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SEO must have a priority position in any international expansion strategy. But how does it work? Her are 5 tips on how to handle international SEO:

International SEO
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 Tip 1: Decide On A Domain Concept

The domain strategy you choose here will be the cornerstone for your search engine-optimized, international website. There are three basic concepts to choose from:

  •  Country code Top Level Domain (ccTLDs)

These are country code domains, i.e. domains ending in ".us", ".co.uk", ".de" etc. This solution is very popular, as it engenders respectability.

  •  Sub-domains

In this concept, you will be working with a main domain and the link strength is distributed across sub-domains. These are constructed on the basis of "at.name.de". This solution is generally perceived as less trustworthy.

  •  Directories

These are displayed in accordance with the following pattern: "name.com/de"

In this scenario, the sub-directories benefit from actions of the main domain and vice versa. There is, however, one drawback: some structures are preset, which may not apply equally for all countries and may have to be adapted.

Tip 2: Avoid Duplicate Content

The "hreflang" attribute is and extremely important component of international SEO measures. "hreflang" should always be used if content exists in multiple languages across different URLs, because it prevents the classification of identical texts as duplicate content. Google uses hreflang to detect country-relevant pages, maps the geographic alignment of a website and identifies international pages. This allows Google to also filter the part of the website intended for the relevant country.

Tip 3: Country-Relevant Content Is Everything

In the international context, perfect content means much more than just the translation of sophisticated texts into the desired target languages. A good translation will also align with the target country's culture and idiosyncrasies. Some idioms may be perfectly appropriate in one language, but have no, or not the intended, meaning in another. Differences in currencies and units of measure will also have to be taken into consideration. Cultural specifications may also mean that the content marketing strategy will have to be adjusted.

National standards and local examples may have to be added to the translation to convey the intended message and create a positive image. 

Tip 4: Trust In UX And UI

Things that may be a given or count as state-of-the-art in one country, may be incomprehensible or obsolete in another. Usability and design are weighted very differently in an international context. A good idea would be to start thinking outside the box in your own country – after all: you want to reach your target group at home as well. Ask yourself: what are the cultural standards in my target country? What issues are there to think about in terms of design? These will also include locally accepted payment processes and delivery service providers.

Tip 5: Think Local

A customized keyword strategy makes sense for multilingual websites. A target group in Switzerland, for example, may speak German as well as French or Italian. But even if you're talking about large regions with an apparently identical language, you should still think about individual keyword strategies to address specific target markets. That is because there are, in fact, significant regional differences in terms of vocabulary, spelling, definitions and sometimes even grammar. It is therefore important to align a keyword strategy to local language use. The German special character "ß" (sharp "s"), for example is not used at all in Swiss German. A bicycle in Germany would be a "Fahrrad", while Swiss German-speakers ride a "Velo" instead. Your motto must always be: think local! Apply the same rule of thumb when looking at your competition in the target market. Your best bet is to get native speakers of the target language to point out the right keywords or to adjust meta data and URLs – even better if you can get native language SEO linguists to support your endeavors.

About the Author

Boris Zielonka is the Head of Marketing & Sales at Eurotext AG. With more than 4,000 native language professionals, the company specializes in translations for industry, IT and e-commerce in conjunction with matching software solutions. Mr. Zielonka studied humanities at the University of Würzburg. As a marketing expert, he has been dealing with the issues of multilingual content in e-commerce for many years. He is an expert for online marketing and search engine optimization.