Time to Google-Up! International SEO Best Practices for Global Brands
Most online customer journeys mapped by brands begin with search. Yet many international brands tell us their implementation and processes for SEO remain unorganized and half-hearted. For most, international SEO is a future goal, while teams are “still working out” how to proceed with English or another home-market language. Virtually all companies say they are not doing enough. Here’s what you need to know.
Google still dominates the search market worldwide, even where you wouldn’t expect. supplying the organic search results for some local favorites like Yahoo! Japan. In Russia, where it faces entrenched native competition from Yandex and Mail.ru, Google now gleans the largest share in the market. It shows less than a 70% share in only a few countries – most notably, China. Thus, Google’s approach to SEO provides the context and target for all SEO practices – global brands consider other search engine requirements as exceptions to the rule of Google.
Google believes that its own customers – the searchers – prefer to find authoritative content, without SEO tricks. The page with the best information should win, versus a protocol-correct page with less inherent value. Thus, brands correctly focus on content production rather than on SEO protocols, per se. For this reason, the SEO practices in the sections below go well beyond the HTML tagging procedures commonly associated with SEO in the past. CSA Research posits three strategic considerations for international SEO – content quality, usability, and engagement:
- Create the best content. The first principle of SEO is to write copiously, frequently, and authoritatively about the topics of interest to your customers. Marketers rely on keyword research to guide editorial production, while the correct use of on-page SEO protocol helps the search engine correctly parse that content. Inbound and outbound links to other authoritative pages furnish important evidence of authority. Google and others weigh the freshness of content on the site, as well as the long-term durability and popularity of each page. Tables, images, and video strengthen pages, especially when tagged with keywords.
- Make it fast and easy. The second principle of SEO is usability. When Google saw mobile search outstripping desktop, it chose to penalize non-mobile-friendly sites. When its research showed that mobile users won’t wait beyond four seconds for a page to load, Google punished sites with slow load times. It also tracks bounces, when visitors click off to a website but quickly return to the search engine results page. It prizes sites with clear structures and in-line links that help users find their way around.
- Work the crowd. Finally, the Google approach rewards content that shows high levels of engagement. This begins with authoritative links, low bounce rates, and long “dwell” times. But social sharing and blog comments provide search engines with a bonanza of data on what content garners the most attention in the marketplace. Thus, pages with shareable content taken up by opinion leaders, pushed by “influencer marketing” tactics, play into SEO strategy. Content fares better when promoted through PR, e-mail campaigns, and digital advertising. Engagement reinforces keyword authority for sites and for individual pages.
In 2017, brands should build their international SEO strategies around these three principles. Laggards on this front will see declining results to the bottom line, while competent brands surge ahead in a predominantly digitized global economy.
To catch up on the specific tactics that achieve these ends via on-page SEO and site configuration, check out our recent research on the topic.
About the Author