6 SEO considerations for successful international expansion

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You may have spotted a great opportunity based on a significant amount of traffic to your website from a specific country. Perhaps a PR campaign has gone viral and now users around the world are searching for your product and creating constant demand for it.

Whatever the reason, an expansion, new product launch or diversification must always be supported by a timely and detailed analysis of all elements not only in the overall strategy but also in SEO.

Entering a new market or going global comes with potentially significant benefits and significant risks.

Search engine marketers usually agree on what factors contribute to the success of market participants, including:

These studies will determine if the brand can enter a new market, if the timing is right, or if there is an opportunity to scale. Essentially, these are the key success factors for any market entry or global launch.

In this article, you’ll discover six elements that have worked for me in entering new markets while working for previous clients.

Before we dive in, it’s important to note that every brand, agency, and market is different. There is no single checklist that should be applied to your work.

Tailor this and other advice to your strategy and make sure it aligns with broader business goals. Most importantly, finalizing a strategy requires close collaboration with other departments in your organization.

1. Market profitability assessment

International keyword research

Thorough analysis and keyword research in your target market is crucial to your international expansion strategy as it:

Along with search traffic, keyword difficulty is an important indicator as it shows how competitive your keywords can be across different languages, regions, and language fusions.

This article on international keyword research and intent is a good place to start.

Important Tip: If you plan to translate your current keywords, make sure that they are not only translated and localized, but also aligned to how people are searching in your target country.

For example, in northern Mexico and some parts of the southern United States, “Spanglish” is common. This means that in this part of the world, many inquiries are made through a mix of English and Spanish.

Take the fashion term “maxi dress” as an example. In Spain people would search for “Vestido Largo” while in some parts of Mexico people would search for “Maxi Vestido”.

The example below is from Zara Mexico, where the way people search has influenced how products and categories are presented. As already mentioned, the products are called “Vestido Maxi”.

While at Zara Spain similar products are referred to as “Vestido Largo”.

An in-depth international keyword research will:

Google Analytics data

Analyze your top converting traffic sources with Google Analytics (or any other tracking software). Pay attention to the areas around the world where your brand is getting consistent traffic.

While traffic is important, you should analyze conversions and earnings before deciding to expand into a new market.

Run a detailed report as this will help determine if you can meet demand from these new countries.

Do you need a new bearing? If you can’t have new stock, you may need a communication strategy to highlight delivery times.

Additionally, you can consider an incentive campaign to increase conversions if your delivery times could affect it.

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This is one of the most important steps when entering a new market.

You may think that this has nothing to do with SEO. At first glance maybe not.

However, it determines the paid media strategy and the type of content you should create in order to increase brand awareness and gain links.

Why are social networks important?

Because a large percentage of online consumers begin their buying journey by researching brands on social media.

However, it is important to note that:

The chart below shows multiple age groups and shows where they typically start their trademark research, particularly when making a quality purchase.

This information will help you plan:

In some cases, the paid campaign will take place on social networks, in others it will be more effective through Google Ads.

Identifying the main social networks used in the target country you wish to expand into is crucial, especially for the age groups beginning their branding research in social. In some countries it might be TikTok while in others it might be Instagram.

3. Hreflang

The hreflang is a small code snippet that looks like this: rel=”alternate” hreflang=”X”.

A hreflang tag should be added if your website has the same content in different languages.

In a global context, the hreflang element helps search engines determine which URL version of your site to serve to visitors from a specific region or language.

Hreflang contributes to a good user experience because it:

Below I have listed some ideas to consider when implementing hreflang.

4. URL structure

Similar to the hreflang principle of serving your users results relevant to their language and location, the choice of URL structure is crucial as it is a clue to both search engines and users.

Here are the differences and uses of common URL structures: ccTLD, gTLD, subdomain, and parameters.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to URL structure. The choice should depend on your goals and objectives.

