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International SEO: Crucial for Global Success, But Most Brands Are Doing It Wrong | WMI

Posted by Lily Ray and Eliza Herring on Jul 5, 2017 8:30:00 AM
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Has your brand thought about implementing an international SEO strategy? (Did you even know that a separate process exists for addressing international SEO concerns?) Here are 3 ways to know if doing international SEO is necessary for your company:  

- Your website is translated into multiple languages

- Your website, or websites, cater to an international audience

- You sell products or services in different countries

If you have taken steps to target international customers, have you tested to see if your strategy was executed properly from an SEO standpoint? Setting up separate sites, translating on-page content, and/or adding a button to view the content in different languages are not sufficient to inform search engines that your content exists for multiple international audiences. The risks of not properly executing an international SEO strategy include serious impacts on user experience, conversion metrics, and your bottom line.

Why is International SEO Important and What does it Do?

The goal of international SEO tagging is to serve the correct language and/or country-specific website variation to a user searching in the corresponding language, or from the corresponding region. Search engines strive to provide the best, most accurate user experience possible. The first step is serving the user a site in which they can read all of the content in their native language, and in the case of e-commerce websites, from which they can purchase products.

Without a proper international strategy in place, search engines are often confused as to which domain variation to display and end up serving the user multiple versions of the same website. For example, it's of no use to for users in Germany to encounter the United States (.com) version of a site, they may not be able to read the language, or the content may be targeted specifically to U.S. visitors. Furthermore, if a German user encounters the U.S. website in search results and wants to make a purchase, they will likely run into the issue of that website not shipping to Germany, which can cause a terrible user experience.

By inadvertently serving the wrong website, you aren't providing potential customers with an optimal user experience. In addition, new European Union internet privacy laws go into effect in May 2018, which may amount to fines and penalties if the proper international sites and tagging aren't in place. This could cause an accidental failure to comply with specific country internet privacy laws.

What is the Implication of Not Executing International SEO Well?

Frequently, the most egregious outcome is multiple international sites ranking for any given keyword. Most often you'll see a .com or the U.S. variant of a site ranking above the country or language specific site. This can be very confusing for users on multiple fronts: they may think that your brand isn't reputable because there are too many different domains; in the case of e-commerce they may go to the wrong international site and find that they are unable to purchase products; and this is also considered duplicate content in Google's index and can hurt organic rankings across all of your sites, international or not.

Why is It Important to Work with An Experienced SEO Agency Throughout This Process?

Even most of the world's largest brands don't properly implement tagging, including Google itself! International SEO is a touchy and delicate balance between managing and matching pages and correlations between hundreds, likely many thousands, of web pages across multiple sites. Partnering with an agency that is aware of the many challenges that come with international SEO—and has seen success executing international SEO— is crucial for a successful international digital marketing strategy.

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