Essential SEO tips for taking a website global

Isabelle Thomas

It’s 2022, the Covid wave is abating, and your company is finally looking at international expansion. If a web presence is to be any part of that plan, SEO should be the first item on your list. Without it, you are likely spending resources on a website that will, in essence, be playing its tune to an empty room. 

Enter Edmund Pelgen, search lead for Komosion, has worked in the search engine optimisation space for over 15 years. His role is figuring out international search strategies and content strategies to help companies get better visibility in their global markets, without impacting other markets, and selling more from organic search. 

Having worked with a variety of clients from small to global brands, Edmund spoke to us about the importance of SEO when looking to expand globally. 

“Global SEO is a really critical aspect for brands that are looking to expand globally. We recently delivered a strategic review for a global brand to assess what their global SEO strategy should be going forward, and although they understood its importance, there was no cohesive strategy.”

Consider the fact that from a global SEO perspective, each market is unique. Their content needs are going to be different. People in different markets search for different things, they have different problems, desires and aspirations. 

“So, there’s a couple of things that are relevant to consider when you’re looking at global SEO for brands. Firstly, it is really critical to understand the fact that customers in each country have different problems and needs. And that translates into a different search behaviour,” says Edmund. 

Then there’s the question of domain structure. This is one area where decision-making is not clear-cut. Each company is different, and understanding a customer’s needs, problems and desires is really critical.

“If you’re making a decision as to whether to keep an existing in-country domain, or go with global domains – or some other strategy – you need to understand that customers in each country will respond differently to the domain that you put in front of them, or the site that you put in front of all the content that you create for them. 

“In separate countries, top level domains may be an easier solution. But they also bring with them higher technical overhead, in the sense that you are managing multiple websites. So to some extent, your operational capacity, your team size, your ability to manage all of those different disparate technical requirements can help drive those decisions as to whether you run multiple websites or a single global website.

‘Targeting’ refers to the kinds of words a certain market searches for, how they search and what problems they’re trying to solve. It differs widely between countries. In other words, targeting is about understanding the different mental models that local populations may have about similar products or services. 

“You want to look at targeting in each market. Each country has its own unique targeting in terms of how people search, what they search for, how different their specific problems are, the search phrases that they use. This is about differing problem sets, and subsequent solutions.

“Keyword research is critical to driving the page optimizations and the site structure in those countries, as well as driving the content marketing strategy in those countries. So it’s really critical that you understand each of these variables for each of these different countries.”

Which isn’t to ignore operational issues. Any SEO strategy impacts a company’s customer service strategy. It may also impact logistics, delivery – the type of domain you choose to use, for example, may make it more difficult to service customers in certain countries and easier in others.

There’s also the fact that although we think of the Internet as an English-driven medium, a critical aspect of dealing with global SEO is the recognition that not all people speak English. Sounds obvious, but it often gets missed.

“People in different countries will necessarily use different languages to search,” Edmund says. “So, an understanding of both the geography and the languages is important, as it will drive how you structure your website, how you structure your domains, and how you structure and create your content.”

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