SEO & Content Marketing, Top Tips, Hints & Advice

Guide: International SEO Strategy and Planning

Written by Sukh Singh on 17th October 2018

international-seo-strategy-banner

Performing international SEO for a brand is an exciting concept as you are essentially multiplying the number of opportunities available for driving additional traffic and conversions from each new country. If you are an SEO consultant, experienced or not, this can be a juicy project to undertake as there is always something to learn from each region’s technical and cultural requirements.

At the same time, this can also be daunting, as you may also have multiplied the number of stakeholders, KPI’s and limitations or roadblocks to manage.

There is a way to account for all of this and create an international SEO strategy that is scalable. We will look at the main considerations for forming a strategy and work through examples of how this can be done.

The thought process of creating international SEO strategies:

  1. What are your global digital KPIs?
  2. What are the target countries and their viability to drive traffic?
  3. What SEO tasks do we need to achieve the KPIs?
  4. Map SEO tasks against people and a timeline
  5. Report on the progress of your KPIs

1. What Are Your Global Digital KPIs?

This is always a good place to begin as you can start to build a global strategy around these targets. Let’s say a brand with a lead generation website wants to achieve a 20% increase in revenue year on year and up to this point their marketing efforts have been focussed to the UK. They now want to expand marketing to four other countries.

So, if we need an additional 20% revenue, the question is how many additional visits and conversions do we need to achieve this?

We can base this on existing Google Analytics data to start investigating how to achieve this:

  • Say the revenue gained from the last 12 months was £200,000
  • This was generated from 800 leads with an average order value of £250
  • These leads came from 200,000 website visits
  • And the conversion rate was 0.4%

 

Based on this and calculating the difference, we can say our global digital KPIs could be:

  • Drive an additional 40,000 sessions
  • To gain an additional 160 leads worth £40,000 in revenue
  • And try to increase the current conversion rate from 0.4% to say 1% to help further increase both KPIs

This discovery exercise is good because we can plan the SEO tasks needed to achieve these KPIs. We also know that if we can increase the conversion rate we can also increase those KPIs, making the user journey more effective to convert more of them.

Note: you may also need to discuss targets with each stakeholder as they have other KPIs to investigate, such as; an increase in brand traffic, social media engagement, white paper downloads, sales for specific products or services per region etc.

What we need to do next is determine which countries you need to target (if you do not have an idea already) and how much work is needed to achieve these KPIs. This work will allow you to decide on whether the KPIs are realistic or if you need to aim lower/higher, based on the resources available and any time constraints you may have.

2. What Are The Target Countries and Their Viability to Drive Traffic?

Whether you know the target countries at this stage or not, you will need to look at where visitors are coming from and their behaviour to determine how much work needs to be done in each country:

  1. Go to Google Analytics and pull-up the reports “Location” and “Language” (Audience > Geo > Location/Language)
  2. Apply a segment for “Organic Traffic”
  3. Look at the acquisition, behaviour and conversion data to get an idea of how well these are performing

Analytics GEO Location report

In this example, we see that a few regions are quite strong, but South Korea, France, Netherlands, Spain, and Mexico are quite weak.

At this point you would make a note of the stronger and weaker regions, so you can investigate the keyphrases driving this traffic later.

Analytics-GEO-Language-report

Here we see the languages used to visit the site. This is important to note as you will need to determine whether each country needs to see native content on their versions of the site, or just English, or a variation of the two options.

This will determine how much work is needed to transcreate content and keywords.

Note: Transcreating is the process of completely re-writing content with the local culture in mind. For keywords, this means sticking to the topic of the keyword optimised on the same page across different country variations, but finding the actual terms people would use instead (this may differ if you are simply just translating a keyword).

Now you know which regions and languages are strong/weak, you can prioritise which ones to do keyphrase research for to get an idea of the opportunities for additional traffic, then set other SEO tasks to start gaining visibility in those regions.

