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The A-Z of International SEO to Expand Local Business

Sometimes small business leaders don’t know whether they should expand to international markets or just stay content with their local popularity.

Some of them who decide to go international usually end up using the same SEO strategies they were using before. These people should read this article to understand international SEO is a whole different ballgame.

Here’s why.

Jimmy’s Story

A local business gets best ROI for its SEO when it uses local SEO strategies.
And keywords.

Oh, yes. Keywords. Here’s the story of Jimmy’s bakery to show you why keywords are central to understanding international SEO vs. local SEO.

Jimmy opened a bakery in Queens, New York. Being a millennial, he knew how important presentations were. So, he went the whole way. He made a great website, put up amazing social profiles, and his donuts were just so irresistible.

People in the neighborhood loved Jimmy’s bakery, and Jimmy was so proud of himself, he was targeting “bakery” for his website SEO – an uber-competitive, and uber-generic, keyword for a local business. Maybe he thought his was the only bakery worth visiting.

A few months passed and Jimmy realized his SEO budget was drying out without showing any results. In fact, he wasn’t sure why he was getting so many clicks from other parts of the world and people would just leave the page after a couple of seconds.

Jimmy didn’t realize the problem was his keyword selection. Bakery is a very general keyword that tens of thousands of businesses around the world would associate with.

Jimmy didn’t realize he needed local SEO. Don’t be like Jimmy.

International SEO Vs Local

Apart from keywords, though, a number of other factors determine the choice of an international optimization strategy over a local one.

The most important factor is the necessity of it. With something as broad and big as international SEO, you don’t want to go for it until you’re sure it’s a need for you now.

Recognizing this need isn’t rocket science either. You need to analyze your website traffic closely. If a big chunk of your traffic is coming on from abroad and a variety of cultural communities, speaking various languages, and taking interest in your offerings and content, you’d be wise to take that as a sign. But before you start confusing international SEO, let’s draw a circle around what it is so we can tell what it’s not.

International SEO is simply your strategic reaction to international, multilingual consumers taking interest in your website from foreign regions.

You see international consumers want your business. You bring it to them by making websites that are optimized for their country or language (or both).

But what if you only want to sell locally? Well, it’s up to you, of course, but turning a blind eye on a market that’s showing interest in your business isn’t the smartest business strategy either.

It’s a matter of understanding your potential and fulfilling it. If you have an opportunity to grow, do exactly that.

Jimmy made a mistake in understanding his business potential. He went overboard. He didn’t see optimizing his web content for a generic keyword was beyond his capacity. Even if he somehow managed to get to the first SERP for the keyword, most of the traffic would be absolutely useless. He ran a bakery in Queens. Why would anybody from Ukraine want to visit his website?

When we ignore our business potential, we make wrong decisions. Jimmy did that. Don’t be like Jimmy.

Strategies to Follow

Once you know you need international SEO, you need to focus on the strategy with careful steps, but don’t think of it as something you can’t handle. If you’ve been working on your website’s optimization, you already know more about it than you realize.

1. Country/Language or Both?

Between the two factors, the more important one is language. Here’s why: A language may itself target more than one geographic communities. Let’s say you offer a product that connects with Spanish, and so when you decide to target Spanish speaking countries, you won’t have to make separate websites for all of them.

So, make separate websites for the same language only when the communities involved are too far apart or that location matters for your marketing efforts.

Pitfall to Avoid:

Don’t use Google Translate to “refresh” your website’s copy and serve it on the new website. That’s something Jimmy would do. You’re smarter, so you’ll hire a professional copywriter of your target language instead.

Oh, and don’t forget to use hreflang attribute in your code (and stating the country, if you’re going for targeting countries separately).

2. New Domains

This is also an important problem to figure out before you go on building your website.
This is so important because it’s more than just about the domain name. This is about your URL structure and, hence, your website architecture. You can’t expect the structure you have on your local website to work just as well on a different website targeting a different market.

In this infographic created by Moz, you can see there are three main decisions to make when it comes to your new website’s domain. Thankfully, the pros and cons are stated pretty clearly, so we don’t have to give this discussion more room (If you have any questions about this, feel free to ask us in the comments below).

3. Web Hosting

Everybody knows website loading time can be a determining factor in whether a user stays on your website or goes back to the SERPs to look for other options.

This is one of the most important reasons why you should always host your websites locally. Make sure your new website for an international market is hosted by a good (even if expensive) hosting service.

International SEO Myths

Now that you know what international SEO is and what steps you need to take to build your basic web presence in the new market, it’s time to bust some myths about international SEO.

