Learn how to start an international SEO strategy for small and medium size B2B companies

Your traffic comes from just one country and don’t know how to change it? Do you want to increase the traffic that you get from other regions?

world traffic spain

Do you compete against big brands and don’t know how to find opportunities online?

big brands google

Then this is the solution: Create an international SEO strategy with special focus on multilingual keyword research to find opportunities when you are a medium size company.

multilingual keyword research success

There are more than 6.500 spoken languages in the world!

If you are still not sure why it is important to start your multilingual SEO strategy, there is something that you need to take into account: there are more than 6,500 languages spoken in the world. 

As we can see in the following graphs, Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, English, Indian and Bengali are the most spoken languages in the world, but they are spoken by less than 30% of the population. And although they are equivalent to millions of people, there are many other languages spoken.

most spoken languages 2019

On the other hand, if we analyze the most used content on web pages, we find that probably more than 60% is in English! While it is true that it is one of the most spoken languages and by a large number of people, not only as a native language, but as a second or third language, it represents a very high amount of online content in this language. 

languages online

What does it mean that so many websites are in English? On the one hand, that in many places we have become accustomed to searching online in English, but, on the other hand, much more competition

If we look at other languages, for example, Spanish, we see how it is the second most spoken language in the world, but is in 4th position in relation to online content. More significant is the case of Portuguese, which, although it is the 4th most spoken language in the world, is in the 15th position in terms of online content.

Low and poor content, but a large number of searches

The fact that low content of a language is found online often does not mean that it is not being searched for -although sometimes it may indicate that they may not make as much use of the search engine. It is true that it is necessary to study and know the characteristics of each country, but in many cases we can see how the terms in that language are actually searched for, although perhaps due to lack of good content, the user ends up searching with another more generic language. As for example, we can see in Catalonia with the word “dining table (taula menjador)”, written in Catalan, an official language of Spain, but a minority one, there is low competition, but a considerable volume of searches:

taules menjador keyword

40% of global consumers won’t buy in other languages

According to the Can’t Read, Won’t Buy study, 40% of global consumers won’t buy in other languages. That is why it is so important to design a multilingual international strategy: not only would be useful to compete against big brands that are ranked with more generic keywords or more generic languages, but also to get the user to convert more.

But not only the 40% of users prefer to buy in their own language, but also, as the study points out:

  • 65% prefer to find content in their native language.
  • 73% want reviews of products in their language.
  • 65% prefer content in their language, even if it’s of poor quality.
  • 30% of the respondents never buy at English-language sites.
  • 44% feared that they are missing out on information because it is not available in their language (over 50% in countries such as Spain, Portugal and Greece).
  • And last but not least… 66% use online machine translation when buying online. 

That is why it is important to have our website in the right language or languages for our strategy, if we want to increase users’ conversions, easily solve all their doubts and be closer to them. 

But having a website focused on more than one country or in more than one language can involve an additional effort, knowledge of the region and the language and it must be done with accuracy. For this it is important to design a correct international strategy with a multilingual website according to our objectives and priorities. Let’s find out!

Why is it important to do a multilingual keyword research when starting an international SEO strategy?

Considering what is the situation of online languages, our competitors and the objectives of our strategy, we can point out that a multilingual keyword research will be useful in our international strategy to:  

  • Reach our target audience: Targeting content to our potential countries will help us reach our audience.
  • Provide more personalized and customized content to increase conversion rates.
  • To have less competition and find more opportunities.

We must also bear in mind that some languages are limited to a certain number of users and require additional effort, both in terms of content and technical aspects.

How to start an international SEO strategy for a small-medium size B2B company?

