Customers are the nerve center of any successful business. Therefore, when planning to expand your company internationally, you need to focus on building trust with your new customers and nurturing your relationships with them.
And, if you want them to relate to your brand, you need to speak their language. Stats back me up on that. Research says that roughly 72% of consumers spend most of their time on sites in their own language, while 73% of them are more likely to buy a product on a site with the information in their language. Over half of them emphasize that language is more important to them than the mere price of the product.
However, using Google Translate or outsourcing your website content translation to an inexperienced translator outside your industry is not enough. On the contrary, you need to localize your website for your new markets.
In other words, you need to do thorough market research, understand your new customers, and rewrite your website to tailor it to their needs and expectations. Moreover, website localization goes far beyond your textual content. To exploit your brand’s full potential, you also need to rethink the choice of videos, colors, visual content, slogans, payment methods, and every other aspect of your website that may make or break your brand’s success.
Here is how to localize your website to increase brand awareness and skyrocket your ROI.
Optimize for Local Keywords
Google’s algorithms are constantly improving to provide online searchers with smoother and more natural browsing experiences. Moreover, with the rise of voice search and wearable tech, users don’t look for exact-match keywords when conducting searches. Instead, they use entire sentences and even ask questions when looking for brand information.
However, this doesn’t mean keywords are dead. As long as people use them to find your products and Google considers them when ranking your site, they remain a key piece of your SEO puzzle.
Now, when optimizing your site for new languages and markets, you need to keep in mind that keywords vary from one country to another. For example, Americans look for “trainers,” the British for “sneakers.” There are also many differences in spelling you should consider. For example, American “humor,” “defense,” and “flavor” are spelled in BrE as “humour,” “defence,” and “flavour.”
When moving your business to non-English speaking countries, you first need to understand search intent.
Let’s say you’re expanding your business to Hong Kong and want to appear high in Baidu, China’s major search engine. In this case, you first need to understand the differences in keyword research for Google and Baidu.
First, Baidu is packed with rich snippets. For example, when you search “Marilyn Monroe,” you’ll see only four organic results. Everything else is paid ads and Baidu’s own features. So, you need to prioritize long-tail keywords to rank as high as possible and get a chance to appear in the snippets.
Second, when optimizing for Chinese markets, using Google Translate and similar translation platforms is never a good idea. For any English keyword, the Chinese have at least 30 synonyms that vary in their meanings. And, translation apps are unlikely to choose the right one accurately. Google Keyword Planner and other keyword research tools also don’t work for Chinese markets. In this case, working with a Hong Kong-based SEO agency on your keyword research and optimization is the safest option. They understand the local market and will help you choose the right search terms to increase your visibility.
Finally, when translating your website content and optimizing it for your new keywords, you need to keep in mind that the purpose of your on-site elements is to bring value to a customer, engage them, and persuade them to convert. Machines cannot do that effectively. This is why working with professional translators and SEO agencies should be your priority.
Boost your Page Load Speed
Your site speed remains one of the most significant ranking factors in 2019. With the Speed Update, it has even become a ranking signal for mobile devices.
Stats also show that 47% of your visitors expect your page to load in 2 seconds or less. According to Google, your site shouldn’t take more than 3 seconds to load.
And, even if it’s not directly related to your site’s translation, site speed is an important element of your localization strategy. Why? The reasons are obvious. Page speed inspires your visitors to stay more on your site, browse through your content, and convert. Most importantly, it boosts user experience. And, for a brand that has just appeared in a new market, good referral and reviews are key to surviving.
Now, there are numerous ways to improve your webpage speed. Start by typing your URL into Google’s PageSpeed Insights and you’ll see how fast your pages are and even get suggestions on how to improve their performance. Sure, there are numerous ways to improve your page loading time, such as:
- minifying HTML and CSS
- using browser caching
- investing in a Content Delivery Network (CDN)
- removing auto-loading content
- reducing the number of ads and plugins
- leveraging lazy-loading
- compressing large images
Build Quality Local Backlinks
If you’ve already been optimizing your site for search engines, you probably know that backlinks are among Google’s most significant ranking factors. Apart from helping you rank higher, backlinks bring numerous benefits to your brand. They increase its exposure in the SERPs, boost people’s brand awareness, and help you position yourself as a credible source of information. Above all, they generate qualified traffic to your site and help you build a solid online community.
Precisely because of that, backlinks are of paramount priority for all businesses expanding to new countries.
Identify the most authoritative local websites and earn a quality backlink from them.
If they allow guest blogging, that’s a great opportunity for you. You can write a killer guest post for them. You could also identify their broken external links in their content and offer your content as a quality replacement.
Of course, you need to analyze a prospect carefully before reaching out. For example, check their Domain Authority, rankings in the SERPs, the relevance to your niche, as well as the quality of the posts they’ve published so far. Above all, the site shouldn’t be spammy. If you notice keyword-stuffed meta descriptions and title tags, self-serving content that doesn’t bring value to readers, and loads of ads everywhere, you should run away screaming.
Let’s get back to our Hong Kong example. Ranking high in Baidu is still difficult, as local sites still buy links. But, the search engine is constantly improving their algorithms to improve the quality of search results and make them as relevant as possible. This means that, just like with Google, you need to focus on getting links from highly authoritative resources that indicate the relevancy of your site and get you ranked higher.
Be present on all major local business directories.
For all Google searchers, Google My Business is their most relevant source of local business information. If you optimize your Google My Business profile perfectly and add all relevant local information about your business (NAP information, street view, your niche, etc.) to it, you will gain trust and be more visible to local customers.
In addition to Google My Business, focus on other local directories, such as Angie’s List, Better Business Bureau, or Glassdoor. Of course, you need to choose the ones relevant to your niche and the location you’re moving your business to.
Choose the Right URL Structure
The domain your website sits on may impact your SEO efforts significantly. So, when moving your business to a foreign country, you need to choose the right domain structure for your business. Here are a few options to consider:
- Top-level domains (TLDs) are often used by large brands like Coca-Cola. Simply put, a TLD is a suffix that is added to your domain name. Some of the most popular examples are .com, .edu, .org, and so forth.
So, if your business’ domain is yourbusinessname.com, your domain name in Italy would be yourbusinessname.it, yourbusinessname.au for Australia, yourbusinessname.hk for Hong Kong, and so on.
- Subdomains are elements of a larger top-level domain. They are added in front of the root of your domain name and are separated from it with a period. For example, hk.yourbusinessname.com would be a subdomain for your Hong Kong-based business and, at the same time, it’s the part of your main yourbusiness.com domain.
- Subfolders mean that your localized pages are part of your local website, just like with subdomains. Many SEO experts claim that choosing subfolders over subdomains is better for your SEO. This is what many famous brands like Ikea do. For example, their main domain is ikea.com, while their domain for France is ikea.com/fr, for Hong Kong ikea.com/hk and so forth.
Over to You
When expanding your brand to new markets, website localization should be a fundamental aspect of your SEO strategy. It lets you improve your online presence, create content that resonates with your non-English audiences, and build trust with them. And, end results are obvious- higher rankings, better traffic and, ultimately, greater conversions.
Hope this helps!
Elaine Bennett is a digital marketing specialist focused on helping startups and small businesses grow. Besides that, she's a regular contributor for Bizzmark Blog and writes hands-on articles about business and marketing, as it allows her to reach even more people and help them on their business journey.