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SEO 10 min read

Seize the International Market with a Global SEO Strategy That Gets Results

Natalie Yelton photo

Written by Natalie Yelton

Content Writer @ Galactic Fed

Dallin Porter photo

Expert reviewed by Dallin Porter

Marketing Director @ Galactic Fed

Published 11 Aug 2021

You are ready to go global.

Congratulations! Suppose you will be or already are selling products or services across geographical borders, aside from your company’s country of origin. In that case, you’re part of a growing global eCommerce market valued at nearly $5 trillion this year:

Retail E-Commerce sales worldwide from 2019 to 2024.

Source: eMarketer

Do your customers speak different languages? 

Are you serving customers in more than one country? 

With marketing your product or service to people worldwide comes a vital need for an international SEO strategy that will help you reach them.

You can boost organic traffic to your website, grow your international presence, and better meet your customer’s needs by creating and following a global SEO strategy. 

From optimizing your website for a global market and undertaking international keyword research to how best to target international locations, Galactic Fed presents our step-by-step guide to building a global SEO strategy. 

What is global SEO? 

Before plowing into the nitty-gritty of how to build an international SEO strategy, we think it’s worth covering the basics to ensure we are all on the same page about what precisely global SEO is and why it matters when it comes to the growth of your business. 

Global SEO is the combination of site architecture fixes, on-page tags, and content changes. These actions will ensure international search engines like Google find and index your web pages. It will also make sure visitors have a positive user experience on your website, no matter where in the world they are based or what language they speak.

The technical definition of how search engines like Google specifically handle international websites and search engine results pages (SERPs) suggests that so long as your business has one authoritative version of a website, you can potentially rank anywhere in the world.

On the other hand, your website needs to be relevant and authoritative for each region it intends to successfully reach. We’re not saying that Google got it wrong. It just means that Google hasn’t answered the question of, ‘how to I best rank in global markets.’ 

How do you get your site to rank globally? 

The answer lies in a combination of technical, design, and content-related enhancements, together with localized SEO campaigns. 

Our in-depth guide covers specific best practices to follow in order to execute a successful international SEO strategy. It’s just as essential to create and maintain localized campaigns for every version of your website that exists, or at the very least, for where you want to drive the most traffic to your site organically. 

A comprehensive international SEO campaign should carve out ample time and budget for delivering local competitive product and service research, local keyword research, user testing, conversion rate optimization (CRO,) and more. 

And remember, the work you’ve put into making your leading site successful should be mirrored in order to make any international versions just as successful too.

Who are your competitors? 

Research the type of content your competition offers, especially businesses with an established foothold in the local market you desire to expand into. Look at their URLs, the images they use, and how they position various products and services to get a sound idea of what keywords they’re currently ranking for. 

A fresh approach could help drive more organic traffic to your company’s website, and if your new content is better than the competition’s, you have a pretty good chance of outranking them.

Factor in international search engines 

Google is the largest search engine worldwide and the most well-known here in the US. In many countries, optimizing for Google alone will allow you to reach the people that matter to your business. That said, several sizable nations rely on local search engines, including:

Take a look at the search statistics in the regions you want to target to figure out which search engines need to be on your company’s radar. Several basic optimization tactics are consistent across various search engines, including focussing on quality content, but other factors can differ. For businesses wanting to have visibility on Baidu, you should create a Chinese domain and host on a Chinese server, for example. 

International keyword research 

We cannot stress enough the importance of undertaking thorough keyword research to target and engage international audiences.

Want a great place to begin? Try Google’s Keyword Planner or the Yandex Keyword Statistics Tool, for starters. Each allows you to more or less review the keywords you’re researching by country and language, which results in some insightful data to build your global SEO strategy. There are other international keyword research tools available online, too, so do shop around to find the right tools for your company’s wants and needs.

Talk like a local

Can't read, won't buy in figures.

Source: CSA Research

By using the local language, timezone, and currency together with your company’s local contact information, including addresses and phone numbers, you’re sending website visitors and search engines clear signals that they’ve come to the right place. Also, it’s worth considering cultural differences when you’re developing content and designing your web presence. Different countries and nationalities look at things like color, images, and sense of humor in very different ways.

When appropriately implemented, global SEO should remain entirely under the radar of site visitors. Instead, they should get relevant content in their native language and within their region that meets their needs quickly and easily. 

Optimized your website for a global market 

When creating websites for global markets, there are three primary website structure paths to choose from:

  • country-coded top-level domains (ccTLDs), 
  • subdomains, and 
  • Subdirectories.

This great infographic from Moz covers the pros and cons of proceeding with the different site structures available:

Pros and cons of structuring a site for international SEO.

Source: Moz

If your company wants to target a specific country, it’s probably best to go down the ccTLD route. 

Suppose you want to focus on language targeting only. A ccTLD isn’t necessary as it targets a specific geographic area and not specifically the language is spoken there. 

Your company’s best bet is to use a different internationalization technique, such as using hreflang instead of ccTLD. 

What’s hreflang and how does it affect your ranking? 

Top-notch global SEO means that your site visitors in targeted countries and spoken languages are coming to your site’s relevant country or language version. Hreflang annotations make this possible by cross-referencing pages similar in content but are meant for different audiences. It’s worth noting that incorrect hreflang implementation can seriously harm your rankings and the overall user experience of your website.

To implement hreflang tags easily and quickly, check out the Hreflang Tags Generator Tool or watch this video of Google Developer, Maile Ohye, explaining how to expand your site to more languages:

Localizing your content 

Best practice for creating content tailored for global SEO comes down to one thing - localization. When building localized content, use this checklist to ensure your content is accessible to the greatest amount of people, wherever they call home:

  • Trancreate your copy into the local language while at the same time adjusting your content so that it considers the local culture. For the best results, we recommend partnering with a native speaker who has a firm grasp of your service, product, or subject matter so you can effectively engage the local audience.
  • Complete on-page translation will ensure all of your metadata, headings, alt text, and video subtitles are automatically translatable. 
  • Don’t run the risk of relying on Google Translate. Google indeed uses state-of-the-art AI techniques, but basic tests reveal it’s a long way from concrete understanding.

International link-building 

Link building in 2021 remains one of the most important aspects of SEO, and this remains the case with international SEO. This becomes even more vital for websites structured with ccTLDs that can have multiple websites that your company needs to build backlinks to.

Link building boosts your website’s domain authority as well as helping to promote your global websites and drive powerful local referral traffic to your site. This, in turn, helps your company become more visible with search engines, nurturing brand visibility locally and supporting word-of-mouth referrals.

Gain an understanding of any cultural factors within your target market in a specific country. Consider answering the following questions when it comes time to develop your global backlink strategy:

  • Do the countries you are targeting use directories? 
  • What are they saying about businesses similar to yours? 
  • What kind of press do you want to attract? 
  • Are there any press or publications your company should avoid in a particular country? 
  • Do you know the local influencers and media that you should aim to build relationships with? 

Connect with new customers around the world to grow your business

By researching what the local competition is up to in your new market and understanding how popular local search engines can impact your visibility online, your company can ensure it reaches the people that matter in the countries you are expanding to. 

Undertake some global keyword research and explore how language and culture in your new regions can affect how you connect with your targeted audience. 

By optimizing your website for the international market, you can ensure your company meets customer needs, no matter where they are based or what language they speak. And finally, when it comes to global link-building, consider differences in referrals and influencers to set your international backlink strategy up for success.

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Natalie Yelton photo

Natalie Yelton

Content Writer @ Galactic Fed