There's a major gap in understanding the nuances of international SEO and how it can impact a company's global digital strategy. International SEO considerations go much further than website domain structures, such as country code Top Level Domains, subdomains and subdirectories.
It's known that the keys to great search engine results pages (SERP) include outstanding content, a superb user experience and a mission to write with humans—not search engines—in mind. But how do those best practices apply when companies localize their websites for global customers, or look for ways to improve the performance of their existing localized sites? Many companies expect their localized websites to rank highly from day one. But that's not what happens. Here are five key reasons why they don't perform at the scale that organizations may anticipate.
1. Weak Domain Authority
A company's brand might be a leader in its flagship market, but is often practically unknown in its new markets. This happens when an organization presents its content on a topic for the first time in a different language.
They're essentially the new kid on the block again. While leveraging branded keywords are a big key to success in its flagship market, that strategy is not very helpful here. Companies must build authority in different ways for the different languages.
2. Lack of Guidance for Search Engines
Another SEO best practice is providing search engines with helpful information to ensure that users enjoy the best possible online experience. This applies to international SEO, too. Without that information, customers may not receive the proper localized website in their search results.
One of these signals is the hreflang attribute. It gives Google and Yandex useful data about the languages a company's websites is published in, and the markets they serve. That's a big deal. This information can quickly direct global customers to websites they can understand and do business on.
Organizations can also accomplish this by using resources like Google's search console, or Bing, Yandex and Baidu webmaster tools.
3. Ineffective Use of Keywords
A localized website's translation quality is another important factor. Achieving new-market domain and page authority is difficult if a company doesn't use locally preferred keywords and terminology.
The depth of a website's content is another important consideration. Organizations usually choose to not translate content-heavy site sections such as blogs and FAQs. While it's true that the cost of translating this content can be high, localizing its SEO-rich assets actually helps build domain authority.
Another upside to translating that material: It's full of authoritative content. That can also generate a lift in search results—and just might be worth the cost of localizing this content.
4. Local Signal Shortfall
Local marketing teams should be tasked with creating an attractive local online presence. There are elements to this process that companies can control, such as providing the right local organizational schema. But other elements may require more work, such as generating links from local publications and third-party websites.
Further, inbound link strategies—a common best practice in flagship markets—are often an afterthought or downright overlooked for international markets. Any company can work on this approach to gain an edge.
5. Looking in the Wrong Place
International SEO is a different beast because an organization must regularly deal with different languages, different customer behaviors and different search engines.
For instance, if a firm is launching a localized site to serve South Korea, it would be a mistake to limit thinking to Google. Instead, the company should also consider the market's locally preferred search engine, Naver.
And it would make sense to pay special attention to the site's mobile experience in South Korea, due to that country's stratospheric smartphone adoption and usage rates.
Companies can no longer ignore the astonishing growth happening online in emerging markets. Embracing SEO best practices can help your global websites rank well in local search, and deliver the user experience your international customers expect.