Expanding your online brand globally can be a scary thing to do. The international market is so immense that it seems impossible that your small online company will ever make a breakthrough. While things like establishing a strong brand identity and marketing on a global scale will certainly help your company make waves in new markets, the truth is that this is not enough.
The best way to guarantee that your business experiences success during international expansion is to have a smart, strategic global SEO plan in place to get your brand name in front of the most ideal sets of eyes.
Global SEO is a little bit of a different ballgame than local SEO for a few reasons. Local SEO is more targeted to a specific region, such as a city, state, or general population area, so it typically focuses on utilizing keywords specific to that market. Obviously, international SEO deals with audiences on a far larger scale – so the competition is even fiercer. Since an online business is not limited physically to a storefront, its audience base is not limited either, so ranking highly among your global competitors has to be a top priority.
It is easy to make a small simple mistake that has a huge negative impact on your efforts. In order to build a strong international brand, there are some key global strategies to keep in mind. Let’s talk about three of the big ones.
1. Make Sure Your Translation and Localization Efforts Are Accurate
One of the largest hurdles that stands in your way between your business and global customers is obviously the language barrier. If your company plans to expand to major markets, the website and SEO keywords will need to be translated into different languages.
Translating your content is necessary, but the quality of your translation is imperative to maintain a good brand and make the most of your SEO efforts. This is why using an automated translation tool is not always the best idea; for it can easily tweak the meaning of your words and phrases and often creates grammatical errors that could hurt your brand’s image.
In this day and age of the COVID 19 pandemic, translation is far more important as virtually everybody online will be referencing it in one form or another. In the case of medical translation, much the same way as in online marketing through translation services, the accuracy of the translation must be perfect. Using a professional translation service may add a small cost to your globalization efforts, but it’s not something that you can ignore. Also, try not to cut corners by using Google Translate as it doesn’t really provide accurate translations. If you’re having doubts, a professional translator can easily check translations and improve the quality of your documents as they are experienced language specialists. The quality of your translations speaks greatly, or in this case, poorly about your brand. In the case of medical translation, personal risk increases, but in the case of translation services for your website, your business suffers just as many risks.
Also, a better option would be to go with a translator or global translator service, especially one that lives in the area you are intending to target. There are numerous freelancer sites available that offer these sorts of services for a fairly low cost, and by going with a native speaker, you can be sure that your translations are error-free.
Now, your next decision to make will depend on the structure of the global website you decide to go with. There are three main categories here: ccTLDs, subdirectories, and subdomains.
A ccTLD involves creating an entirely different website for each country. While this is an expensive and time-consuming option, it does perform best with SEO.
Subdirectories allow customers to choose their region when they arrive on your main website. This is a little bit weaker in terms of SEO rankings, but it is easier to create and maintain than a ccTLD.
The final option is having a subdomain, which breaks your website into regional “categories,” so to speak. This can potentially hurt your domain authority, but it does make it easy for customers to select their preferred language. Each option comes with its own list of pros and cons, so you will need to sit down and decide the structure that will work best for your visitors.
Once your entire website is compatible with a region’s language, you will need to take the additional step of localizing it to specific locations that fall into that language group. For instance, if your company is expanding to South America, it will obviously need to translate its website into Spanish. However, the website and SEO keywords must then be further optimized for markets within this group, such as Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, and so on.
This involves using a combination of global and local SEO. As you go through your new international keywords, pay attention to the trends and phrases that are used throughout different regions in your global market. Some countries have different dialects and ways of phrasing things, so as always, do your research beforehand and pay attention to local trends.
2. Pay Attention to Global UX
Building a user-friendly website for a market that you understand well is quite difficult; but creating one for a global audience is an even greater challenge. While some obvious UX preferences are universal, different countries have different expectations when it comes to the design, layout, and usability of the e-commerce websites they choose to interact with.
According to Adobe’s report, North American, European, and Asian Pacific markets all have slightly different priorities when it comes to the UX of the website. For instance, American customers want a more valuable, fun, and exciting experience. Europeans prefer a UX that is easy to understand, while Asian Pacific markets care more about speed and safety.
As you optimize your website for new audiences, pay attention to the kind of UX that your global websites are creating. You may need to tweak the layouts and features to provide a better experience for individual audiences depending on their motivations and preferences.
Of course, there are other, more practical, UX details to keep in mind as you optimize your site for global customers, too. Be sure that your international website hosting platform is able to accommodate for currency conversions and offer accurate shipping rates and estimates. Another important factor to pay attention to is the global loading speed of your website. The further away a customer is from your website’s main server, the slower it will load. Therefore, your best option would be to partner with a CDN (content delivery network) that caches your website in server networks around the globe for quicker loading.
3. Understand the Ins and Outs of Hreflang
Essentially, hreflang deals with the coding side of international optimization. Hreflang tags signal to search engines that multiple variations of a webpage exist; so, by including the proper location or language tag, the customer will be automatically routed to the version that is most relevant to them.
If you are not familiar with hreflang, or simply don’t understand it fully, you are not alone. 75% of globally optimized websites contained at least one hreflang error, a mistake that could negatively impact traffic and rankings. The majority of these issues come from a missing or incorrect hreflang tag within a page source code, though other issues like wrong country or language codes or internal linking errors are common as well.
Obviously, it is easy to make a mistake here. Just one wrong letter or a misplaced dash could render the tag irrelevant and lead to errors that hurt your SEO efforts. Google offers several tools that will check your website for these common errors, as well as resources to modify and generate hreflang tags that contain issues.
Building an internationally recognized online brand is an exciting – yet intimidating – task. Thankfully, in today’s highly connected world, it is possible for your website to reach customers all over the globe, if you are smart about your strategies.
SEO is going to play a crucial role in the traffic and visibility that your online business receives, especially in the beginning stages where your brand name is not highly recognized. There are lots of factors to consider as you venture towards international expansion, but if you plan things out correctly from the start, the challenge will be a whole lot easier – especially for SEO.
About the Author!
Manish Dudharejia, is the President and Founder of E2M Solutions Inc, a San Diego Based Digital Agency that specializes in White Label Services for Website Design & Development and eCommerce SEO. With over 10 years of experience in the Technology and Digital Marketing industry, he is passionate about helping online businesses to take their branding to the next level.