Marketing for local SEO is something most marketers and designers are familiar with. From knowing which parameters to use for social media campaigns to reaching out with terms targeted to a local audience, it is a simple matter of reaching a specific demographic in a specific area.
However, when enhancing SEO for international audiences, there are a number of other factors involved. International SEO means knowing which countries a particular business wishes to reach ad optimizing elements that will allow the website to rank well in searches conducted by people in those areas.
Customize for Each Market
One of the key elements to successfully optimizing for different countries is to customize for each market type. This involves understanding your audience and the area that you are targeting. For example, creating content that readers in China want to click on versus content that readers in Mexico want to click on may be two very different sets of information. There is far more than a language barrier in optimizing SEO. You also need some very specific user personas for each group you’d like to potentially reach with a website.
Keywords Still Matter
Even though they may not matter quite as much as they once did, keywords are still an effective tool to reach out to potential site visitors. After all, these web users have to search for information in some way and they do that through keywords. The key with international SEO tactics is to conduct keyword research that is localized to the area you’d like to target. If you are not familiar with a language, you’ll want to hire a translator and SEO expert to conduct this research for you.
It is important that you use an extension for the country you wish to reach. Geolocation is set based on domain extensions. So, a simple .com or one of the newer premium domains they’ve released isn’t enough. For example, search engines understand that if you use “co.uk” as your extension that you are targeting people in the United Kingdom. Use this type of feature to your advantage. If you don’t want to purchase separate domain names, you can also use Google’s Webmaster Tools to set geolocation for a specific directory on your site. So, you could create a site under http://www.mysite.com/uk and tell Google this folder should be geo targeted for Great Britain.
Your first step, of course, should be to convert your site into the language of the area you’re targeting. This includes translating any navigation buttons, pop ups, and every bit of text on the site. You’ll even want to convert the alt tags. Sites like Worldwide Supply know this and have implemented a “switch language” option in their nav bar to cater to their international audience.
Next, you’ll want to indicate that your site is translated for these languages in the hreflang or meta tags in your site’s header.
Another indicator to search engines and to people visiting your site can include which sites you link to and which ones link back to you. Let’s say you are creating a site for French speaking people. You’ve translated everything into French and indicated in the hreflang tag that the site is in French. Now, you should seek out local businesses that are related to your site and link to them and ask them if they’d like to link back. While some international businesses and links are fine, if you really want to reach those in a given area, you’ll need some local links to gain traction.
While Facebook and Twitter might work great for promoting your US based website, other countries have different social networks that are more popular. In China, Ren Ren is the number one site used for social networking. It is similar to Facebook. In Japan, the most popular social network is Mixi; and in Russia it is Vkontakte.
Do some research and figure out which social networking site will work best to promote your site in that particular language.The goal is also to get people to share your posts with one another, thus expanding your reach even further in that particular location.
Connect with Your Audience
There is so much content on the Internet these days that it is vital for a website to connect with users. Only by doing so will you gain loyal followers and fans. However, connecting with an audience in a different country isn’t as easy as it sounds. While the Internet has made the world smaller in terms of being able to reach anyone around the globe who is online, that doesn’t mean you’ll automatically understand the values and interests of someone in another country.
Carefully developed user personas can help you reach out to you audience better. You may want to consult with someone who is from the area to find out some of the wording used, specific things they love about the area, and ways you can reach out to that target demographic.