45 | International Optimisation if you don’t know the language


She has presented a talk at Brighton SEO (Sept 2019) on the topic because it’s the one thing that she thought couldn’t be done and it was a challenge that she had to overcome. She was given a task from a client who said they wanted to break into the international market and had to find a way to do this and to help them stand out. Instinctively, she initially wanted to say no, it couldn’t be done, but then she went away and had a think about what approach she could take. 

She managed to come back with ideas and a process which she shared with us, which helps do the above and inform about local markets so that the business can include topics for content creation. This was valuable to her clients.

This is great for small companies to create a business case to do more and get translations etc. Do initial research on your own before getting translations and natives to help. 

“This isn’t to help you learn another language in 20 minutes, the point behind this is that there are ways that can save time and money.” – Cat Goulbourne

How to do International Optimisation?

Keyword Research – Listen to episode 2 for the basics on this. It’s about not understanding the value of these keywords; do they have search volume? Direct translations do not usually work so it should never be the basis for your international keyword research. Instead, look at localised content. Go through and assess the keywords and find better ways of writing/saying things for that particular market. There may be alternatives you didn’t know about in that language. Your keywords and searches therefore must reflect the location and market you’re trying to tap into to do it well. 

Competitor Research – Look at the subjects they write about and the wording that they use. How are they constructing sentences for example. You don’t know what you’re missing and the gaps you have until you look at competitors to see how they’re writing about it and what about. Ask yourself, is there a content split, Q&A or inspirational content? What makes that territory tick?

Search Engines Around the World – Be aware that there are different search engines in different areas. You need to put effort and energy into that content that’s most relevant to the location because there are different ranking factors for each. Prioritise those and find them via competitors in that market.

Products & Seasonality – Different products in any area may be trending differently. Seasonality in territories too can be highly affecting sales, like Australia compared to the UK, weather-wise. Each market, the product needs and consumer needs will change from market to market. So, it can’t be about just the marketing but look at product development and tailor to individual areas rather than creating a blanket strategy. 

SEO isn’t just SEO any more, it’s so much more. Whilst we’re paying attention to robots and algorithms, we’re trying to connect things to a person. Answer questions, sell products and find out what they want. The research you do can be helpful to other departments also.

International Research Approach

How Cat did it:

  1. Tools. Use a variety of tools as this will give you a level of variation and a data pool that ensures accuracy. Tools help with time saving, especially tools like Screaming Frog for example for finding all URLs of a competitor website. 
  2. Manual assessment. You are the best quality assessor. The best tool for assessing content quality is another human, regardless if you understand the language or not, to an extent. People can assess pages and gauge what is good anyway because they can see whether there’s good structured content, videos, imagery and so on. 

How to Identify Competitors in International Markets

You need two sets of competitors so that you don’t miss out on the full picture. Firstly, those that sell similar product and those that are you SEO competitors (appear in the SERPs.) Some may not be ranking for the same things as you but still are a competitor (because this is where you’d like to be.) You can also split competitors up by content type as some may show up for different pages that tailor to particular parts of a customer user journey (inspirational vs transactional for ecommerce.)

Use Hide My Ass (HMA) VPN to hide your location and see the search results as if you’re someone in that market. I believe most VPNs have free versions. Change your setting of Google Chrome to do this but I personally found it doesn’t work as well. 

Finding Gaps

Cat prefers SEMrush & Ahrefs, which help her identify things quickly. If you look at the top 4 competitors you’ll see keywords that you’re not showing up for, opportunities and who is dominating conversations. This will help you decide if it worth creating content to get more visibility and create a priority list. Then the manual checks will help you create the correct pages with the right intent so that you know what it includes and how it should be structured. Create content that brings value to your customer, you want them to convert or subscribe to your site. 

Number 1 Tip to Break Out into International

Have a content inventory in place. Cat says these get forgotten a lot. A library of content pages on your CMS system that is tidy can help a lot. It removes potential of content cannibalisation or wasting your time! Rewriting content works better than creating another page with a similar USP, this can (and will) harm your rankings of the original piece.

Twitter: @copyranting

LinkedIn: Catherine ‘Pear’ Goulbourne

Just quickly: Shout-out to Marco Bonomo, James Cooper, Ste Hughes & others for suggesting things to sort out my hacked site. Here’s the site I was recommended: https://www.codeinwp.com/blog/secure-your-wordpress-website/

Related Episodes

  1. Content Cannibalisation with Jon Earnshaw
  2. Content Strategy with Dan Shure

Music credit: I Dunno (Grapes of Wrath Mix) by spinningmerkaba (c) copyright 2017 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. http://dig.ccmixter.org/files/jlbrock44/56346 Ft: Jlang, 4nsic, grapes.

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