Naysayers make up a big chunk of the world’s population. So, when people start pointing fingers at international SEO and ask questions they only need a minute to figure out themselves, it doesn’t surprise us. However, letting you know what’s what is part of our job. So, here you go.

1. “International SEO is confusing.”

Well, it’s a complex subject, just like any other major area of online marketing. You need to spend time and understand the guidelines that Google has so generously (and responsibly) been publishing as the needs arise.

Read the Webmasters blog.

2. “I need so many websites to rank globally.”

That would be a no. You don’t a separate ccTLD for your international SEO to work. The reason is, depending on your needs and niches, you might simply use subdirectories to tend to the needs of their multi-regional or multilingual content.

Use ccTLDs when it’s an absolute necessity.

3. “Let’s use the same content on all of my websites. That will do for their Google.”

No, it won’t. You can’t simply translate your website word-to-word into a new language, publish this content on the new website, and hope for it to optimize successfully on a country or language’s associated Google domain.

That’s poor geo-targeting. In fact, that’s missing the target altogether because your website will basically be cannibalizing your other websites.

4. “Why should I put in so much work on SEO when big global brands didn’t?”

That question would make sense if you were a big brand, too. You aren’t. So, stick to what’s good for you and don’t look at the big ones. They don’t even keep SEO as their priority, which leads them to make silly mistakes every now and then.

You’re not as big as they are, but you can definitely be smarter.

5. “Language URL parameters will do the trick for me.”

Again, no, they won’t! You might think it’s a technically sound idea to put your region or language of choice in the URL and let it be. But it’s a sound idea because a lot of times these parameters don’t get indexed.

You won’t like that happening to your website, will you?

6. “That hreflang tag I put in will make me get the top rank. You just watch.”

Yeah. We’re watching, but that’s not going to happen. Although hreflang tag is a great and powerful tool, it isn’t used among ranking factors. It’s there to make sure your localized page gets displayed properly when it’s called.

7. “Let’s use the flag on the site. That should tell everybody what language we’re using.”

Err… That’s a pretty silly thing to believe. Flag icons are just that. They don’t necessarily represent the language. Before we talk about other languages, consider the one you’re reading right now. England’s or USA’s flags do not represent all English speaking nations of the world.

This is something Jimmy would think. Don’t be like Jimmy.

Show This to Your Friends and Talk to Us

Share this article with anybody you know who’s struggling with the decision of taking up international SEO for their business. Tell us what you thought of the article in the comments section below.

 

The Ultimate Must-Do SEO Checklist

SEO

 

If you’ve recently set up your online business, you know the importance of SEO (search engine optimization). You know it’s the road to successfully marketing your website in the digital world.

Now, what if you could find all the important information you needed to get started with your website SEO in one place? One big checklist that tells you where to begin with your SEO and what to do next all the way to the end?

We’ve built this ultimate SEO checklist with this objective in mind. Once you’re through the information given below, you’ll be able to instantly start working on your website SEO like a pro.

So let’s get straight to it.

The SEO Manifest You Cannot Ignore

As you’ll see, this manifest is set up like a checklist and contains all sorts of important data and information about what to do and not to do with your SEO efforts. The checklist runs in a sequence of actions for your SEO strategy so you can follow it point after point to the end.

1. PICK YOUR NICHE

This doesn’t sound like something you do for SEO, does it? Isn’t it instead something we do when we’re deciding what our offerings will be? Isn’t this simply the business idea we’re building everything around?

No. Yes. Yes.

And yet here we are asking you to make sure you pick one niche for your web presence and stick to it.

What we mean is quite simple, actually: Make sure your website is focused on one topic, in particular. There may be a lot of things you want to talk about, but you have to use one particular brand (read website and social presence with this one name) to talk about one particular topic.

That’s what makes the foundation of a good website.

2. MAKE YOUR KEYWORD LIST

Now, take that one thing and start working on your keyword list.

(If you’re completely new to SEO, let us tell you keyword is simply a word or phrase that users of online search engines use to look for things they want. You want keywords in the content you create for your website (and off it) to show search engines which keywords your content is related to.)

Basing your SEO on keywords is about the only smart way to go. Ahrefs, a great service that creates SEO tools, did an experiment last year and increased their blog’s traffic by around 89% within 12 weeks.

That’s how important keywords are.

To optimize your website based on keywords, here’s what you need to do:

  1. Start with Low-Competition Keywords:

If you’re setting up a new website, be smart and begin with targeting low-competition high-volume keywords. In simpler words, when you look up keywords (using Google Keyword Planner, SEMrush tool, or Moz’s Keyword Explorer, etc), consider the competition category they fall in and pick out from the low category.

