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How Toosday: entering a new market with International SEO

Estimated read time: 9 minutes

We’re very pleased to welcome our friend and colleague Harry Cooke – Natives Group’s SEO Analyst – to give you the inside scoop on how to tap into a new educational market with International SEO. Over to Harry.

What is International SEO?

International SEO is the process of optimising and enabling your website to rank better in countries other than your own. This can be a multifaceted strategy, which includes optimising your site to rank on different search engines and in different languages.

And, should you hold an ambition to increase the reach of your services and brand awareness in new markets across borders and continents, there is no excuse for not having an International SEO strategy.

Foreign search engine market-share

If you ever hope to fully understand these new markets, you’ll need to get to the grips with the idiosyncrasies of your audience. This means asking yourself some tough questions, including what search engine does my audience use, how does my audience engage with that search engine and what kind of searches do they make?

While the answer is nearly always Google, this is not always the case and assuming such can be a costly mistake. For instance, in some countries Google is the subordinate to other search engines including Yandex in Russia, Navier in Korea and Baidu in China.

And, when you consider the sheer population sizes of these countries, we are talking millions upon millions of people whose preferred search engine is not Google.

Who uses Google?

As previously eluded, despite Google’s eye-popping 90.14% share of the market, there is a sizeable minority who buck the trend. Despite this domination, we are still able to point to clear behaviours and demographics among Google users.

Generally speaking, Google users are younger and are more tech savvy, university or college educated and have white collar careers. They are also less likely to be parents (not surprising given their age!). All of which are important factors to consider when deciding what service or product to push on what platform.

Even in countries where Google takes centre stage it is always worth checking what lies in the wings. For instance, in the Google-preferring Asian-Pacific, Hong Kong has a Bing search engine share of 19%. This 19% share translates to 75 million monthly searches – not a number to be sneered at. Which takes us to our next point…

So, who uses Bing then?

The answer? More than you think. Bing is the world’s unofficial second search engine, with only a lacklustre 3.24% share of the market. But despite this low figure, there is a rich reserve of users, which – if tapped correctly – could be your ticket to a new market.

Insights tell us that, unlike Google, Bing users are typically less computer-savvy, older (between the ages of 55 and 64) and are of course, more likely to be parents with a good level of disposable income (starting to notice a theme here?). Stats like these are important for certain marketers as it equates to an audience who have a greater purchasing intent than users on other search engines.

What is Yandex and who uses it?

Servicing 52% of the entire Russian population, Yandex is the most popular search engine in Russia and some of the ex-communist and Turkish states. While Yandex demographics are nearly evenly split, the largest Yandex cohort leans towards women between the age of 45 and 64, this is not reflected on mobile with users tending to be on the younger side.

What search engine is used in China? 

When thinking about China – as I’m sure many marketers will over the course of their day – stockpiling your efforts into targeting the Chinese market with Google SEO campaigns would be a fruitless task. Access to Google search and other services are strictly limited and subject to China’s strict censorship laws. As a result, Google has the unfamiliar acclaim of being one of the least popular search engines in China (1.47%), a far cry from Baidu’s seemingly untouchable 70.26% share.

How to do International SEO

Once you have identified your markets, now comes the unfamiliar task of knowing how to target those audiences. We have already learnt that we shouldn’t restrict this to Google searches and each search engine comes with its own unique set of demographics to consider when trying to locate your audience. So how on earth do we action this?

Let us begin by looking at what is generally considered to be the easiest and simplest change to implement, international keyword optimisation:  

Choose your words carefully

To really fine-tune and polish your body text, page titles, meta tags and headers for international SEO, you may need to re-think the keywords your pages are currently targeting. It is no good trying to target those broad and generic keywords, as these are likely to be super-competitive and as a result will give you little joy with conversions.

Instead consider the niches of your institution, university or company and begin to align and match this with the search intent of your international audiences. For example, a language college that teaches English to international students in Manchester, England may want to target their course page around the term ‘learn english in manchester’. This is in place of a more competitive and generic ‘learn english’ term which unlike the previous query, is open to searchers from around the country and internationally, not those who are already based in Manchester.

As with any well-developed SEO strategy, keyword optimisation can be supported with technical optimisations, and typically this is the case for International SEO strategies.

The following pieces of advice is a perquisite if you want your website to rank for international searches in foreign languages:

Watch your language

It would be remiss to speak of international SEO without discussing languages.

Of course, it is only natural to think that if you wanted to target audiences residing in Spain you should do so in Spanish. Plus, by utilising the skills of a fluent local speaker to translate your original English courses is an effective way to communicate to your targeted audience effectively and authentically.

In addition to having a translated copy of your website text you need to include a hreflang attribute to your webpages. This technical piece of code will ensure the correct language is matched to the users who speak that language.

Find your domain

Finally, you could have a separate website domain for each respective country, whether that is .cn for China, .ng for Nigeria or .br for Brazil. While this may seem to be a very time consuming activity, if done correctly it can provide a ranking boost in those individual countries. Just don’t forget to safeguard these gains with hreflang attributes or other forms of technical SEO to avoid cannibalisation and content duplication issues.

So now there you have it, should you wish to cross that frontier and enter a new global market, do so with a strong, targeted SEO strategy campaign to hand.


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