For example, you could perform set-up tasks for every region you want to target, regardless of current performance (technical SEO, geo-targeting etc) to form a foundation to build upon. You can then implement a phase one project, to just focus on optimising the weaker regions to bring them up to par with the stronger ones.

A phase two project might then include focussing on all regions, performing ongoing SEO on them.

We offer International SEO services (click here to find out more) where we can help you develop your strategy from the ground up, with relevant KPIs and setting specific SEO tasks needed to achieve them.

3. What SEO Tasks Do We Need to Achieve The KPIs?

Focusing on the example KPIs we discovered, where do we get 40,000 additional sessions from? With SEO we can perform on-site, off-site and technical SEO to varying degrees to achieve this. Therefore, we just need to figure out what tasks within these areas we need to do.

International Keyphrase Research

Looking at on-site SEO as an example, we would typically start with some initial keyphrase research to gauge what kind of keyphrase traffic we’re getting already how much more traffic we can get from each region.

Find Existing Keyphrases and Traffic

You can use Google Search Console or SEOmonitor, which will identify ‘not-provided’ keyphrases for you (other tools like SEM Rush can do this too).

Search Console Search Analytics report

Within the “Search Analytics” report we can see the search queries, impressions, CTR and position data. From this, we can look for keyphrases driving the most clicks against impressions, CTR and positions, to determine what brand and non-brand terms you have visibility for and how well they perform to drive traffic.

SEOMonitor Organic Traffic report

We use SEOmonitor to determine which keyphrases are driving visits to a website, with individual profiles set-up for each target country. With this data we can see the keyphrases with the estimated search volumes and other key metrics. We would then move potential keyphrases to research groups where we can get the actual search volume figures along with visitor data from Google Analytics.

Find New Keyphrases and Potential Traffic

Assuming you have done some keyphrase research for each country (remember the regions you may have chosen from your discovery work in the previous sections), we can use a tool like SEOmonitor to create campaigns for each county. This will give us the estimated traffic figures based on each country’s Google version (google.es, Google.com US etc).

Note: we are skipping the detail of this task as we are focussing on the overall strategy of a campaign. However, if you are researching keyphrases in different languages you would need to use people native to, or familiar with, the country you are targeting to find the most relevant keyphrases that will convert.

SEOmonitor campaign dashboard

An example of campaigns set-up in SEOmonitor.

Structuring your newly found keyphrases, for each country, in this way will allow you to view the collective search volumes they could generate (search volume = average searches generated / month). From this, you can then calculate how much additional traffic you will gain.

SEOmonitor Research

In this example, we can see that the keywords I found targeting the US (Google.com) generate a search volume of approximately 826,000 searches a month.

Note: Search volume is a rough estimate Google provides you via Google Ads data and it should be taken with a pinch of salt. Because of this, you should always aim for an estimated traffic figure that is about 20% larger than your KPI requires, just to be safe.

We know that the new keywords we found could generate roughly 826,000 searches, but of these, roughly how many people would click from the Google SERPs to the site?

There are several factors to calculating this (the average CTR of each ranking position in Google, whether it’s a text, image or video ranking result, the industry you are in etc). We use a forecasting tool in SEOmonitor to calculate this, which uses all the latest research figures on these factors and calculates, based on the regional Google version, to give us estimated traffic figures for the coming months.

SEOmonitor Keyphrase Additional Traffic Forecasting

In this example, the tool is telling us that if we get within the top 10 search results for these new keywords we will gain 223K additional organic sessions over the next 12 months.

The figure in this example is large of course and you may see smaller figures, so when you do this you would need to repeat it for each country, add-up the additional forecasted visitor numbers then compare it to your KPI figure for additional sessions needed.

List Your SEO Tasks

In this example, we are using the initial keyphrase research and additional visitor numbers we need to help decide what other SEO tasks we need to list. There are also other SEO tasks we can perform that are not informed by keyphrase research.

