Did you know that English isn’t the most widely spoken language in the world? Well, although there are about 1 billion English speakers today, only about 30% of that number speaks English as their first language. About 1.1 billion people speak Mandarin Chinese, which makes China the greatest market in the world right now, both for raw materials and finished products. If you combine Hindi, Spanish, and Arabic (1.5 billion speakers in total), they form a bigger market than all English speakers.
What do the stats above imply? That if you are a marketer or business owner intending to sell a product or service to a global clientele, you cannot bank on an English-only website to bring in the conversions you need. You have to localize your online content and create a robust Global SEO strategy for your website to reach its full SEO potential.
What Is Global SEO?
Global SEO is the process of optimizing web content for audiences across the globe. It accounts for the differences that exist in cultures, local internet regulations, shopping trends, and languages for the different demographics that make up a global audience. Technically, global SEO means doing multiple local and domestic SEOs for multiple regions in the world, over and over until everyone in your target list is able to access your content in the language they understand best, using the same local keywords they use to access local websites.
Pepsi soft drinks are consumed across the world. Some potential clients speak small languages that are impossible to translate into because it is either economically unviable or there are no professional translators to do the job. As a way of bringing everyone on board, Pepsi came up with the most brilliant Global SEO strategy: The #sayitwithpepsi campaign, a localization master class that leveraged the growing influence of social media across the world..
For the campaign, Pepsi commissioned 70 emojis that clients can use to converse about Pepsi products even when they don’t speak the same language. The campaign did well on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube, which allowed Pepsi to navigate different cultural and language barriers without needing to translate any of their content.
Another notable global SEO strategy for PepsiCo is the sub-division of its global operations into multiple divisions. The company has a unique marketing strategy for North American consumers, Latin Americans, Europeans, Sub-Saharan Africans, Middle Eastern, North African, and Asian consumers. The subdivisions make it easier for the company to address the cultural and consumer behavior differences that each region presents.
How to Create a Global SEO Strategy
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all global SEO approach, but these 7 tips will help you get started:
- Conduct thorough in-market research
You need a customized data-driven strategy for every language, region, and customer behavior you intend to target.
A thorough in-market research will tell you:
- Which pages to optimize
You don’t need to optimize your entire website when targeting a global audience because, in most cases, 80% of your site’s global traffic is only interested in 20% of your webpages. You just need to know the most visited 20% and optimize it for different target regions and languages. Note that pages you optimize for one region/country could be completely irrelevant in a different region.
- For which regions to optimize
It is imperative that you know which regions or languages deserve optimal SEO investment and which ones to ignore. Start by checking the Location and Language tabs under Geo in Google Analytics to know where on the globe most of your traffic comes from. You might be surprised to learn that some of the regions you intended to prioritize in your global SEO strategy aren’t even worth your consideration.
- What searchers are looking for
Of the global traffic your site is getting at the moment, what percentage is finding what they need and what percentage just bounces? For those that bounce, what makes them leave: Is it navigability issues on your site, language barriers, unfamiliar use of slangs, or unfamiliar images/videos? For those that stay, which part of your site are they interacting with most? This will help you refine your content when optimizing it for each international audience.
- For which search engines to optimize
Google is the most popular search engine in the US and Europe, but it is not as popular as Baidu in China, Yahoo in Japan, Yandex in Russia, or Naver in South Korea. Your optimization methodologies and keyword research must factor in the different ranking factors that different search engines consider.
- Which keywords to optimize
You can translate everything else on your site, but you should never translate keywords because searchers in different regions use different keywords; even when they speak the same language. The keywords, sentences, or phrases trending in the US, for example, aren’t necessarily the same ones being used in the UK. You will, therefore, be pushing your luck too far if you expect translated keywords to trend in Russia or China, for example. You have to find the trending keywords for each one of your target countries or languages.
- Think local
We already mentioned that global SEO is, in essence, local SEO done over and over for multiple local audiences. Your target audiences might speak different languages, have different consumer behaviors, and come from different cultural backgrounds, but one thing is common for all of them: They all are looking for solutions closest to home. Localizing your keywords is one of the sure ways of taking your content to local audiences; where it is really needed. Others include:
- Creating a social media marketing strategy that your target localities can relate with. That includes working with local social media influencers and posting content that’s tailored down to the local level. Translating hashtags on twitter or translating Facebook posts doesn’t work in this case. You have to post pictures that your target audience loves, on the platforms they love, and use captions and hashtags that makes sense to them.
