Revenue growth is the primary objective of small business setups.
Once that is achieved, the next goal to eye for is the international market. It is common for entrepreneurs to consider offshore markets to look for new sales opportunities, attract more clients, and get competitive within their industry.
Expanding globally means higher profits, stronger brand recognition, and therefore, business longevity.
However, setting up business in a country completely different from your local market comes with its own risks and challenges.
Factors to consider
- Assess your capital– All businesses need an initial investment which means having sufficient capital to start with. International expansion will require more funds and a wait time before you turn profits.
- Market research– A hot overseas market may not necessarily be home to your target audience. While market research firms will be of some help to shortlist the most profitable regions, an SEO company with expertise in keyword research and tools will be able to generate accurate data that tells you where your potential customers are as well as their search behavior.
- Understand cultural differences– Remember that you will have to pin down your branding as well as marketing strategies to appeal to the customers in your selected country. This might also include creating a fresh website for the country or an intelligent translation of your website in local languages.
- Employee training- It goes without saying that you will need to onboard and train new employees and perhaps create new processes.
- Partnering with a fulfillment agency– An end-to-end fulfillment agency is your one-stop solution to managing logistics like packaging, shipment, warehousing, returns, customs, etc while selling your products in overseas markets.
SEO and keyword research: How does it help in market research?
When considering expanding your ecommerce business to international markets, it is important that you depend on SEO and proper keyword research.
The value of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) in improving the visibility of your website on Google is already well documented. This is especially important in an era where most businesses are willing (or have already) to take their business digital.
Global SEO simply means scaling up your business from a local presence to international markets and looking for customers in these regions using SEO tools and strategies.
Some industries that report significant benefits from SEO (especially, when expanding internationally) include e-commerce, medical practices, automobiles, real estate, restaurants and F&B, travel, engineering, and industrial part manufacturing industries, and pet services.
SEO works as a tool to optimise your website’s presence for searchers in different countries.
How to create a global SEO strategy?
Following are the key strategies to consider:
1. Choose the countries and regions you want to optimise your content for
The first step is to check out the regions/countries that show strong search volumes for your target keywords.
An important keyword might show up small search volumes in your own country but could have a huge potential in other global regions.
Say you’re a camping equipment manufacturer in Malaysia.
Now, as visible in the image below, there is only a limited volume of searchers looking for your target keywords like “camping equipment” or camping equipment Malaysia” in your own country.
This means that your opportunities to sell and scale your business within your own region are limited to the local searchers.
However, if you consider the global markets, the figures show huge search volumes going up to 37K!
This simply shows the large global potential of your target keywords. And the big audience that is waiting out there to hear about your products and purchase them!
Keyword research tools like Ahref’s help you to get more granular by further checking out the countries that show the maximum purchase potential for your products.
The results show that the UK and the USA take up the largest percentage of search volumes which is a good indicator of where your target audience is.
Additionally, other options like Ahref’s site explorer tool can help you check your global competitors’ sits, their backlinks to get a better understanding of the countries which drive them maximum traffic.
Alexa’s site overview tool is another option to check which countries draw maximum traffic to a particular site (like your competitor’s).
Answerthepublic.com can also be a useful tool to know the search intent of the users along with their pain points.
2. Prepare keyword-rich content in the local language of your target region
The first thing to consider is that Google shows results for queries based on the language and searcher’s location.
It is therefore important that your website content should reflect these.
Consider checking the language report in Google Analytics to help you identify the languages your potential customers use. This would help you to further niche down the countries and regions you want to target globally.
Now that you’ve identified your target countries, it would take an initial effort to either translate your website content into the local language (of your target country) or to create separate websites as a part of global strategies.
That said, note that the keywords receiving a good response in your own country will not necessarily fetch a big audience in other regions. Similarly, a keyword getting lukewarm attention in your country could receive very high search volumes globally.
It is therefore not about blind translation of keywords to different languages and optimising the website.
It is important to understand a chosen market, the popular keywords (within your chosen niche) within that region, and optimise your web content for those.
This is done by filtering the keywords by country or using a keyword that is aligned to the search intent and local language of the searcher.
Google Insights is particularly useful to determine the trends in search demands for particular keywords. It can help to identify market trends as well as opportunities to tap.
Consider partnering with a reputed SEO agency to ensure that all the finer details of technical SEO are taken care of while translating the content.
3. Use international SEO friendly URL structures
Take a special note on keeping an international-friendly URL structure.
This might mean using a country code top-level domain (ccTLD) and subdomains.
Language targeting would include using hreflang attributes that inform Google and other search engines regarding the language of your site.
4. The use of subdomain for international SEO is not recommended
Though the use of subdomain for each country is possible, it is not encouraged as the international signals are less authoritative compared to having a domain for each country.
There is a common belief that Google views a subdomain as a separate domain which may end up diluting the root domain’s authority.
5. Add other Geo-targeting signals
Other geo-targeting signals include:
- Adding links to your website on popular local social media sites.
- Using local currencies for pricing.
- Adding contact information such as phone number and address for local offices.
6. On-page and off-page SEO
Having the right keywords is important for both on-page and off-page SEO.
On-page optimisation includes creating keyword-rich content for your service and product pages, your blogs, your meta titles/meta descriptions, image alt tags, as well as your h tags.
When considering expansion out of your home country, it is important to note that some of these keywords might not be popular in the same format within the other country. Different variations and entities might have a better chance of ranking in another country vs your own nation.
Similarly, when considering off-page strategies, you can hardly ignore backlinks. Some strategies to build backlinks for your international market could include:
- Joining an association in the target country,
- Creating related quality blog posts or videos,
- Reaching out to their local journalists, bloggers, or influencers,
- Share on location-targeted social media channels.
This is where partnering with a reputed SEO company helps!
Expanding your business to international markets is not easy. As mentioned earlier, there are various factors that come into play and need careful consideration.
However, you have more control over SEO than other factors like new competitors, pricing, cultural requirements, etc.
SEO (that’s done right!) can help improve your website authority and influence your visibility.