The Internet is truly turning into the new marketing channel for the 21st century. It has become a key component of most companies’ business and marketing strategies. One of the reasons the Internet is so powerful is because it can reach users all over the world. This makes it a lot easier to target an international audience than it has been in the past.
Don’t get me wrong, though: launching your company’s product or service to an international audience can still be extremely tricky. Before you start branching out your business’ online marketing strategies to target an international market, there are a few things that you should know.
Use the Right Domain
There are a few key decisions you need to make when thinking about targeting an international audience. The first is to decide if you are going to have a different website for your international efforts. There are both pros and cons to going with a new website.
Let’s use the example of JW Snowboards, a fictional company that sells—as their name implies—snowboards. The website for the company is jwsnowboards.com. Let’s say the company is doing great in the States and is thinking about launching its product to an Italian audience. The company would have to choose if they want to build the international site on a sub-domain, sub-folder, or a different URL altogether.
When to use a Sub-Domain – it.jwsnowboards.com
The problem you are going to have with the subdomain is that it won’t transfer most of the authority from your root domain. If you’ve spent the past three years building up your domain’s web presence, domain authority, and page rank, then using a subdomain means that you have to start from scratch with your new international page.
The benefit of using a subdomain is that it is more easily recognized by people who are using your website. If you have a very strong brand that is recognized by users all over the world, it may be wise to go with the sub-domain strategy. If you are not a strong brand or you have a relatively new website, you may want to think about other options.
When to use a Different Top-Level Domain – jwsnowboards.it
Picking a website with the same top-level domain as the market you are trying to target can be a very effective strategy for international marketing. This is going to show Google and the other search engines that you are specifically targeting that country. If your main English website is relatively new, picking a new domain with the native TLD is definitely an option worth considering. If you choose to go with this option, it is absolutely critical that you host the website in the target country. This is another way you can demonstrate to the search engines that you are specifically trying to target a specific international market.
When to use Subfolders – jwsnowboards.com/it
Choosing to build your international pages within a subfolder can sometimes be the quickest way to get international rankings. This is the best option when your website has an extensive linking profile. Plus, all of the domain authority that you’ve built up on your original site gets passed to your new international landing pages.
One of the most critical steps to international success with the subfolder strategy is getting Google Webmaster Tools configured correctly. In the settings area of Webmaster Tools, you can geographically target certain subfolders to international markets, thereby telling Google that your /it subfolder, for example, is meant to be added to the Google.it index. We strongly recommend reading this guide on configuring Webmaster Tools before getting started on international pages.
Create Content for the Correct Demographic
No matter what type of website structure you choose to have for your international pages, you are going to need to create content specifically for your international page, in the native language of the market you are targeting.
When creating this content, it is critical that you remember to implement good SEO practices when it comes to your new international pages. Do proper onsite optimization, just as you would for an English landing page. Stick to the general rules of thumb when it comes to these optimizations: make sure that your title tags are no more than 65 characters long, and be careful that your meta descriptions are less than 160 characters long. It is also important that you use your keywords throughout the body of your content, as this will make your international page more relevant for your market and more easily found via search engines.
Finally, and most importantly, make sure that your content is written by someone who is fluent in the native language of your market. A lot of companies branching out into the international market have problems because their content isn’t high-quality or relevant to their international users. After all, if your content is barely readable, your company will look spammy and low-quality. And who wants to work with a company like that? Having a fluent writer create your content will keep your bounce rate low and your conversion high.
Go After the Right Kind of Links
Getting links from websites within the target country’s index is going to be critical. This is a key way you can show Google and the other search engines that your website is being endorsed by other native websites. We strongly recommend looking for high quality, reputable websites in your link building efforts. Guest blog posts are a very effective way to get links from top quality sites, as are a number of other link-building strategies.
The goal of every business is to expand, and one of the best ways to expand into different markets is to implement international online marketing strategies. Doing so effectively will grow your brand and increase your business!