try to adopt this same approach regarding everyday expressions and any cultural issues that you may encounter. While this will partially depend upon the services that you are offering, it could be wise to speak with a professional who is familiar with marketing practices associated with the specific area (such as a third-party publicity agency). You can then be confident that your efforts are focused in the right direction.
Is Machine Translation Worth the Effort?
Let’s now mention the proverbial elephant in the room. Yes, we are referring to machine translation in this case. Many individuals and businesses alike employ services such as Google Translate or Collins Dictionary when adapting content for a foreign audience. The main appeal of these options is that they are free to utilise, and the results will appear within seconds. However, there are several notable pitfalls which need to be stressed including:
- Accuracy tends to suffer.
- Context will be lost.
- Idioms are often translated literally.
- File formats can be limited.
- HTML may not be able to included within the text.
- You will spend even more time addressing the errors mentioned above.
However, machine translation services (particularly those which employ advanced AI algorithms) can be useful if you wish to get the main idea of how your text will sound. It is still better to seek out other alternatives to ensure superior levels of clarity at all times. This brings us to the next obvious question. What about professional translation services?
Are Professional Firms Worth the Time?
In a word, yes. Perhaps the most beneficial aspect of outsourcing your needs to a third party is that you will be placed in contact with a native speaker. Furthermore, this individual is likely to possess a fair amount of experience with content creation. You can, therefore, rest assured that the material itself will retain its lustre even when changed into a foreign tongue. Here are some firms which have consistently proven their expertise over the years:
- LanguageLine Solutions
Let us also not fail to mention that Textbroker offers a cadre of experts at your disposal. As we have platforms in various countries, the chances are high that you will be able to contact a writer who can meet your discrete requirements.
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Constantly Gauge Your International SEO Success
Similar to standard search engine optimisation, even the most robust approaches to international SEO will need to be tweaked from time to time. This is why remaining proactive is important if you hope to keep your finger on the digital “pulse” of your audience. You can then better understand the impact of your efforts, how these techniques have resonated with the intended demographic and whether further investment is required.
The good news is that Google Analytics comes equipped with an add-on feature that allows you to create segmented reports associated with specific markets. Some of the information which can be gleaned includes:
- Bounce rates
- Conversion percentages
- The time spent on specific pages
- The number of sessions within a certain reporting period
- Which products or services are receiving the most attention
So, we can see that international SEO is not all that different from standard search engine optimisation when viewed from an analytical standpoint.
International SEO: Unfettered Connectivity Throughout the Global Community
Adapting your current SEO strategies will require a fair amount of flexibility. If you are trying to increase your nascent presence within a specific marketplace, all of the suggestions outlined above will come in handy. The digital world is your oyster, and there are few limits in regards to how far you can go. Appreciating the finer points of international search engine optimisation is the best way to ensure that you are headed in the right direction from the beginning.
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About our authorRon first arrived in Barcelona, Spain in 2007. Although initially pursuing a career in wealth management and finance, he learned that the content writing community provided the highest level of personal satisfaction while still being able to personally help clients. He has been a full-time professional writer since 2011. Some of his other interests include martial arts and bodybuilding.