Posted: Thu 15th Jul 2021
Expanding your online business overseas can be a great way to increase sales and reach new markets.
However, for your website to grow organically and naturally in overseas markets, you should be making efforts to spend time on international search engine optimisation (SEO).
What is SEO?
SEO is important as it allows search engines such as Google to find, categorise and deliver search results to anyone who may be searching for your product or company. Ideally, you want those search results to include your web pages.
While paid advertisements can certainly put your webpage on the search results page, this can be expensive. And once your advertising money runs out, you're back to relying on organic growth.
Websites with strong SEO programmes may see a continual stream of visitors, as potential customers should be able to find you today, tomorrow and well into the future, regardless of any ad campaigns you might be running.
For small and medium-sized businesses looking to expand overseas, international SEO can be an incredibly useful tool. But how does it differ from standard SEO?
What is international SEO?
International SEO is much like SEO in the sense that it helps search engines know what your content is and helps deliver it to the right people. However, its focus is on delivering content beyond your own country and into another country or countries; a target you specify.
For example, with international SEO, you can create your website or content so that it specifically targets people living in Spain, Germany, China or anywhere else. This focused approach can increase the chance that a person in your target country will discover your website, and helps you connect with the right people.
How can a .com domain extension help?
A domain name is more than just a string of letters that make up your URL. In fact, it's one of the first things people see when they visit your website, and it could make the difference between a page visit or someone clicking away.
As one of the most popular domain extensions in the world, .com is recognised and trusted around the world. As a result, a .com web address may help convey that your website is accessible to anyone, regardless of language or culture.
If someone in China, for example, is searching the web for a product and is presented with a result that has an extension representing a country code, they may assume that the website won't contain information for their market, or won't be in their own language, and they may decide not to click on the result.
A .com website, on the other hand, may help convey that your business has an international focus and caters to a broader range of markets.
With a .com website, expanding into a number of countries can be easier with the use of subfolders (or subdirectories) and geotargeting, as we can see with this example:
You can separate your international audiences into subfolders, all running from your existing .com website. Plus, subfolders may inherit link authority from the parent domain. This would mean that, if your parent domain has a strong ranking, it may automatically pass down to the subfolders.
This approach makes it easy to add on new countries when you want to further expand into new territories. It's also a good way to keep all of your content under one roof so your websites are easier to manage, rather than logging into numerous accounts.
If your new target audience speaks a different language, it's important that the content within the subfolder is in that language. This will make it easier for your new audience to discover your products and help them engage with your company.
When it comes to informing the search engines which countries you want to focus on, you can geotarget subfolders fairly easily. For Google, you'd use Google Search Console to target your .com/de/ subfolder to Germany, for example. Naturally, the ranking of your website and additional content may affect these results, too.
Without international SEO, there's still a chance that your website will be discovered by customers in the countries you want to expand into, as there are a number of other factors that can have an impact, such as ad campaigns, your social media presence, and more.
However, to give your website a greater chance of success overseas, you should focus on international SEO to help put your website in front of the right people.