What are the key elements to take into account when positioning a website on foreign markets?

Michał Nawrocki
What are the key elements to take into account when positioning a website on foreign markets?

The process of building visibility on international markets needs to be planned. By creating the right SEO strategy and taking care of the most important elements, entering foreign markets will proceed smoothly with little chaos and, most importantly, increase the chance of boosting your position in organic search results. This article will cover competitive analysis, content creation and on-site optimization tips, which are worth considering when pursuing foreign markets.

1. Competitive analysis

Competitive analysis is the first step that should be carried out when planning to enter a foreign market. A properly conducted analysis of potential competitors is a source of valuable information. If used correctly, this information can provide an advantage in the positioning and experience design process for a potential customer.

When selecting competitors for analysis, focus on companies that share as many common features as possible with the site you want to position.

“At the initial stage, when the site has low visibility, it doesn’t make sense to compare yourself to the big brands. For example, being the owner of a small clothing store, you should not compare yourself to Zalando, Nike, etc.”

What should we pay close attention to when selecting competitors during the SEO process?

  • The number of key phrases the site is positioned on;
  • The number of shared key phrases;
  • The volume of the product range/quantity of services offered on the site;
  • The number of shared products/services on the site;
  • Size, brand recognition;
  • Link profile.

Some examples of where we can use competitive analysis in an effort to increase our visibility in organic search results:

  • when selecting keywords during the initial stages of the SEO strategy implementation – based on the analysis of potential competitors, we can identify groups of keywords which we need to focus on at the beginning.For example, a tool called Semrush offers a “Keyword Gap” option. This feature will help you identify the keywords that your competitors have positioned on. By taking advantage of this option, we can discover keywords that may be overlooked during the standard research.

Source: https://www.semrush.com/features/domain-vs-domain/

  • when acquiring new links for your site — a proper analysis of your competitors’ link profiles allows you to create a list of domains where we can also get publications. If a single domain links to three of your competitors, you can probably acquire a link leading to your site as well.

Source: https://app.ahrefs.com/academy/how-to-use-ahrefs/site-explorer/link-intersect

2. Content

Content creation is one of the key elements in the SEO process. While creating content in a foreign language, it is important to keep in mind issues that we wouldn’t normally consider when positioning a site for our native market.

  • Translating content from your native language is not the most advisable activity

For many, the content strategy when entering a new market is limited to translating the current product and category descriptions into a foreign language — but from a specialist’s perspective, it should look completely different.

Each language follows its own set of rules — a different sentence structure and characters that do not exist in your native language alphabet are just a few examples of elements that distinguish individual languages. The same rule applies to keywords. A literal translation can often lead to phrases that carry zero potential. For this reason, it is recommended to perform a separate keyword research based on a thorough market and competitive analysis for each language version. Selecting the right keywords during the initial stage of planning the content strategy is something that will already improve your chances of achieving satisfactory positions.

  • Content written in English, but which English version?

Content, which is created on the site by a professional copywriter, must contain the right keywords and reach the potential user in the most effective way. It is worth taking the time to analyze your customers, so that the copy written texts are as tailored to the end user as possible. The English language would be a perfect example here. It is one of the most popular languages in the world, and in various international markets we can encounter its different versions. It is worth noting that English is not the only language, where its version varies depending on the place of use. We face a similar issue with German, Portuguese, Spanish and many other languages.

  • My website has a global reach, which English version should I choose?

We can pull data from Google Analytics about the origin of users accessing the site. It contains information about the location and the language used by users.

The language chosen by users:

Source: Google Analytics

Location:

Source: Google Analytics

The data collected in Google Analytics can be helpful in selecting the preferred language for creating content on the site.

3. On-site optimization

Correct website optimization is crucial in the SEO process. The guidelines for technical optimization are the same for all users. However, there are several issues to keep in mind when expanding to foreign markets.

  • Internal linking and alt tags

When a website positioned for a foreign market is a duplicate of its Native language counterpart (has the same layout, category structure, etc.), it is worth verifying the accuracy of internal linking before publishing the page. For example, common errors include internal links directing to the Native language version of the site (often these are links in fixed elements of the site, such as the main menu, footer), links leading to non-existent subpages (for example, blog posts that are available in the Native language version, and not necessarily in the other language version).

Source: link redirect trace extension (Google Chrome plug in)

The situation with alt tags is similar. Make sure they are translated into the appropriate language.

  • Hreflang tags

Hreflang tags are designed to specify the language version of a site and to facilitate the work of indexing robots. In short, they are used to convey information that a given site has different language versions.

For example, the following entry informs Google’s robots about the language versions available on the website.

Source: internal

  • Properly configured analytics

In cases where a website has different language versions in directories (/de/, /fr/, /it/, etc.), it is a good idea to set up separate data views for each language version. In order to do this, you need to create filters. The Google Analytics dashboard allows you to create a filter so that a particular view collects data only from specific directories.

Summary

Positioning a website on new markets is a major challenge for both the business owner and the SEO specialist. However, proper strategy planning and consistent efforts maximize the potential for high Google search rankings.

Michał Nawrocki
Service Designer iCEA Group International
A graduate of the Poznan School of Banking, currently a student at Collegium Da Vinci. He gained international experience during a 7-month student exchange program in International Business at the Dutch Hanze University in Groningen. Privately, a fan of basketball and Korean cuisine.