International SEO helps your website get international traffic. A well-optimized page means search engines know your content is aimed at people who speak a particular language in a particular location. The search engine then displays your pages to your target audience accordingly, attracting visitors.
Good international SEO doesn’t just help you reach your desired audience, it creates a good user experience, too. Visitors to your site find pages relevant to them, in their languages.
About 68% of website traffic begins with a search engine (BrightEdge), making international SEO vital for success. The key is to carefully plan your strategy and avoid common pitfalls, especially when it comes to keyword translation.
Where brands go wrong with international SEO
- Keyword translation – Research
When brands get keyword translation wrong, they jeopardize their chances of appearing in the right search results.
Simply using a translation tool isn’t enough. Keywords need to be chosen carefully based on target market behavior. Does the target market search in slang, colloquial expressions, or anglicized terms? Do they prefer certain phrases over others?
Researching the target market, using SEO keyword tools, and undertaking competitor analysis will help you find the most effective keywords.
- Keyword translation – Taking region into account
Language isn’t the only important factor. Brands need to localize and optimize websites for specific countries or regions. Arabic speakers in Morocco should get the Moroccan site, English speakers in Britain should get the British site, etc.
Using the right keywords will help your content appear to users in the target region. For example, Spanish speakers in Spain will search using the word coche to mean car, while carro and auto are more common in Latin America.
In some cases, poorly localized keywords can lead to pages appearing in the wrong search results entirely. In Britain, the word purse means wallet, while in North America it means handbag. So, it pays to consult a regional expert.
- Technical international SEO
Content creation is extremely important in SEO, but brands shouldn’t forget the technical side. For example, the domain structure you choose affects how your site ranks, and correctly inputting country and language specifications is vital.
It’s also important to make sure local store addresses are correctly listed on search engines. In the last two years, mobile queries for “where to buy” and “near me” have increased by over 200% (via Hubspot), showing the importance of engaging local audiences.
BMW in Germany: When international SEO short cuts go wrong
The multilingual SEO process might take a while, but it’s better to spend time getting it right. Risky shortcuts don’t usually pay off in the long term.
In 2006, BMW’s German website found itself removed from Google’s search results altogether. The company used what’s known as a “doorway page” to boost its Google rankings, a practice that wasn’t allowed.
Doorway pages are text-heavy pages that include a lot of keywords, making them rank highly on search engines. When a user clicks, they are immediately redirected to another page, here a similar page with better graphics and fewer keywords. The UX might be better, but it’s less likely to rank highly.
BMW denied attempting to mislead users with their doorway page.
Using professional SEO translation
The best way to avoid international SEO pitfalls is to work with a specialist company. They can have as much or as little input as you need throughout the process. As you grow, they can help you scale and move into new markets quickly.