When looking to get more organic traffic to a site, most people do one of two things:
First, they either start to create new content.
Or second, they try to produce new backlinks to bring in traffic.
But all of that costs money in the form of tons of labor and creating a budget for links that you don’t have.
And let’s face it, SEO in today’s world is more crowded than ever. Everyone wants a piece of the SEO pie.
Content marketing is saturated. Link building is difficult, and right now, the rich are getting richer.
It’s becoming harder and harder to stand out, even if you have great content. Some of the best content I’ve ever read is from sources without any brand power.
But thankfully, there is hope. Currently, the international market for SEO is nearly untapped.
It’s one of the biggest reasons why my traffic has skyrocketed in the past few years, and why it continues to grow today.
In this post, I’ll show you how to profitably expand your SEO strategy to new markets overseas and take advantage of traffic that’s waiting to visit your site.
Here’s how to expand your SEO strategy internationally.
First, decide if you are ready for the challenge
I am going to be brutally honest with you for a minute:
International SEO is no easy feat. It takes hard work and time to get going. If you already don’t have solid traffic numbers, this might not be worth your time and efforts.
The process of starting an SEO strategy abroad requires maintaining multiple sites in different languages.
Everything from updating content to editing mistakes is tough and gets magnified tenfold.
This infographic from Moz is great at sorting out who should invest in overseas SEO:
If you don’t think that profits will be substantial or worthwhile, there is no point in spinning your wheels.
If you are still focused on your current SEO strategy in your own country but think it can be maximized even more, then focus efforts on that.
The goal, in the end, is profit. So if you think that profitability won’t happen from this move, there’s no point.
But for some, the profits can be substantial. In my own experience, I’ve seen incredible growth from it.
In this next step, I’ll help you analyze your existing international traffic to gauge whether or not this is a good step for your business or just a waste of time.
Using Analytics software, you can understand if your time is best spent on overseas SEO strategy or your current one.
Let’s jump in.
Analyze your existing international organic reach
The next step in trying to profitably expand your SEO strategy to new markets abroad is to find out where you are already finding success.
For example, while you may be based in Canada or the United States, there is a high chance that your content is being clicked on or seen in different markets.
Whether that’s because of a backlink on a popular blog that has international readers or simply from organic search.
When I first started to expand my SEO presence to new markets abroad, I began by analyzing my current traffic.
This allows you to first capitalize on traffic that you are already getting. Meaning the money you put towards this effort will surely get paid back because you know for a fact that the traffic already exists.
It’s low-hanging fruit just waiting to be plucked.
Let me show you an example of what my traffic data told me, showing me that I needed to expand to new markets:
Notice how the United States is my number one traffic source here. Makes sense, right?
But take a look at my other ones. Now the United States doesn’t even make up 50% of my site traffic.
India, Brazil, United Kingdom, Canada and more. Many of these countries speak different languages, too.
To get started analyzing your traffic, you can do a few different things. First off, you’ll need to analyze your Google Analytics data.
Open up Analytics and navigate to the “Overview” tab under “Audience.”
From here, click on the “Country” tab under the “Demographics” section of your dashboard:
Now on the right-hand side, you should see a new table appear with all of the countries where your traffic is coming from:
If you click “view full report” under the table, you can get more data on the best places that your existing international traffic is coming from.
For example, take a look at the map to see where the densest traffic is coming from:
If you want to get even more specific, you can narrow down traffic to specific cities:
In the new table below the map, you can get a feel for what countries like your content the most.
On this table, you see metrics like sessions, new sessions, new users, bounce rate, session duration, and conversions.
This graph and table can help you prioritize your efforts in the beginning stages of your international SEO strategy.
For example, if India is on your list and is already converting well, you can likely double or triple that growth fast with simple changes to your site (I’ll discuss those soon).
Prioritize the traffic that is already performing well to increase the performance and drive sales.
A second step before taking any action with your SEO is to set up link tracking using Bitly.
Bitly is a great tool that allows you to track links more in-depth than you can with a generic link shared on social media.
Since social media is so diverse and may be more diverse than your general site traffic, it’s key to track where users are finding your content and what countries they live in.
On a given link’s dashboard, you can see specific referral sites that are driving the clicks, allowing you to further optimize for international markets.
The locations tab shows you exactly where your traffic is coming from, too.
