The Basics Of International SEO

Would you like to reach out to an international audience and expand your business’s Web presence? If so, an international SEO process might offer a scalable and cost-effective way to grow and reach your desired foreign target market.

But, what are the additional elements you need to take into consideration for a successful international SEO process? It’s important to understand what it takes in order to effectively plan your resources and actions with the required time and scope.

The basics

Most companies based in the United States focus on SEO on one or more of three levels: global, regional and local. At each level geographically specific keywords can be added to a company’s focus in order to optimize a website for terms that are more relevant to one’s business. A dentist in New York, for example, would be wasting time and money optimizing her website for a generic term like “dentist” because it’s hyper-competitive, and even if she could rank well for that term and drive traffic to her site, most of the traffic would be useless, as only people in the New York area would be willing to use her services.

For a business with wider geographical reach, the focus might be on multiple metro areas, or multiple states. Within the U.S., targeting customers who live a few hours distances from each other in states is a fairly straightforward matter. But outside the U.S., with its relatively homogenous population, targeting customers who live a few hours travel from each other can become a more complicated matter because instead of living in different states, these customers live in different countries, with different languages, cultures, and infrastructure. While international SEO can become quite complicated, here are some basics to take into consideration.

Different languages, different target audiences

It might seem obvious that one needs to communicate with customers in their native language, but it can sometimes be challenging to know how to best go about this. Whatever you do, don’t put your website’s text into Google Translate and then slap that up on your foreign language website. The results will be bad for your visitors, not to mention your SEO efforts. Hiring your nephew who participated in a study abroad program in Peru for a summer and “learned some Spanish” isn’t good enough either. One can find professional language translators on websites like oDesk, but quality and price can vary greatly.

Domain names

It’s easier to manage one website rather than 10. But having separate domain names for each country is the best way to go when it comes to international SEO. Think of it as an opportunity rather than a challenge. The fact it’s difficult gives you an advantage if you go this direction. Check out a provider like Namecheap if you need a good international registrar service.

Get local hosting

Hosting your website on the opposite side of the world from the country you’re targeting can have negative effects. Not only can it impact SEO results, but nobody wants to wait while your website is traveling 12,000 miles instead of loading instantly. Ideally, find a web hosting company that has a datacenter within the country you are targeting. The second best option is to find a web hosting company in a neighboring country.

Think big

With 300 million inhabitants the U.S. is a large consumer market, but companies that only target a U.S. audience are missing the larger opportunity. Asia-Pacific’s middle class stands at roughly 550 million today, and is expected to grow to over 3 billion by 2030 when it will represent two thirds of the world’s middle class population. This, combined with the introduction of low cost smartphones, will give billions access to the Internet. SEO results take time. If you want a piece of the ever growing pie represented by this new middle class, you’re better off engaging in international SEO sooner, rather than later.

As you have seen, the basics of international SEO goes beyond just translating the content of your site. It’s a full SEO process that needs research and analysis to select the best way to target your international audience and then correctly implement the targeting, taking your own business, technical and content characteristics, and restrictions into consideration. Otherwise, it would be difficult to achieve your international SEO goals.

This is a guest blog by David Amundsen of Omega Media AS, a norwegian web development and SEO company, specializing in what norwegians call søkemotoroptimalisering (search engine optimization).