Before doing a keyword research for each of the languages of our new international SEO strategy, it is important to have our strategy well defined. We cannot pretend to expand to the whole world, because there are almost 200 countries! So first it is recommended to correctly design the international strategy following the next steps:

1.Define your objectives and prioritize

It is important to select specifically the countries or languages where you are going to start to focus your efforts. To decide which are the markets that may interest you, you can do it based on several characteristics, such as countries where you already have indexed keywords, which may already lead to conversions, depending on the characteristics of your product – perhaps it is more purchased in some regions than in others – or even depending on the legal aspects or limitations, as well as the habits of each country. 

traffic by countries

2.Market research

When deciding which languages and regions do you want to start, it is important to do – like always – a previous market research, to analyze not only your offline and online competitors, such as the main keywords that they are ranked for, total of queries and competence, but also to study the characteristics of that population and country, to make sure that it would be a great fit selling your product there as there is a need. 

To look for your organic competitors, you can do it through Google and SEO tools such as SEMrush. That will tell you about your competitors and also the trends of that product in the market.

keyword and competitors

3.Validate your product’s market fit

If you don’t have a big budget or few resources, implementing an SEO strategy in the wrong country can be a huge waste of time and resources. It is therefore important to validate beforehand how your product can fit in the country or region you want to start. Find out before if the online selling of your product fits in that country before. 

To validate your product’s market fit you can do it trhourgh PPC campaigns with Google Ads or also through marketplaces or local directories such as Direct Industry or Amazon, depending on the region you are looking to start. You can find some local directories on that Hubspot’s Local Business Directories List or at Innova Export.

gogole ads example campaign

and… If you realize and believe that would be a good fit, then is the time to start your international SEO strategy! Let’s go!

Web architecture: generic or country code-level domains?

As we all know, designing the right web architecture is one of the keys to success. And, when we design an International SEO strategy, it will not be less! For this it is very important that we develop the structure according to our objectives.

So, to begin with, we must ask ourselves: which are our objectives and what are the competitors doing?

The first thing we have to be clear about is the different types of domains that we can use for a web site. There are mainly the following two types:

Generic Top-Level Domains

The gTLD (generic top level domains) are the domains that are not linked to any country and have three-character endings such as .com, .org, .net…

If we use generic top level domains, but we also want to geolocate our site in different countries, we will do it with subfolders or subdomains and we can specify our site’s target locale using the International Targeting report from Google Search Console.

Learn more about international web architecture on our blog: How to create an International SEO strategy?

Country Code Top-Level Domains

The ccTLDS (country code Top Level Domains) are used when we want to specify the country or market where we want to expand. In this case, they are websites ending with extensions such as .es, .fr, .co.uk, etc. With these endings, we indicate to search engines that this domain has to be the most relevant for searches in each country and we geolocate the pages according to the region where we want to have more presence.

web architecture international

Multilingual keyword research

So, now that we have defined our strategy, that we know where we are going to focus our efforts and expand, it’s time to do our multilingual keyword research.This will also vary depending on the country and language we speak and the country or language we want to do the research. 

Before continuing reading, learn how to do a keyword research step by step here. 

These are the main situations we may encounter. Let’s analyze them:

mulitlingual keyword research type

From a country and a language to a different country and different language

One of the most common multilingual keyword researches that we can come across is when we have a website in a country with one language, and we want to search for the equivalent keyword in another country that speaks another language. 

For example, it would be the case of someone from Spain in Spanish having to do it in English in England, or from Mexico to Germany. 

In these cases, there are many factors that must be taken into account when carrying out the study and the equivalent translation:

  • Don’t just translate: on many occasions, especially when they are different languages, many expressions can be spelled very differently. Therefore, do not limit yourself to translating – especially not with automatic translators, although nowadays we can find very good ones, such as deepl -. We can see it in the following example.

commercial washing machine us

In the US, if we want to buy a commercial washing machine for industrial purposes, the keyword has more than 5000k of mensual searches. If then we go to the translator, it recommends to translate in Spanish such as “Lavadora comercial” as this would be the exact translation. However, in Spain this term isn’t used. Instead, is better to just say “Lavadora industrial” (industrial washing machine) as it has a higher volume of searches and not a high competition. That’s why you can’t just translate, as sometimes maybe it won’t be the best expression for your SEO purposes. 

