It's no longer enough to simply target local geographical markets. While everyone is talking about the importance of local SEO--and rightly so--few are discussing the opposite end of the spectrum: international SEO. Despite the fact that it's rarely mentioned, it's extremely important. Are you familiar with international SEO--and do you know how to optimize your pages so they're searchable on a global scale? Let's dive into this issue in an attempt to expand your knowledge regarding international SEO and how it relates to your business.

Start with the Target Language

You'll obviously want to start with language, as this is the primary factor when it comes to international traffic. The easiest solution to making your site searchable is to create localized content to target all languages you're interested in reaching. Even if you think most of your international customers speak English, you shouldn't assume they want to shop your website in English. Most international consumers prefer to make purchases from websites that offer content in their primary language.

According to a Common Sense Advisory research study, 30 percent of respondents never purchase from English language sites. Another 29 percent very rarely do. That means 59 percent of global consumers will likely never make a purchase from your website if it's English only.

"Considering the data from our survey, there should be no question about localizing your website and product information if you want to sell more goods or services to global customers," says Don DePalma, founder of Common Sense Advisory.

In addition to having your website translated into other target languages, you also need to make sure you've considered relevant keywords in each language you've selected. In order to do this, you'll have to conduct separate keyword research for each target country or region.

Select a Country-Specific Domain

While the United States typically uses .com, .net, or .org domain extensions, other countries tend to use country-specific top level domains. For example, if you want to target French users, www.website.fr would rank hire than www.website.com in France. If you don't want to create an entirely new website, you may be able to create a dedicated landing page for your site that looks like www.website.com/fr.

Develop an International Lead Generation Strategy

Having an internationally optimized site may not be enough. You'll also need to focus on country-specific lead generation strategies to drive traffic to these pages. Among other ideas, Matthew Capala, SEO strategist and entrepreneur, suggests building relationships with local influencers. After all, you want to establish comfort with your international targets.

"By building relationships and/or joint ventures (such as an ebook or blog post exchange) with local influencers "with boots on the ground" in other nations, you can significantly extend your global reach and potential audience," Capala writes. He mentions how he had an influential SEO pro in the Philippines write a resourceful guide for him that he then placed on his website. He claims it drove significant amounts of traffic.

Don't Forget About Link Building

As you can see, almost everything changes when you target a new language. In addition to developing a new lead generation strategy, you subsequently need to think about link building. It's unlikely that the sites you use for your English language domain will hold any value for your other country-specific domains. As always, make sure you follow link building best practices to maximize your efforts. This means focusing on both popularity and relevancy.

Monitor and Listen

Finally, you have to be willing to monitor your international influence and listen to what people are saying. You'll undoubtedly make mistakes when you're dealing with different cultures and must be ready to quickly adjust your strategies.

As is the case in the U.S., monitoring social media is a great way to gain insights into what customers do and don't like. In fact, according to an article by Paula Shannon of Lionbridge, "emerging markets have adopted social media in numbers far greater than the US and even Europe." In the Middle East and Africa, an impressive four out of every five internet users are on social networks (the highest social media penetration in the world).

Using social media to your advantage, you can look for different patterns and trends in markets that you're otherwise not very familiar with. And while you may attempt to handle this task on your own, you should consider hiring a local SEO expert to help you with country-specific issues.

Ignore International SEO at Your Peril

As you can see, international SEO is important--and not as difficult as you initially may have assumed. It simply takes a little more time and effort to master. By using these tips and resources, you can begin developing a well-rounded SEO strategy that emphasizes both local and international search.

Published on: Jul 28, 2015