As any online retailer will be well aware, SEO is vital to survival in today’s tough business environment. However, when it comes to expanding your brand overseas, it’s not quite as simple as just applying what you’ve already done to another region, as while your small business SEO may work perfectly in your native country it will not necessarily translate when applied to others.
1. Make your site work for everyone
Whilst the basic idea behind most search engines is the same, the way each one operates and the different signals used to generate the search results is different. This means that while your site may be optimised for Google in the UK, it will not necessarily rank the same on other search engines in other countries. Since the most popular search engines in your native country will not always be the most popular search engines in your target country, the SEO work you have performed will not necessarily help abroad.
Normal SEO guidelines still apply internationally however, so it’s vital to remember that the user and audience must remain at the forefront of your mind. If the required investment to generate quality local content, build links and domain authority aren’t in place then there is little point undertaking the technical small business SEO elements.
2. Get to know the local search engines
While Google might be the most popular search engine overall, with 72.48 per cent of global market share, that doesn’t mean it’s the most popular in every country. In fact there are many different regional search leaders, for example:
- China – Baidu is the country’s preferred search engine with 55 per cent of China’s search market traffic, and in a country with a population of almost 1.4 billion people, this pushes it up to number 4 in the global search engine rankings. Elsewhere the Alibaba group and its marketplaces including TaoBao and Tmall are commonly used as a top of the funnel product search engine, just as Amazon is frequently used in the UK.
- Russia – Google does have operations and is the second-largest player with 34 per cent but Yandex, the domestic Russian company leads with 58 per cent of the market.
- South Korea – Naver and Daum dominate in this hyper connected country with 77 per cent and 20 per cent of the market respectively. E-commerce is highly sophisticated in South Korea and the country is a trendsetter for countries throughout Asia including China.
3. Domain strategy
When targeting a different country or region, there are several different options available to retailers as to how their domain is listed and how their brand will appear:
- Use a .co.uk with international currency or shipping options – This allows the retailer to keep its main focus on the home market, but provide options to international buyers as well.
- Use a .com with international currency or international shipping – Just as with .co.uk sites with international options, this allows the retailer to keep its main focus on the home market, but isn’t as tied down to the UK, and can geo-target their site with greater flexibility going forward.
- Use a .com with sub-directories or folders, such as .com/fr or .com/de – Utilising sub-folders maintains and utilises your existing domain authority, but also allows geo-targeting within webmaster tools to optimise for international markets
- Use a cc TLD for major markets – Building up a new country level domain (.fr for France or .de for Germany) for a new market is the heaviest investment that a company can make, but offers the greatest level of flexibility and opportunities to optimise international offerings.
It is vital for online retailers to consider the pros and cons of each option, and understand the limits that each will put on potential expansion.
4. Keep your content relevant
When it comes to the content available on the site, there are four main factors that affect if it is deemed relevant and how high up it will rank in search engine results pages (SERPs):
- If the content relevant to what the user is searching for.
- If the site loads quickly and performs properly.
- If the content useful enough to link to, or if other authoritative sites use that website as a reference or cite the available information that’s.
- If the site provides a positive user experience – if it looks good and behaves well, is easy to navigate around and if it has a high bounce rate.
These are generally true of all search engines across the globe. As long as your site is good and trustworthy and contains relevant content, there will always be a higher chance of it rising up the rankings.
Keywords are a very important part of your small business SEO strategy – if your site is authoritative for the right terms, then it should be more successful in search results (SERPs). However, the keywords you’re using in one country may not be as relevant in another country. As part of any international expansion, retailers should research cultural and language barriers that may arise with their SEO and are preventing their brand and products from being easily found online. If no changes are made to implement international distinctions, the site may not attract a lot of attention in the target country.
Retailers may believe that websites in the English language will be in better stead than some other languages, due to the wide use of English across the world, but since over 73 per cent of users on the internet aren’t native English speakers, there are clearly still issues.
6. Who are the new entrants?
However newer search engines such as DuckDuckGo (No tracking) and Pricesearcher (Product search) all offer slightly different takes on the search experience, are rising in popularity and causing disruption to the market. It’s important to be aware of each of the search engines on the market, the unique services they offer, and how they rank sites differently, for your small business SEO strategy.
Ben Morgan, head of partnerships at Pricesearcher.
Further reading on small business SEO
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