  • Have native writers or creators: it is important to have native translators, who can write the content directly or revise and adapt it, after having passed it through a translator, since they not only know the most used terms, but also the traditions, customs and culture of the country.
  • Different cultures and customs: a very important aspect. When writing content from one country to another, we have to take into account that not only legal aspects and aspects related to our product may be different, but also the culture and habits.
  • Different local holidays, seasons…: not all countries in the world have the same seasons. While in Australia it is winter, in Germany it is summer, and while some celebrate St. Patrick’s day, other countries celebrate “Caga Tió”.

From a country and a language to a different country and same language

Likewise, when we do a multilingual word study, we sometimes focus on a country that speaks the same language as we do. Such would be the case of Spain with Mexico or the USA with the UK, among many others. This is a great advantage, but it will be easier for us to understand the content in that other country, but we cannot get carried away by confidence. Although we speak the same language there are many different expressions and terms, among others, which can influence and be a positive or negative turning point in our strategy, depending on how we take advantage of it.

So, when we do a multilingual keword research from one country to another country speaking the same language is recommended:

  • Do not use the same content for all countries: depending on the product or service, its use, utility or way of using it, when to buy it may be different in some country or another, so it is important that depending on the product you previously study the characteristics of each country.
  • Different expressions and dialects: remember that there are different expressions and dialects depending on the country. A very important one would be the case of Spain and Mexico, where the language is the same, the expressions, the tone… They can vary a lot.
  • Validate your main topics or keywords in each country: for this it is important not to play it safe and always validate the keywords in each country, especially if we have different subfolders or subdomains for each region. A clear example would be the term computer which is called “computadora” in Latin America and “ordenador” in Spain. We see how the volume varies a lot in each place. 
computadora america latina
ordenador keyword españa
  • Optimize content with local searches: service / product + location (city, country, region…): finally, another key aspect to take into account in these cases to position content in each country is to use local terms. While when writing content for Spain it is advisable to use the name of the product + Barcelona, Madrid, Valencia… in Mexico it will be advisable to use their cities or regions, as in Argentina, Colombia or Chile, if we want to rank in that region.
commercial washing machine uk local
  • Different cultures and customs: keep in mind also that the same language, different cultures, system of government, traditions… So many aspects may vary. 
  • Different local holidays, seasons…: as it is the case of holidays or seasons. In the UK, US and Australia English is spoken, but in two countries it is winter, in the other one it is summer.

From a country with more than one official language to the same country but different official language or others

But sometimes we want to dig deeper. As we can see in the following example it is not always as easy as we have explained above. In some countries – most of them – there is more than one official language (or some widely spoken language). We can see this in the case of Canada, for example, where the official languages are English and French. Aspects to consider when deciding which is the best option when choosing to have the website in one language or another. It is true that 75% of Canadians speak English, while 22% speak French. An even more important figure when we talk about people. This is equivalent to more than 7 million people. A large volume of searches!

And it is the same in other countries such as Spain. Where there are not only two official languages, but 5: Spanish, Catalan, Galician, Basque and Aranese. So if our goal is to sell in Barcelona, we will have to consider not only Spanish, but also Catalan. While if it is in Bilbao, Basque. 

official languages spain

Source: wikipedia

But which is better? Which main language should we choose? Well, like everything else, it will always depend. When doing our multilingual keyword study to decide which language is better to use in each place we have to take into account that probably the most spoken language will have more searches, but probably also more competition. While the less spoken by name of people, it is true that it will have fewer searches, but probably less competition. So we can use this to design our international SEO strategy according to our objectives.

We see it with this example in Catalonia. While Spanish terms referring to desk table or dining chair have a lot of searches, we see that it is also proportional to the competition. So if we are from another country, and an average company, it will be difficult for us to position ourselves. On the other hand, in Catalan there are fewer searches, but also much less competition. So we could value it for our strategy.

catalan keyword research example

We also see this in countries where there is a large population that speaks another language, even if it is not official. This is the case of Spanish in the United States. In the United States, more than 43 million people speak Spanish as a first language (about 13 percent of the population).

