How to optimize your content strategy for international SEO

Best Practices

Is your brand ready to take on the world? Your focus on international SEO (or lack thereof) can help or hinder your international strategy, respectively. While a large portion of international SEO is related to technical details (URL structures, hreflang, tech stacks, and more), you still need to consistently publish quality content as part of a larger, comprehensive content strategy designed to boost your international presence. Here are some tips and global content best practices to help you optimized your content efforts for a global audience.

What is international SEO and why do I need it?

International SEO is the process of optimizing your website and marketing content for an international audience. It will help your business not only to be seen but also to grow in your target markets.

SEO is the backbone of content marketing, regardless if your content is targeting one language/region or more. But if you’re looking to expand into new markets, then investing your time and energy into international SEO becomes essential. It will be your business’s secret weapon to ensure your content efforts will bring visibility to your brand in your target markets and resonate with each local audience.

How can SEO-optimized content help you achieve your international goals?

It’s possible for your brand to build a solid global reputation through a performance-driven digital strategy, and we all know content is a key piece of the puzzle. Here are some ways to get started in the world of international SEO.

Conduct thorough research of target markets

You don’t need to target the whole world. In fact, you don’t want to. Maintaining a narrow focus on a few specific regions can help maximize your chances for a successful global presence.

However, diving into new markets without a well-thought-out plan is a recipe for disaster, and possibly even failure. This is where research comes in. It’s the best way to know where to (geographically) go.

Your website analytics are your friend here. Where is your traffic coming from? Maybe you are a U.K.-based company and notice a significant amount of your traffic is coming from France. In this case, you might think about localizing your website content into French. This opens up the entire French-speaking market to you, creating a wealth of opportunity.

And if you never thought of it this way, SEO keyword research tools can actually also lend a helping hand in this research. By looking at the keywords related to your products or services and how they’re performing in those regions, can help you assess demand (search volume) or identify potential competitors (what websites are already ranking well in those categories).

Identify your most relevant keywords for each target market

Once you’ve decided on your target markets, from there you can decide how to best speak to that audience. Consumers in Japan may not have the same concerns as those who reside in Australia, for example. In fact, since those cultures are so vastly different, they will likely have vastly different needs. And research is the best way to determine what those different needs are.

You don’t necessarily want to market the same products or services across the board. Market research helps you determine what your target audience is looking for, what their pain points are, and how you can help solve their problems. And thus, which will be your high priority keywords and content topics to base your localized content strategy on.

Localize your content to personalize the customer experience to specific markets

Your audience needs and wants to feel like you understand their specific goals and pain points when speaking to them. Personalization is becoming more and more important for buyers of any kind, and there’s no better way to do that for international content than localization. Transcreation will be your global content’s BFF here!

Your brand’s website, marketing campaigns, and general messaging will need to be localized for each specific market’s audience, as a directly translated message may miss the mark. It’s not until your brand messaging is localized that it can be personalized. Think of it as your first step to speaking directly to your customers.

Make sure your multilingual SEO is on-point

A key factor in your global efforts is multilingual SEO. As previously stated, you can’t rely solely on machine translation (which is how Google translates websites) to reach your intended audience. Attention to detail, down to the specific keywords you use in your content, matters.

Using a search term based on its popularity in your content, then directly translating that search term laterally into another language can be a mistake. For example, a Portuguese fashion brand may decide, based on their research, that they want to use certain keywords to gain more traffic. These same keywords translated into German, however, might not have the same effect.

Best practices dictate that you do the keyword research separately for each language. For our hypothetical Portuguese fashion brand, the keywords would look like this:

Portugal

Search Volume

Germany

Search Volume on relative scale

vestidos (dresses)

100 (reference)

damen kleid (lady's dress)

100 (reference)

vestido de noiva (wedding dress)

75%

kleider (dresses)

89%

vestido branco (white dress)

57%

kleid schwarz (dress, black)

63%

vestido preto (black dress)

45%

kleid mädchen (dress, girl)

58%

vestido festa (evening dress)

31%

kleid weiß (dress, white)

55%

 

Notice how they are different? If you only optimized for the keyword “dresses” in both languages, you would miss a significant amount of traffic coming from your German audience. This is why independent keyword research for each language is imperative.

To accomplish your goal, you’ll need translators who are also subject matter experts and familiar with all the cultural nuances of each locale. And if you don’t have that in house, finding the right partner can help.

So there you have it: your first glimpse into setting your brand up for a successful journey into international waters!

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