As the world’s shoppers move online, an exciting global market is forming which is more accessible than ever before. Ten years ago, expanding into a new national market meant huge start-up costs for marketing, research and new offices. This kept foreign markets out the reach of most small and medium sized businesses. Today, the world is up for grabs for any retailer who can secure a 1st page rank for relevant keywords on a target country’s search engine results page.
And what an opportunity it is – especially in the UK, where internet users represent only 2.5% of internet users worldwide and 20% of English speaking internet users in the world, according to internetworldstats.com . With so much to gain, it is hardly surprising to see market leaders roll out their international SEO strategies at break-neck speeds. Only 5 days into 2011 Wal-Mart has already announced plans for online expansion to Latin America and China.
But fear not – first page ranks are not for giants only and with careful planning, market expertise and creative SEO, millions of top spots are still very much to play for. However, these great opportunities are rapidly driving up competition and companies need more expertise than ever before to fight their way to the top.
There is lots of great advice on SEO blogs about major International SEO principles such as Top Level Domains vs Subdomains, Geo – targeting using Webmaster Tools, local link building, server hosting and content duplication. However, in this post, I will touch on 3 points which are sometimes overlooked before businesses go global:
1. Formatting Content: In order to avoid duplication penalties, a website’s contents must be unique. Not only should text, images and features which appeal to national users but it should also be formatted in a way which makes it effortless to consume. This might involve changing spellings, currencies, sizes or date formats. It may also mean changing national contact information and outlining country-specific delivery options. Importantly, webmasters will should develop separate keyword models for each national market reflecting each country’s unique terminology, syntax and market trends. Where possible, it would also be valuable to generate reviews from users in the target country or relate content to local topical news stories.
2. Investing in Language: Multilingual expansion can be daunting. As a result, webmasters who fear high costs and confusing language barriers may be tempted to invest in half-measures, building national sites with a homepage in a foreign language, but contents in English. According to common Sense Advisory, this is a missed opportunity as 56.2% of online consumers say that the ability to obtain information in their own language was more important than price.
3.Investing in SEO Audits: As webmasters prepare to replicate their basic sites into several international versions, they may worry about the spiralling size and complexity of their project – they would be right. As the number of web pages multiplies, a small problem or missed opportunity might suddenly become a monumental task, which needs to be fixed across several national sites. That is why it is worth investing time and money in the mother site before growth begins. The best way to ensure a fully optimized master copy is to invest in a thorough SEO audit, which checks that the site is running smoothly, structured in a spider- friendly way, and fulfilling every pixel of its SEO potential.