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SEO Across Borders

Published: November 22, 2011

Author: 3Q/DEPT

The business of SEO has evolved over the past few years to become an essential marketing tool for companies of all sizes. As the global marketplace begins to rely more on Internet marketing, creating an international SEO plan can increase your company’s exposure in new markets, reach out to customers, and give your business an edge—and in Internet marketing, ranking high on a popular search page is the first and most important part of the battle.
But international SEO isn’t simply a matter of placing keywords in a variety of languages; practicing effective SEO requires knowing how to engage your audience and point them to what they’re searching for. Because meanings can get lost in translation, investing both in partners who know the languages of your international markets is a critical element of succeeding with international SEO. Finally, your marketing strategy must take cultural differences into account, which means your content must be crafted carefully. Getting started in international SEO requires building a stable foundation on which to build your online marketing plan. The following steps will start you in the right direction:

Choosing the right search engine

Google’s search engine is king in most of the world, but other search engines might have a larger market share in other countries. Researching which search engines users prefer most to search for your products should be your first step when crafting an international SEO plan; your potential customers won’t look for you if you don’t meet them where they live.

Evaluating your CMS

Launching an international SEO campaign will also require you to have a strong and flexible IT structure. Your content management system (CMS) may need to be reworked or upgraded to handle the new TLDs (top-level domains) and subdomains. Research what you and your company need to register TLDs in your countries of choice, as well as what kind of hardware and software you’ll need to satisfy each country’s requirements.

TLDs and site structure

A TLD (top-level domain) is the domain at the highest level of Internet domain systems. Having a .com domain is acceptable for many English-speaking sites, but using a TLD for each country you’re marketing in (for instance, .fr for France, .jp for Japan) gives you the advantage of being relevant to users in that country and showing a desire to engage directly with its users. A user in Spain searching for shoes might be more likely to go to a site with an .es TLD than a .com TLD, because a site with a Spanish TLD is more relevant to him. If reaching users where they are on the Internet is the first step of international SEO, providing them with relevant and country-specific information is the second step.

Knowing the language (really)

Providing region-specific information will require writing copy in that country’s language—and writing it well. Your three semesters of German won’t help here; you’ll need writers who can speak, write, and communicate clearly in the language of the country you’re targeting. This will be particularly important if you decide to launch an email marketing campaign in another country; you don’t want to risk a confusing or embarrassing translation. Finally, paying attention to regional dialects can help you target audiences more easily – just as there are dialects of English across the English-speaking world, languages like Spanish, Chinese and Arabic have dozens of variations.
These are only a few of the steps your business will need to take before launching an international SEO campaign—just as “monolingual” SEO demands constant monitoring of keywords and rankings, you’ll need to do that and more for your international SEO campaign to be successful. Creating a plan that offers your services to an international audience can be one of the best steps your company takes—but getting it right means doing research and finding out what your new audiences need. As in any marketing campaign, giving the people what they want has to be your first priority.
Joseph Baker
– Questions? Comments? Email us at blog at ppcassociates dot com.

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