SEO and local market orientation for international expansion

In my last column, I talked about the business benefits of an international SEO strategy, the first of which is to complement your broader global strategic plan.

This is a key adjustment, especially if you plan to deploy your website to target these markets.

Managing multiple global websites not only requires resources to create and maintain, but must also add value to users in the target market.

How many marketplace sites are there too?

Over the years, I’ve seen many companies translate their website into another language, like Spanish or Arabic, and then try to “maximize their investment” by cloning the local version into every market that speaks that language.

For one company, this approach resulted in 1,600 individual websites and more than 18 million web pages, most of which were not indexed because they were considered duplicates by Google.

Image via Twitter, June 2022

superior Twitter Recently, John Mueller from Google answered a question in a post asking if providing an English version for the EMEA market would be a good strategy.

His answer was, “It looks like you have 78 URLs with the same content.”

He continued, “It appears to be the same page, and we have no real reason to index multiple versions.”

Develop your local market orientation

Local market orientation is about managing the delicate balance between the expectations and needs of foreign market customers and the organization’s goals, resources and capabilities.

In your planning, you must consider potential markets in relation to localized local business needs, user behavior, user expectations, language, currency, and any other factors that will drive customer engagement in the market.

It’s not enough to simply clone an existing website into another language and submit it to Google.

A previous article suggested tools that can help you identify new markets that both have consumer demand and make it easier to do business across borders.

Your content strategy will be driven by your local market orientation, forcing you to plan the entire conversion chain, helping to determine whether the site is a single-language global site, a localized market site, or a language-specific site, and whether the technology adapts to user-needs or dynamic.

This matrix usually drives your technical requirements.

Too many companies realize too late in their expansion that you are not doing business with countries, but with people.

When dealing with people, you can’t get away from the Rubik’s Cube.

People in the target market speak a specific language, use a specific currency and live in a specific location.

Dedicated market, language or currency websites

Companies planning to expand globally need to make several long-term and short-term decisions.

Looking at their crystal ball, what does their full expansion look like?

Expanding into an additional market is very different from multiple markets in different parts of the world.

In the early stages of an expansion, these decisions can be easy.

An Austrian company could target Germany relatively easily, since they both speak German, use the euro, and have cross-border shipping agreements.

Do they even need another website in this case?

Just enable shipping calculator and VAT management.

Things get more complicated when US sites want to target Mexico.

It will need a way to organize its Spanish pages, hide prices in pesos, ensure purchases can be shipped to customer locations in Mexico, and let consumers know if there are any additional tariff charges.

Once you have the infrastructure in Mexico, we might want to expand further south into Argentina, Peru or Chile.

Should we utilize the same Spanish site and use currency converters and shipping managers, or are there specific market requirements and language differences that force us to use different market sites?

I’ve seen several companies launch “EU” websites to target the EU using the euro.

They cloned global websites on the “.eu” domain, converted prices to euros, and assumed they could magically target the region using a common currency and legal structure.

Sounds logical, but despite using the same currency, most markets speak different languages, which prevents them from attracting enough visitors to survive.

visual or technical direction

Once you’ve decided on your site structure, you’ll want to consider using visual directions, such as forcing users to use a country/language selector to choose the site they want or technical directions that use the visitor’s physical location or language preference to route them to a specific website.

There are many articles describing the challenges of using a user’s local internet address to route users to a specific website based on where they access it, as well as the potential cultural error of using one country’s flag to represent the language of a different market.

For either method, it is critical to test the implementation to ensure that search engines can access all available content for either method.

Typically, the selection page sets a cookie that records the user’s selection to eliminate the selector step in the future.

While very useful to users, search engines are often blocked from accessing any path because they do not accept cookies that prevent them from accessing any local website.

Again, with IP and language detection, the system is designed to route users to a specific version of a website.

This is very common for e-commerce sites with market-specific pricing and/or rules for doing business in a specific market.

Unfortunately, this often limits search engines access to these sites.

This makes it critical to ensure that there are exceptions to the rules to allow search engines, including Google, to access any page they request, since you don’t know where they’re crawling your site.

in conclusion

While there is no easy answer to the question of how many global websites you should have or the number of pages in each, the best practice is to make decisions based on your business and market needs, not just because you can.

Managing a successful multinational network presence does require detailed planning to ensure that the content you deploy adds value to users in your target market, thereby encouraging engagement.

At the same time, it should meet Google’s increasingly stringent requirements for relevance, authority, and uniqueness enough to warrant it being indexed.

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Featured image: ktasimar/Shutterstock

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