Is your business ready for global expansion? It might be time to consider improving your international SEO so it's easier for customers in other countries to find your business.
When we think of SEO, we often think of trying to rank for the traditional U.S.-based search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo. StatCounter uses over 10 billion pageviews a month to gauge site popularity, and the company estimates that as of February 2018, those three search engines make up 99 percent of all US search traffic (with Google making up 88 percent of the whole).
However, those numbers look wildly different when we look at StatCounter's search engine usage from other countries:
- Fifty-nine percent of searchers in China use Baidu.
- Yandex sees 54 percent of Russia's search traffic
- Naver has 31 percent of South Korean search traffic
While Google is king of search in the United States, that's not always the case in every country.
Global Expansion: Going Where the People Are
There's a marketing adage that you have to go where the customers are. If your customers spend vast amounts of time on Facebook, you should probably expand your reach on Facebook.
The same is true with using your website for global expansion. If you're wanting to tap into global markets, you can't assume that people in every country are going to use U.S.-based search engines like Bing and Google. Creating language-specific versions of your website can help you become truly be effective on the web in other countries.
If you're going to get serious about online global expansion, then I suggest checking out my previous guide on setting up an international website to see whether or not it could benefit your business to set up an internationally optimized website.
Let's cover some actionable steps you can take to improve your international SEO and improve global expansion.
1. Zero in on an international audience.
If you haven't already done so, you'll need to pick an international audience.
The good news is that most site analytics software can tell you if you're getting international traffic and where it's coming from. Take a look at the top languages to see if it might make sense for expanding your business website.
If you're not sure if there is a market fit for your product in a country, Google has a helpful tool that analyzes your website and gives international market recommendations based on products and services that your site offers.
2. Cover your bases.
Now that you've picked the languages and markets you're going to target, covering the SEO basics below can help ensure that you're putting your website in the best position for global expansion with international search engines.
- On-page SEO. For each language you've created for your website, it's a good idea to brush up on the basics and best practices of your site's structure and content. Ensure that your meta descriptions, title tags and URLS are all consistent and include your main keyword you're targeting. Search engine marketing company Moz has a great primer on SEO on-page factors.
- Proper navigation. Good navigation is a universal need in a website. No matter what language your website is in, if someone can't navigate it, they'll leave. It's as simple as that. I've seen many international websites treat navigation as an afterthought, and the user experience suffers because of it.
- Language-specific meta tags. Make sure that you're using the content-language and lang meta tags to help search engines determine the language used. Mozilla's Developer Network has a helpful resource page on language meta tags.
- Create sitemaps. Sitemaps aren't crucial to your site's performance, but they're certainly helpful if you want to ensure that international search engines know what pages to index (and what to ignore). Google has a great guide on using multiple sitemaps for different languages. You can also submit these sitemaps to webmaster tools for specific search engines (more on that next).
3. Submit to search engines
After you've nailed down the basics of on-page SEO and created your sitemaps, it's a good idea to inform international search engines about your website.
In order to figure out which search engine to submit to, I'd recommend using StatCounter's search engine market share page and drilling down by region or country. Make note of the top search engines in the countries you're wanting to expand to.
Many large search engines offer something of a webmaster tools to help with submitting your website to them. Here are a few search engines that offer webmaster tools. (I'd recommend opening them in Google Chrome so that you can let the browser translate the page into English.)
You'll find that most international search engines allow you to at least submit your site to their indexes. Just do a Google search for “[search engine] submit website" and replace [search engine] with the proper name.
While Google isn't the most dominant search engine in every country, it is often in the top two. It's a good idea to set up a profile for each language-based version of your website and set the language each will be supporting in Google Webmaster tools.
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