At the same time, make sure, within the category, you pick keywords with the highest search volume.

Starting out your SEO with low-competition keywords allows you to rank on them faster, since, you got it, fewer people are competing for them. So, if you do optimize your website right, you can reach the first SERP very fast.

  1. Use Adjectives and Make Long-tails: For every page you may create, you’ll probably end up targeting one central keyword (if you’re smart). Take that main keyword and use it in your page’s title tag, meta description, the copy on that page, and, while you’re at it, add an adjective, such as best, great, ultimate, etc, before it. That way you’ll start targeting two keywords at once: your main keyword and that long-tail keyword.

Another way of turning your main keyword into a useful long-tail is to add modifiers after your main keyword. Modifiers are words that add to the meaning of your keyword in relation to the content of the current page and add value to your keyword strategy. A few examples of keyword modifiers are reviews, in 2017, checklist, course, guide, and PDF.

Do this especially in your page title tag and you’ll see how it helps. You can try KWFinder for pinning down relevant long-tail keywords that people are already looking for.

3. SET UP YOUR WEBSITE

Okay. Now that you have your keywords list and structure of your website, it’s time to set it up. To start, all you have to do is buy a domain that includes your website’s main keyword or topic and get a hosting service to serve your website content to its visitors.

As you begin to implement smart SEO strategies, your domain authority and page ranks will begin to rise.

I. Or Just Take Over an Existing One

This is another strategy in case you’re not sure how to set up a new website. You can buy an existing website domain, which comes with a number of benefits.

One of the biggest advantages of buying an existing domain instead of a new one is you get all the traffic and search engine goodness the domain earned so far. However, it’s a little tricky. So, read these tips entrepreneurs share regarding how to buy an existing domain for your business.

II. Use a CMS

A content management system (CMS) is a software program that allows you to manage the content on your website. Every good CMS has a lot of tools and an easy user interface for you to control your website content the way you want.

WordPress is definitely the most popular CMS available today. It’s free and it has a ton of features to make your website management a piece of cake. Also, there are hundreds of thousands of plug-ins that can make your customization dreams come true in no time.

In spring 2016, WordPress became the first CMS to run behind over a quarter of the world’s websites. At that time, it owned around 60% of the CMS market share (see image above).

III. Go for Responsive

Remember your website design is also part of your SEO. You can’t ignore certain important design practices if you want your website to rank higher and attract more visitors.

StatCounter conducted a detailed study on the usage of various devices for Internet access and found that, in fall last year, mobile devices surpassed desktop computers for the first time. The image shown above demonstrates over 51% of the devices connected to the Internet are mobile phones and tablets.

The take away for you from this data is you can’t ignore mobile friendly design if you want to succeed in your SEO efforts.

4. RUN A COMPETITION ANALYSIS

The next step for you is to analysis your competition.

Why? So you can see what they’re doing right and simply mimic them. It’ll save you a lot of time getting your website climb the SERPs.

What you basically do in your competition analysis is trace out the sources they’ve used to get page rank and websites they’re getting backlinks from. Once you have the list, you can simply follow in their footsteps and start sending off quality content to the same websites.

To track your competitors’ link resources, you can use Moz’s Competitive Link Finder, the Majestic SEO tool, or this great SEO Excel plug-in.

Whatever you do, don’t skip this step. This is a cheat every expert in the industry follows with a clear conscience.

5. WRITE QUALITY CONTENT

High quality content is one of the most effective ways of succeeding your SEO battles. Whether you’re writing your landing page copy, your blog posts, an article to submit on another website, or an e-book for your latest product, aspire to write the best quality content you can.

Make sure your words are simple to understand, your essay flows coherently, and you have your target keywords sprinkled through the text.

Words can’t express the importance of good quality content. Usually, the phrase content is king does the job.

