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A Tale of International Brand Building: Lessons in SEO for the Global Market

ZippyCart – December 16, 2010

In the beginning, there was a small shop.  The shopkeeper sold his wares to the people who happened to wander by his door.  Word spread.  Visitors came from adjoining neighborhoods to buy goods from the shopkeeper.  And he was happy.

Later, the shopkeeper learned about the Web, and suddenly he could sell to people who lived far from his store.  And the shopkeeper’s business grew.  And he was happy.  One day, the shopkeeper looked around and realized that, while he had customers in California and Maine and every state in between, his sales were no longer growing.  So he took out a map and saw all the places where he had failed to market his products.  He ran his fingers along the creased paper, tracing the countries of Europe and Asia, and he formed a plan.

The plan involved the tenets of international search engine optimization (ISEO), and the results are no fairy tale.  E-businesses of all sizes are implementing ISEO to build their businesses in foreign markets and target local customers to increase engagement and boost return on investment (ROI).

The ones who do it well have learned several critical truths:

1.  International SEO should be part of your global expansion plans from the first step. ISEO relies on an informed marketing strategy that evolves along with a website, not as an afterthought.  It requires meaningful and fresh content that is keyword-specific.  It demands descriptive tagging, rich media, social media distribution, and internal and external links.  There is little value in going live with a website that is not optimized with these needs in mind. Only when foreign SEO and design are done in conjunction can a business clearly answer the question, “Have we launched a website that will attract customers?”

2.  Not all search engines are created equal. Google is dominant in the U.S. and in many other countries, and most businesses have learned the SEO strategies that result in the best possible search engine results on Google.  Some international search engines, which are more widely used in their regions than Google, have different parameters for ranking websites. These search engines might place greater emphasis on elements such as page load times, top level domains, hosting locations, density of keywords on a given page and inbound links.

3.  Website localization hinges on language. The quality of your website translation can make or break your site internationally.  While machine translation can be attractive from a cost perspective, it leaves a lot to be desired in terms of authenticity and nuance, both of which can alter efficacy in local markets.  Before your prospects ever see your product or experience your service, they know you only by your words.  Make sure you’re using the right ones.

4.  Don’t forget to localize your imagery. The pictures you choose for your international sites signal your knowledge (or ignorance) about those markets.  A full-service localization and translation firm can ensure that the stock photo you chose for your international site does not carry negative connotations abroad.

A happy ending for globalizing e-businesses

At one time, only the largest businesses could afford to invest the necessary resources to localize their websites, and even they didn’t always do it well.  Today, harnessing the power of the Internet to globalize business initiatives and increase revenue streams is more viable for more companies.  For businesses of all sizes and in all industries, ISEO can help attract customers in numerous foreign markets, leading to strong customer engagements, increased ROI and happy endings.