SEO specific to one target area is hard – trying to develop and maintain a global SEO strategy is much harder! If you are trying to make one website available around the world, you could run into significant problems with your SEO, and if you aren’t very careful you will not rank particularly highly anywhere.
Google uses geo-location targeting to show users local content, so it will be much harder for you for rank highly outside your home market without putting a lot of time and effort into your website – and that isn’t even accounting for the language factor.
If you don’t have the time and money, or you think you could use it better elsewhere, our advice would be to simply focus on your home market. If, however, you think your business is ready to go global and that you will get significant returns for it, read on!
For the purposes of this article, we going to assume that you aren’t a huge multinational corporation, but rather a medium level business that can ship products or provide services all over the world. This is simply because bigger companies tend to have separate websites (and therefore SEO strategies) for different regions already, so the advice here will be less relevant.
1. Domain Names
You may have noticed that web addresses tend to differ slightly by area (for example, Australian websites end in .com.au). If you want to go global, you could simply set your domain to end in .com (or .net, .org, .edu etc.) but it would be more effective to have different versions of your site in the different countries you want to target.
If you wanted to target Australia, New Zealand and the UK, for example, you might use 3 different country coded top level domain names (ccTLDs), ending in .au, .nz and .uk respectively. When you go down this route, you will need to run an SEO campaign in each market.
Of course, the more areas you try to use this in the more likely you are to find that your domain name is already taken in one of them, and you would then have to work around this problem.
If you choose to use a general top level domain name (gTLD; ending in .com with no region suffix) then you will need to work incredibly hard on your SEO strategy to make up for the “boost” Google gives to local businesses in search rankings. It can also be harder to create relevant content for your target market if they are spread all over the world.
If you want to conduct a global SEO campaign, you will probably need to account for people speaking different languages. While we are lucky in Australia that our language is the most commonly spoken in the world, relying on everyone to be able to speak English will not get you very far if you want to target areas like Asia and South America.
Even if you feel that you can rely on some speakers of less common languages to be able to read the English version of your site (as an example, over 90% of Danes speak fluent English) you will still need versions in at least other major languages – you can generally expect people to speak at least one major global language.
You will want to have Spanish, Russian, Japanese, Chinese, French, Arabic and maybe German options if your website is going to be truly global. Combined with English, this will mean that most people in the world will be able to read your site in a language they are familiar with.
Your business is unlikely to be servicing the entire global market, however, so you should simply pick the appropriate languages for your target markets; for Australian businesses, this will usually either be Asian or Western European languages, if languages beyond English are required.
You can indicate that your website is in a non-English language in either of two ways. If you have chosen to use a ccTLD then the region indicator will normally also indicate language (and you should use the local language for each version of your site). On the other hand, you can also customise your gTLD to indicate which language the site is in.
If your English gTLD takes the form of https://www.hypothetical.com, you would indicate the French language version by using https://fr.hypothetical.com. You could choose to either have just the home page translated into French, or the entire website.
If you do have other language versions of your website, it is important not to rely on Google Translate to do it – get a speaker of both languages to do a translation. This will ensure that the page reads well in the second language, which will make your website seem more trustworthy.
3. SEO Campaigns
Once you have your website set up in the appropriate countries and in the right languages, you need to make it findable – after all, you don’t want to have gone through all that effort just for people to not see your business!
The good news is that Google is the dominant search engine in every country except for Russia (where it is the runner up), South Korea and China. This means that your SEO strategy will be very similar for each target country, so you won’t need to wrap your head around new techniques (unless you want to market in China or South Korea, in which case you will need to conduct additional research and get local help).
If you’re setting up new domain names for different regions, you will need to go through the process of starting an SEO campaign for each new website. This means that you won’t see results immediately, however if you are patient, you should start to make an impact within 6 months.
It is best to have a local SEO team for each regional site, as they will be the best acquainted with local habits and markets, as well as speaking the language best. Even in other English speaking countries like the UK and US, it would be better to use local agencies if you can afford it.
You can’t be expected to understand regional differences and demands in every foreign market you want to break into, so you will need people who do. If you want to sell sunscreen in Europe, for example, you will need to know which areas generally get sunny enough to need it and when.
Different regions will also differ in which keywords are the most competitive, so you will need to vary your targeting across different markets. This will be true if you are selecting keywords in other languages – another reason why it is better to use local SEO teams.
You will also need to maintain your SEO efforts in every market, so if you try to do it all yourself you will be left with no time to actually run your business or focus on your campaign at home.
4. PPC Advertising
The good news is that if you are using a PPC strategy like Google Adwords, it is very easy to shift your targeting to let you capture international clicks. All you have to do is to go into your current campaign and either create new keywords and target areas or simply expand your current target area. PPC will also allow you to start getting immediate results from your international expansion, while you wait for your organic SEO efforts to take effect.
Again it is better to let a local team handle your PPC campaign, especially if it is in another language; however it is easier to manage this element yourself than the rest of the SEO strategy. If your business is shipping board shorts, for example, then the keyword “board shorts shipped to me” will be appropriate for PPC in every English speaking country.
PPC in other languages will be harder, because you will need to understand idioms and get your grammatical structures right. This can be done with the help of someone here in Australia, if you don’t want to get your overseas SEO team to manage this element of your business.
Conducting a global SEO campaign is both expensive and time consuming, so you should only really consider it if you both have enough spare money to do it properly and are confident that it will pay off. You will also need to make sure that there is room in your target market for your brand.
The best way to go is also the most expensive and time consuming, namely setting up different websites for each country you want to reach with your campaign. You will need to conduct a local SEO campaign for each individual website, which will mean that it is best to go through local experts.
You will also need access to people who speak the languages of your targets, in order to produce the most appropriate local content. If you go with one gTLD to try and target your global audience, you will at least need to offer good translations of it in common languages.
If you use ccTLD’s you should use the local language for each website – and provide options where there is more than one local language. This will be very hard for you to do without help.
On the brighter side, SEO and PPC techniques are very similar all over the world, so you should easily be able to understand the reports your SEO agents give you, and you will be able to keep track of what they are doing.
A global SEO campaign is a high risk, high investment venture – but if it pays off, you will do very well out of the process and grow your brand enormously.
Are you thinking of expanding your business globally? Did these tips give you something to think about before you make your final decision? Let us know in the comments below. We would love to hear what you think and how you plan to take your business global!
Charlotte is a digital marketing and communications practitioner working in our Sydney office. She takes on a range of roles relating to SEO and has a keen interest in studying the SEO industry and its future direction, particularly in relation to content marketing. Charlotte takes her writing very seriously and always seeks ensure the content she produces is of a high standard of quality.