Putting effort into global SEO can unlock what is essentially a market of up to six billion people, but geo-targeting wisely, structuring SEO campaigns to these markets and identifying the impact each market can have on business success can lead to a huge conversion rates and ultimately global business growth.
Marketing and SEO sit alongside each other with an increasing rate, for example if brand messaging is different in the USA and Australia, then meta data and website structure need to reflect this.
This also falls into geo-targeting, or user targeting in multiple countries.
Essentially, there are two ways to do this: you either run a huge number of websites on different domains, or you host everything on one domain with hreflang tags and IP address targeting. The latter is the best option, and it works on a number of levels. At the core the premise is simple: users visiting your website will see the geo-targeted site you want them to see based on the location of the IP address.
Beyond the initial hreflang tag, there are a couple of ways to manage this. Either users are redirected to the country code domain (for example, if a UK user puts in the .com, they will be redirected to .co.uk), or an extension is added (for example, the user would be sent to .com/en-uk). Again, the latter is the best option.
Website managers will have a core website, such as a dot-com, a selection of geo-targeted areas and, if applicable, languages in those areas. For a website where just one language is present, U.S. users would see the standard .com, UK users .com/uk, Australians .com/aus, etc.
In the back end of the website these are run separately with the ability for additional site elements or changes relevant to each market.
If the website will be pulling new languages we would see a slight variation. The UK would be that mentioned previously (.com/en-uk), and the U.S. would be .com/en. If you were able to switch languages, say in the U.S. to Spanish, you would see .com/us-es (United States location, Spanish language).
Any markets not covered would be sent to the chosen home page, this is normally that of the main area location of the website.
Here’s what a tag should look like:
<link rel="alternate" href="http://example.com" hreflang="en-us" />
This should be placed in the header of the website to ensure site-wide integration. SEO agencies with specialties in global markets can aid you in both building and integrating tags.
So what’s the benefit?
Structuring and running a website in a way that captures multiple markets is just the first step in international SEO success. It immediately offers relevant index, search results and users—and the potential to grow more.
What’s more, it allows the best of both worlds: websites all sit in one location, which is great for indexing as the site is larger with specific relevance, but also all of the websites can still be managed separately in terms of content and brand messaging. Add to this the fact that brand mentions will benefit the group as a whole and increase site-wide linking, sending relevant users to the correct geo-targeted platform.
Building a global SEO campaign
Once your site is structured and users are being automatically sent to the correct geo-targeted section of the website, it is time to build a targeted global SEO campaign. Marketing and SEO teams will come in to their element here as they work as one unit.
Using website data, conversion rate optimization, keyword research and market data, it is possible to map how each geo-targeted market differs in terms of search trends, conversion trends, keyword use and within the long-term sales process.
In particular it is important to note both the cultural differences in search and the different routes to market. For example, it could be that users in Australia are more likely to first interact with a brand through a paid click, whereas those in Canada are more inclined to take a first interaction through organic search.
Each market variation will feed into each individual market strategy. It is important to note these differences as early as possible as it is likely to have a major impact on overall success of a search campaign.
From here, structure campaigns and approaches by looking closely at the needs of the markets from a branding perspective, and pair this with needs from an SEO perspective. Are there elements of the website that need amending? Does one country need a focus on link building and another on conversion rate optimisation?
Thorough research will reveal all and shape not only your SEO but your online business success through multiple marketing channels.
Keith Hodges is an Account Manager at POLARIS. Joining the agency in 2014, Keith specializes in SEO and campaign strategy. POLARIS is a leading SEO agency based in London. Specializing in the health care, travel and B-to-B sectors, POLARIS offers a wealth of knowledge from a dedicated team of SEO and digital marketing experts.