If your business is looking to expand overseas you’re likely to need a presence online in your target markets in order to build the brand there and get sales or leads. It’s not as simple though in the digital world as it would appear. Sure, your site is accessible from most countries via just a hyperlink but what about without the link? Google is likely to be where the potential new customer will come from.
In this post I’ll give you some idea of the areas of your site to concentrate on when going international from an SEO perspective. I’ll break it down into 3 main areas:
- On-Page SEO = What the User sees and Google reads.
- Technical SEO = How the Search Engine robot digests the site.
- Off-Page SEO = Who points links and mentions to the site.
It stands to reason that if you opened premises up overseas you’d be expected to have all the signage and packaging etc in that country’s language. The same goes for the website. Your potential customers are likely to be searching in their native language and therefore translated page content is a necessity.
Google Translate is a good start but there is no comparison for properly translated copy that utilises those little nuances in other languages that the tools miss. Ensuring that this content is found on it’s own page is also important as it then gives the search engine something to crawl & then rank. – Page Titles and Meta Descriptions would also then need translation too!
Whilst a search engine cannot read an image and understand what it is (YET) uploading the images to the site and tagging them in the alternate languages is an additional relevance signal to the robots. These three elements are:
- Uploading with a relevant file name like “house.jpg” for UK and “haus.jpg” for German audiences
- Adding an image Title Tag in that language like “A big House” in the UK and “Ein Großes Haus” in German.
- Adding an image Alt Tag in that language like “A picture of a big House” in the UK and “Ein Bild von einem großen Haus” in German.
It stands to reason that any links within your page’s body copy that point to other internal pages. It’s a great way to cultivate internal relevance and help the robots find more pages on the site. When you create translated pages it is therefore important to ensure that those relevant internal links are then pointed to their translated alternative.
Nice and simple one here really, if you have an address for the business in the overseas locations then you need to ensure that this address is visible on the alternate language versions.
As with all SEO endeavours content is a key element of success and one of the best ways to drive increased rankings you need fresh, relevant and unique content. Blogging is the most sensible way to go about this and as with the page copy, you’ll need an alternate language version targeting the audience in your other target markets.
Getting in at the technical deep end here, if your site has alternate language pages then you absolutely need to have the appropriate hreflang tags in the <head> of the pages. Essentially these are tags that the robot sees and they direct it to the alternate language versions whilst telling it that it is an alternate for that language. This means that there is no risk of any kind of content duplication issues & you’re waving a flag to the robot telling it these pages are for those specific countries.
Site speed is an important factor for success in both SEO rankings and driving the user to convert. To that end, less distance between your site’s server and the end user and your load time will be a little quicker. Where possible, use a local server for you site in other countries.
Content Delivery Network (CDN)
Similar to the above and potentially a lot easier to implement is to utilise a CDN. In principle, a CDN stores all of your site’s static files like images and style sheets in the cloud and serves the user a version that is closest to them. Ultimately both a CDN and multiple servers have their advantages and disadvantages but from an SEO perspective both are good options.
Backlinks and Mentions from Local TLDs
A final area to tackle is the Off-Page aspect of the international SEO and this has lots of opportunities for local growth for your website. When you’re based in the UK you’re more likely to have links and mentions of the business from .co.uk or .uk (or local) Top Level Domains (TLDs). As you’re setting out into other markets then it’s important to get those links and mentions from the appropriate TLD like .de or .fr for Germany and France. This is something that needs to be done with care however as with all SEO, there is the possibility to ‘over-do it’ and cause issues.
Expanding any business is an exciting time, expanding overseas is an incredible kind of excitement, especially when you’re also tackling the online needs too. Hopefully this article has given you a good idea of some of the areas that will need review when moving overseas.
Please feel free to ask any questions in the comments or get in touch directly.
Chris Simmance – Director at Optus Digital Ltd
Chris is the Owner and Founder of Optus Digital Ltd, a full service Digital Marketing agency based in London. He has been working on websites since the late 90’s and in Digital Marketing for the last 5 years.
Chris loves the technical side of SEO and enjoys working on paid advertising campaigns that grow businesses. With a dedication to geekery Chris has or has had nearly every new gadget out there with no plans to quash his gadget habit.
Chris has worked with major brands such as Three Mobile & Tesco Bank to improve their online performance.