4 Steps to Optimize Your Website for International SEO

International SEO
August 18, 2022

The best advice for content marketers comes from former longtime Google Head of Search Quality Matt Cutts.

To paraphrase, he said not to worry about what Google wants, but to worry about providing the best end-user experience, and Google will reward you.

This is an oversimplification of a very complicated strategy, but one that should still be every SEO marketer’s North Star as it relates to SEO success.

While there are several technical aspects to consider when taking your website international, we will focus on the elements that are end-user facing and will have a significant impact on your overall performance.

Step 1: Perform a Source Site Audit

Ok, I know that this does fall a bit more on the technical side of SEO, but it is a fundamental step in the process. Take this as an opportunity to reset and ensure that any potential gaps are addressed.

In many cases, it’s safe to assume that existing gaps on your source site will carry over to foreign language versions. However, an independent third-party review should identify those gaps and provide a detailed roadmap to improve performance in those areas.

Step 2: Learn the Relevant Search Engines

To say that Google is the big bully on the block for international SEO would be an understatement. According to multiple sources, Google has roughly 92% of the global search market.

That being said, there are still markets where Google is not the primary search engine. Baidu in China, Yandex in Russia, and Naver in South Korea are some key examples.

There are several best practices that translate from Google to these search engines. However, these engines have very specific nuances. It’s critical that you work with a team that understands these practices and has a proven record of executing an effective strategy on these search engines.

Step 3: Use Native-Speaking SEO Experts

As basic as it sounds, quality keyword research can be the linchpin for international SEO success.

It’s important to do keyword research for every step of your end-user’s journey, targeting both high volume keywords and high converting keywords.

This research needs to be done by an in-market expert who is well-versed in the nuances of how the local market searches. They should also understand the overall best practices of the specific search engines.

The true value of keyword research is how you use it.

For many companies, the services/products do not vary much from country to country—though there are exceptions, of course—and many companies feel the temptation to simply translate this content.  This is where we go back to Matt Cutts’s motto and think about creating a great end-user experience.

Demonstrating that you understand what the local market is looking for and adapting your messaging accordingly will not only help you get found online, but also grow your customer base. This is where utilizing an in-market SEO expert is important. They can help adapt current website content and develop an ongoing content strategy to allow for a higher level of success than simple translation alone.

Step 4: Gain a Solid Understanding of Competitors

The importance of thorough competitor research cannot be understated.

As you enter new markets, having a solid grasp on the competition will help shorten the learning curve. A complete competitor analysis will allow you get a solid understanding of areas where they have had success, potential gaps in their strategy, and potential gaps within the market.

Specific takeaways that you should expect from a competitive analysis include:

  • Exact list of your direct competition
  • Content ideas
  • Specific, market-relevant websites that the competition links to
  • Additional keywords to target
  • Overall gap opportunities

As with anything digital, there is no such thing as strategy that is 100% replicable for every situation without requiring any adaptation. A digital strategy needs to be bespoke while leaning on sound fundamentals and proven models. This why working with a digital agency that is both flexible and has proven international SEO success is important.

Did we mention that this is something we could help with? To learn more about TPT Digital and speak to one of our experts, contact us at tptdigital@transperfect.com.

Brian Hansen, TPT Digital