However, you should consider the limitations of your CMS. This is one of the reasons why some brands may still use parameters. Although their use is acceptable, parameters are not the best option.

Translating and localizing content is not enough. In addition, the content should be aligned with the common uses and language phenomena in your target country (e.g. Spanglish).

This principle also applies to the shopping cart on your website. When a customer is about to complete a purchase, it’s important to consider the following:

If your target customers are between the ages of 16 and 34, consider that they are 80% more likely to pay with Apple Pay than other methods.

Missing preferred payment method, wrong language and unclear information lead to cart abandonment.

6. International digital PR

Establishing a country specific link strategy for each market is a must. Depending on your brand’s niche, you may be limited to a few tactics.

If you’re in the food, fashion, sport, or gifts industries, the best practice is to identify the social network most used by your target audience and partner with influencers on those appropriate channels.

Partnering with a relevant influencer on an appropriate social network and running paid campaigns are the best ways to break into a new market while laying the foundation for your organic endeavors.

The beauty of digital PR is that there are many ways to increase brand awareness and earn links.

If your brand doesn’t have a traditional PR team, you can focus on these tactics:

In order to build valuable partnerships, it is crucial to always adapt your approach to the customs of the respective market.

An example approach can look like this:

Read “Earn links and rank for your target keywords with digital PR” to get started.

You can also refer to the Newspaper Map, an interactive map that shows you online outlets available in every region of the world you can imagine.

Clicking on the pink bubbles will bring up a link to a specific online newspaper.

The following is an example if you zoom in on central London where you can see the Financial Times office location.

Once you’ve identified your favorite media outlet and want to connect with a journalist to request a link or collaboration, you can use RocketReach (a tool that allows you to manually pull journalists’ contact details).

Go global with the right SEO approach

Some of the most common causes of errors when expanding include:

Your SEO team can have the best strategy. However, if you don’t collaborate with other teams and have poor negotiating skills, it can lead to friction, poor implementation and failure within the first two years of the expansion.

To avoid costly mistakes, it’s important to thoroughly study every element mentioned in this article – and more.

Don’t base your expansion strategy on a checklist. Match resources to your company’s knowledge and the organization’s overall plan.

The table below shows the most common misconceptions when entering a market and ideas on how to address them.

Remember that the success factors of an extension are:

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily those of Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

Maria Amelie White works as Head of SEO at Kurt Geiger, a UK luxury retailer with concessions in luxury stores such as Harrods and Selfridges in the UK.

What is international SEO?

Maria has an MSc in Psychological Research from the University of Oxford and has been working in SEO for over 12 years, specializing in Technical SEO, International SEO, Local SEO and Digital PR.

International SEO is the process of optimizing a website or blog so search engines can recognize which countries you want to reach or which languages ​​you should use in your business.

How can I improve my international SEO?


  • International Best Practices for SEO
  • Answer questions in the native language of the area and in the right context. …
  • Translate existing content carefully. …
  • Consider the entire user experience in your strategy. …

What is the difference between international and local SEO?

Avoid automatically redirecting users based on their IP address.

Global SEO focuses on largely generic keywords to drive traffic to a website. In contrast, local SEO, the level of competition for the products or services you offer on your website, is not the same as international SEO. Local search engine optimization focuses on a limited region and geography.

Is SEO different in different countries?

What is localized SEO? Local SEO is a search engine optimization (SEO) strategy that helps your business get more visibility in local search results on Google. Any business that has a physical location or serves a geographic area can benefit from local SEO.

Is SEO Global?

Depending on which part of the world you are targeting, your international SEO approach will change. For example, if you travel to China, Baidu is the most popular search engine. Each of these search engines has their own approach to SEO, which means it pays to do some research to find out what matters most for rankings.

How does SEO rank in other countries?

Global Search Engine Optimization (SEO) allows you to create and optimize content to reach audiences in international markets. This allows international users to find your site when searching in their home country, and your content will appear on their search results page, which in turn will increase conversions.