Content

I. Learn the Technical Bits

However, high quality content is more than good semantics and attractive paragraphing. There are a lot of practices you can adapt to and get your content ranked as high quality on search engines. These practices include:

  1. Unique Page Titles: Make sure you have a unique title for every single page of your website. Duplicate page title and description tags bring down the quality of your website and search engines don’t approve of that laziness, especially Google.
  2. Keyword Synonyms in Sub-headers: While you’ll be wise to use your page’s primary keyword in your page title (and mark it H1), make sure you use H2 for your sub-headers and include synonyms of your primary keyword in them.
  3. Optimize Images: There’s nothing wrong with putting in a few images in your page. In fact, you can go on and add as many as you like as long as you optimize them properly. When it comes to optimizing images, there’s a couple of things you need to do: (a) rename the images you’re using to include your page’s keyword, and (b) include a caption-like text in the alt tag along with the keyword.
  4. Add Calls to Action: Calls to action are short statements that are placed anywhere in a page’s text and carry hyperlink to a landing page or a contact-us page. Make sure you use calls-to-action in your pages appropriately to guide your visitor toward the action you want them to perform.
  5. Make Sharing Easy: We talked about writing high quality content – content that your readers love. What happens when they actually like it? They want to share it. So, make sharing your content easy. Make your social sharing buttons visible on your blog.

Like

6. LINK THINGS TOGETHER

Following that train of thought, it’s incredibly important that you promote your high quality content every chance you get, and the most frequent opportunities of doing that arise when you’re writing new content on your own website.

It’s called linking your content internally. For instance, you’re writing a blog post about how white board videos are great for delivering social messages, and you wrote a post last year about the statistics of animated videos out on Facebook, it’s a great opportunity to link your old article in the new one and let your readers go and read it, too.

Most CMS applications these days link content internally using blog categories, tags, and keywords, automatically, but be sure to do it manually if you have to.

Just don’t miss it.

7. KEEP AN EYE ON THOSE SPIDERS

Once your content starts rolling out and you’re publishing page after page of your website, don’t let any of them slip through the cracks. Make sure every single page you publish is indexed in the search engines you’re going for (Most websites are primarily optimized for Google, since it’s the industry leader by a long margin).

Once your pages are submitted in the search engine’s database, the spider bots arrive (usually in a few weeks) and crawl through the content of your newly added pages, taking important notes about your content and design and report the data to the search engine, which then indexes your pages into its SERPs.

Any page that you fail to index will not show in the SERPs, which means you can never have your target audience visiting it.

That would be a shame.

On an unrelated, and yet related, note, make sure you keep updating your website and keep on adding new pages because that keeps the spiders coming, which can positively affect your website’s ranks in the SERPs.

8. GET QUALITY BACKLINKS

Links were, are, and will be a high influence factor in Google’s ranking algorithm for a long time to come. To get the top rank for your target keywords, you need higher quality, and greater number of, links pointing to your content from other websites.

Even the greatest authority websites, like Moz or Copyblogger, have to follow this rule because Google made it (and nobody’s bigger than Google when it comes to the Internet).

Hubspot conducted a study to measure the relationship between websites’ number of backlinks and the average organic traffic they were receiving. This is what they found:

Average Organic Traffic

The picture says it all: the greater number of links you have, the more organic traffic you’ll attract.

Moz also conducted a very interesting study. They approached online marketing gurus and asked their opinions on which factors affect Google’s ranking choices. Here’s their result:

Google Algorithum

 

The participating experts unanimously chose backlinks pointing to domain and individual pages as the top two factors respectively that influence websites’ rank on Google.

This establishes how important getting backlinks is for your website. You want to rank high in organic search? Get backlinks.

But it’s easier said than done. Much easier.

There are a number of problems that make building a good link profile a daunting task even for the best of us.

However, with the following tips, you can start working on getting more links for your website:

  1. Relevance: Make sure the content you create to get links on is about things that are closely related to your brand.
  2. Innovative: Use Google’s results for your content idea to get more ideas about how to angle your content.
  3. Solution: Make sure the content you create is focus on solving a problem.

9. FIND QUESTIONS TO ANSWER

Another great way you can use to boost your SEO results is answering questions. We’ve already said above that your content should be solution-oriented.

That is actually the main reason why people search for anything. They want to solve a problem (through a product, service, or some other available offering).

Turn the game around on your audience and go hunt down their questions. Use these tricks:

  1. Look for Forums: Whichever industry you are in, we’re sure you’ll find at least one popular forum on the Internet where people discuss their problems related to the industry. Find these forums, look for the questions people are asking, and either submit your answers there with a link to your website or make a blog post with your answers.
  2. Go for Questions Databases: Quora and Yahoo Answers are just two such names. A lot of people ask a lot of questions there. Look up questions your brand relates to and do the rest from the trick above.
  3. Feature in FCB: The much revered Featured Content Box in Google’s new layout for its first SERP for any search is a great place to feature your content in. To do that, though, you’ll have to do some work.

Share the Page and Ask Questions

How do you like our checklist? Share this page with friends who need SEO advice and tell us what you think in the comments section below.