How to Use SEO for Global Expansion

You’ve established a successful SEO process and are looking to start an international campaign. Fantastic! To be successful, you must research and create content for every country you target.

Note: Even if you are not currently thinking about creating an international campaign it is important to understand your current audience. Check where your current site traffic is coming from and what keywords they used to find your site. You can use Google Analytics to identify those sources.

Ready for the challenge?

According to, the first step in international expansion is to determine your target: country or language. 

Target users that speak another language.

Target users that live in another part of the world.

The main question to determine this is: Is location a factor that determines your web goals, products, or services? If the answer is yes, country targeting should be your localization focus.

Now that you have analyzed and chosen your target, it is extremely important to thoroughly research each of these unique populations in great detail. Focus on the technical side first: know your target area’s most popular web hosting locations, domains and sub-domains, country codes, URL structures, search engines, and social media websites.

The odds are that your current SEO plan is tailored toward Google. Luckily, Google is the top search engine in most countries. Check the most visited websites of your country, just in case. For instance, in China the top search engine is

Once you’ve established where you plan to target your audience, next comes creating your content. In your local campaign, you likely chose your search keywords from your company’s blog posts, news articles, infographics, etc. You should follow this process for your international campaign as well, with one huge exception: don’t use the same content and keywords.

Download your free guide: The Definitive Guide to Website Localization

Creating an international SEO presence requires more work than translating content into the target languages. While it may be tempting to simply translate the content you’ve already created, we advise against it. What one audience responds to can be vastly different to another; cultures differ, and inevitably part of your established content will be ineffective for the audience you’d now like to capture. Before creating your content research first; know what your audience responds to and incorporate these factors into new content, and pull keywords from it.

Once you’ve identified localized keywords, it is time to enlist the help of a translation expert. Some SEO programs – such as Google’s Global Market Finder – will offer to translate your keywords for you, likely using their own MT program. This is not the time to rely on a machine translation program. Even the subtlest of differences between two words can have a big impact once translated, and your efforts are in vain if you pull the wrong audience.

We stress the importance of using a trusted translation service for your heavier content, as well. Great SEO campaigns run best with thoughtful, informative blog posts or articles. Although you may pull in visitors with properly translated keywords, they may not stay if the rest of your content is indecipherable.

Some additional questions to consider to expand your international SEO campaign:

Although it may seem daunting, creating an international SEO campaign is highly beneficial to any business expanding into the global market. We encourage you to take up the challenge – the rewards are worth the work!


This post was originally published on Oct 15, 2013 and has been updated for accuracy and freshness.


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