So for example, if you want to sell women’s shoes in the US, the competition is very high.

womens shows keyword

On the other hand, the same term in Spanish has less searches, but also less competition. While it is true that it may be a different audience, it can be useful to find opportunities and compete with big brands:

zapatos de mujer keyword

Country with different search engine most used

Last but not least, there is something else that we need to know. Especially when designing strategies to Russia or China, among others. The fact is that Google is not the most used search engine in every country in the world.

For example, at first glance, it seems that the 2.6% of the population that uses Bing, is a very small and irrelevant xigra. But this is equivalent to millions of people. 

Each of these search engines has its own requirements and peculiarities related to SEO and indexing. So it is advisable to study and know them beforehand, especially if we want to make an international SEO strategy in countries like China, where the main search engine is Baidu. 

More information about search engines.

search engines used

Content strategy: how to write country focused content?

So now we know different ways to do our multilingual keyword research when doing our international SEO strategy and things to take into account. However, what are some of the tips that we need to pay attention to when writing for different countries and regions?

1.Remember that users are from different cultures and habits. Take into account the tone, the sense of humour, the social situation of the country, among others, when writing to different people and cultures.

2.Keep in mind that the services or products offered in different regions may not be the same. Take this into account when writing the content, as the same benefits may not be available to all users. 

Our examples were focused on the industrial sector without taking into account online shopping. Our examples are very focused on the industrial sector without taking into account online shopping. Also, in case of selling through our website we would have to take into consideration the type of currency and taxes of each region, among other aspects – and otherwise as well. So the price of the service, as well as the services, may be different. Remember this when writing and creating content, especially if you do not have differentiated versions on your website for each region, but it does happen in the case of pricing.

3.Look for native writers or content creators. If they transcribe and adapt the content, instead of just translating it, it would be a better way to target your potential clients.You can use translators like deepl, especially for meta-data creation, but it is recommended that a native speaker validate the content and structure if it is possible. 

4.Content automation: for large sites or ecommerces. Automatic translations, keyword patterns, localizations… with native speaker review can be done. For example, you can optimize all your product category metadata with the name of the product + size / caracteristicas + localization.

Multilingual keyword research & international content calendar template

To keep you accountable and in focus to achieve your goals you can use different content templates that will help you to set a better organization between teams, to have a better organization of your content, to classify your topics easily, to not miss good opportunities because you are late and to work internal Link Bulding.

For this I preapare for you the following templates. A multilingual keyword research template, that will help you to define the keyword to work on each page and language or region, the volume of searches it has, similar keywords, as well as the wording of titles and meta-data.

multilingual keyword template

And another template called international content calendar template that will be useful for your international SEO strategy. It will allow you to define for each blog or news item the keyword to work on depending on the language or region, as well as other aspects to take into account.

international content calendar template

Technical SEO, Link Building and local directories

When creating an international SEO strategy it is not only important to do a proper multilingual keyword research depending on the country that you are expanding to. There are other aspects that you have to consider:

Hreflangs Tags, essential for the International SEO strategy!

The hreflang tag is used to indicate to Google that we have a website in more than one language or targeted to more than one region, and which URL corresponds to each one. Thus, it will be easier for search engines to correctly display the results in each specific country according to the region and/or language of the user.

This should be indicated with the following element in the header of each page:

 rel=”alternate” hreflang=”en-es (language-code)” href=web.com />

For example, if the company addresses Spain (Spanish), Catalonia (Catalan) and United Kingdom (English):

hreflang tags multilingual example

CDNs or local servers?

Another very important aspect to consider when designing an international SEO strategy is whether we want to host our website on a CDN (content delivery network) or on a local server. A decision that, as always, will also vary depending on our objectives.

Learn more about CDN’s for international SEO strategies.

Local directories and linkbulding

It is strongly recommended to work on Local SEO and linkbuilding strategies in each of the countries we want to expand – that’s why we said it was important to prioritize -. If you can, create a Google My Business listing for your physical location in the country and register your website in local directories. 

Track your results to validate your international SEO strategy

And last but not least… track the results! It is important to verify if your strategies are working in each country.

Want more information on how to do a multilingual keyword research for your international SEO strategy?

If you want more information on how to do a multilingual keyword research for your international SEO strategy contact me.