- Securing a phone number for each target country; a number potential clients are familiar with and that they are comfortable calling/texting.
- Understanding the cultures, sales cycles, and local traditions for each target group.
- Hiring local content creators and SEO experts who, on top of understanding the ins and outs of your industry, they know just the right content to serve to the local audiences.
- Analyze the competition
There already are local companies and multinationals serving the very markets you are targeting. Analyze their SEO strategies in order to know how high the uphill you need to climb is if you are to compete effectively. Know who the leaders are, where their search traffic comes from, their on-page and off-page SEO, their optimized keywords, visitor behavior, the sources of their backlinks, and their overall SEO strengths.
Bottom line: Know which marketing weaknesses you can exploit within the existing competition, both offline and online.
- Consider data and privacy policies for different regions
Europe, Africa, and Asia have adopted data privacy regulations through the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), Personal Data Protection Guidelines for Africa (PDPGA), and the Asia Pacific Data Regulation and Cyber Security Guide respectively. These regulations limit the amount of customer data websites can store or share. Failure to comply with the regulations when developing your global SEO strategy can attract unwanted legal battles. And who knows… data protection might become a key Google ranking factor in the future especially now that most search engines have started prioritizing websites that encrypt data over those that don’t.
- Upgrade your website for global audiences
If your website doesn’t work optimally, visitors might stop interacting with everything associated with it, your products and services included. Ensure that the target audiences discover your website online and once they do, they interact productively with the content therein. That is the only way to getting the conversions you need.
Here is what you need to do to get your website ready for global audiences:
- i) Use hreflang tags in your URLs to tell Google and other search engines where your target audiences live and the language(s) they use so that the engines can connect your content with the intended audience(s).
- ii) Use language targeting to target people who use the same languages but live in different countries across a given region. Say, for example, you want to target the English-speaking population that resides in the Southern part of Africa. Instead of targeting South Africa and then Zimbabwe, you can capture the entire region with language targeting.
- iii) Implement location-based targeting. Your site structure could work with:
- Country code top-level domain (ccTLD).
A ccTLD domain targets a country and has a URL structure that shows which country is being targeted by a given website. A good example is www.globalseo.co.uk where “uk” means the website is targeted for people living in the United Kingdom.
- Generic top level domain (gTLD).
A gTLD domain is generic in that it uses the common URL extensions (.com, .org. etc.). The only way you can target a particular international audience when using a gTLD domain is by building your website around subdomains, where each subdomain represents an international market.
- Ensure all on-page elements are leveraged correctly
You need the following on-page elements to strengthen your global SEO strategy:
- Meta Title
Ensure that every page you optimize has its unique Meta title, and that the title carries the branded local keyword for that particular page.
- Meta Description
This is the first marketing message a searcher reads before deciding to click on your website. Ensure that every page has a Meta description that’s unique and that has a clear marketing call to action.
- Header tags
Ensure that all the header tags you use in every optimized page capture the whole essence of the page. Make each header catchy enough for searchers to want to click on them, and then ensure that they are truthful in order to increase traffic retention.
- Image alt tags
Use branded and unbranded keywords to create the best image alt tags for all images on your site.
- Create a fool-proof backlink strategy
You need an abundance of links from a target country to confirm to search engines that your site’s content is of great value to searchers in that particular country. You also need to get backlinks from authoritative websites (such as .gov, .edu, and research institution’s websites) to confirm to search engines that your site’s content is credible and relevant to the target audiences. You need to come up with ways of earning as many useful backlinks as you can get.
With the increased influence of social media on SEO rankings, your SEO strategy will be significantly impacted by links and mentions from your target country’s social media. This is another reason why you need to partner with local social influencers in marketing your products and services on social media.
Taking your business global is a massive opportunity that you cannot afford to mess up with black hat SEO tactics and other shortcuts. You have to do SEO right if you are to reap its full benefits. The 7 tips above can be demanding both technically and financially, but they are doable and affordable when you partner with a reputable SEO firm.