Here are some examples:

  • On-page optimisation x 5 countries
  • Technical SEO (indexation, tag, speed, mobile and UX optimisation) x5 countries
  • Geo-targeting work x5 countries
  • Backlink audit x5 countries
  • Link building x5 countries
  • Content audits x5 countries
  • Content marketing x5 countries
  • Conversion rate optimisation

Note: there are several factors to consider before deciding on which tasks you require and the time it will take to implement them. Examples include; whether you have one large website with multiple country directories or separate sites and hosting for each, resources available (agencies or staff members) in each country, budgets and time constraints.

Other Task Considerations

Site Structure

You can either use one website to host each version of your website for each country, or you can get additional CCTLD’s (country code top-level domains) with hosting in each country or a CDN network.

There are pros and cons for each option you consider (costs for management, work required and effectiveness) which you need to weigh up. See this guide from Google on the pros and cons of each.

Geo-Targeting and Hreflang Tags

You will need to target the specific regions and their search engines to see your site (or regional directory) as the preferred version to display in their search results. For this, you will need to perform some geo-targeting work.

This includes:

  • Placing Hreflang tags on the sites/directories to tell Google and other search engines which country and language you are targeting. They also combat duplicate content issues, as you may need to use English versions of your site in multiple regions, thus displaying the same content on the site technically – link to a guide from Google on this
  • Create Google Search Console profiles for each country you target and select target countries – link to a guide on this
    • You will have to set up sitemaps and do other configurations for each profile too
  • Look at other search engines which are prominent in each county you are targeting and target these too
    • You will need to set-up Search Console profiles for each based on whether they have enough market share to target them
    • You may need to check their search quality guidelines to see what work you will need to do to get in and stay in their index
    • Guide on the global search engine market share by https://alphametic.com/global-search-engine-market-share

search_engine_market_share

4. Map SEO Tasks Against People and a Timeline

You know what tasks you need to perform to achieve this, you now then need to figure out who you can work with and use to help complete these tasks and structure a campaign against a timeline.

If you have project managers and marketing consultants in each country, you can allocate tasks against them.

International SEO project planning map example

This is a rough example of an Excel sheet. There are many tools you can use to streamline this and collaborate with stakeholders, such as Trello and SmartSheets.

Ideally, you want to complete set-up tasks at the start of the campaign and start the ongoing work immediately after this, running through to the end of the campaign (e.g. link building and content creation). You also want to allow extra time in each month for problem-solving or implementing any new tasks you may discover based on developments in your industry, Google algorithm updates, delays from stake-holders etc.

5. Report On The Progress of Your KPIs

Reporting on your campaign will complete the loop and inform you and your stakeholders on whether you are on target with the current KPIs and highlight any additional task opportunities that you can add to your global strategy.

We know our example KPIs are:

  • An additional 40,000 sessions
  • An additional £40,000 revenue
  • Try to increase the conversion rate of 0.4%

You can report on this using the following tools:

  • Google Analytics
  • Google Search Console
  • SEOmonitor

We use Google Data Studio to collate all this data and display in the user-friendly way that both technical and non-technical stakeholders can view and use to action any strategy changes.

Google Data Studio report example

We offer Google Data Studio Dashboard service (click to learn more), where we will set-up custom reports to match your KPIs. We can even help you develop those KPIs.

Related guide: If you would like advice on how to create a complete marketing strategy, Click To Read our detailed guide on The A10 Digital Marketing Framework.

We Can Help You with International SEO

Anicca Digital specialises in International SEO for lead generation and ecommerce, whether the scope of your project is small or large.

We can join you right at the start of the project with strategy creation and KPI-setting, managing the complete campaign. We can also join mid-way or complete smaller, consultancy pieces for you, contributing to your larger strategy and KPIs.

Click here to read more about our International SEO Services or feel free to get in contact and speak to our SEO team.