And you can perform these same actions with Facebook. Head to the analytics section of your Facebook page, and navigate to the “Demographics” section under “People.”
Scroll down the dashboard page, and you should immediately see demographic data on countries, cities and most importantly, languages.
Language is going to be key for this next section.
Once you’ve compiled a list of the top traffic sources from different countries, cities, and languages, it’s time to get your SEO strategy off to the right start.
Translate your blog content
The first step in a good SEO strategy that targets users overseas is to get your content ready for them to access.
If they can’t read your content because they don’t know English, you have a major problem. Any traffic generated will bounce ASAP.
Because Google’s on-site translator isn’t great. It doesn’t understand contextual cues and dialect that is complicated in the marketing or SaaS world.
It’s best used for basic, small sentences or words that you don’t know, rather than an entire marketing post of 2,500 words talking about canonicalization.
To scale this profitably, it’s easiest to start with a translator plugin on your site. But remember, this isn’t going to be perfect.
If you start to gain traction, you can always hire a professional translator on sites like Upwork to get the job done at a fair price for excellent work.
Plugins aren’t great because they can’t pick up on most social cues. But a few good ones to start with are qTranslate or Transposh.
Transposh offers translation to 92 different languages.
Pro tip: Only translate a few at a time, don’t select all 92 languages, otherwise you risk slowing the process or freezing your site.
Remember, the steps you did before this section should guide your translation. Just focus on the top performing countries and their respective languages right now to get the best bang for your buck.
Once you get these into place, you can start to capitalize on new markets. But to expand with the highest ROI, focus on current traffic sources.
Personally, I was able to increase my organic traffic by 47% from just this one simple step. That one change in opening my blog content to new eyes gave me insane traffic jumps.
I was able to start driving search queries that I couldn’t even understand. Soon, my Analytics data was crowded with these search terms:
I even started to get blog comments from people speaking different languages, giving me proof that this was working:
My content was finally available to read for those who didn’t read English well or preferred to read in their native language.
Now my site is translated into dozens of different languages too:
All of my blog content is optimized for my top-performing languages and any new segments that I see in my Analytics data.
If a new segment or country starts to provide traffic, I optimize for that country as well:
Setup Hreflang attributes for strong SEO
Simply put, the hreflang attribute is a signal to Google that tells them what language your page is in, giving search engines the ability to give the right page to the right user.
The code generally tends to look like this:
<link rel=”alternate” href=”http://example.com” hreflang=”en-us” />
This set of code was first introduced by Google in December of 2011. The hreflang tag allows you to show search engines the same content in different languages without getting penalized for duplicate content.
It helps out drastically when creating SEO friendly content for new languages and audiences.
Here’s how it works:
User X searches in language Z, and the tag signifies that User X should land on the page with language Z, rather than the other page with language Y.
In short, it directs the user to specific language-based pages, even when you have multiple pages with similar or duplicated content.
Take a look at the source code of my own site:
I use multiple hreflang tags for places like Brazil, Spain and more.
Let me give you a hypothetical example as to why this is critical for SEO.
Let’s say you notice that you have tons of traffic from Mexico, so you decide to create a specific Spanish version of your blog posts.
You would want to tag that page using:
Now users whom Google suspects to have an IP in Spanish-speaking regions would be directed to this page rather than your English content.
Not only will this help Spanish-speaking users, but it will increase your SEO strength by reducing bounce rate, increasing time on site and even conversions.
Doing this can also help you interlink pages with the same language so that a user doesn’t have to read any English on your site.
So, where does this tag go on your site?
The hreflang tag can and should be put in the on-page markup, or the HTTP header, or even the sitemap. Be sure to use only one location, though.
Moz provides a great example of how this should be structured.
If your Spanish site sells to customers in Span, France, and Portugal, you should have hreflang tags referencing the main page and different languages for other languages:
Now, I know what you’re thinking: isn’t this going to take hours upon hours to do?
Not if you are using a tool! Try using the hreflang Tags Generator Tool:
To get started, simply plug in your URLs, select the original language of that URL, and then select the country of the URL.
Once you’ve done your standard country, it’s time to add more countries from the research you compiled earlier.
Next, click “+ Add An Additional Language/Country Url Version.”
Now copy and paste your same URL, selecting a new language and a new country from the drop-down list:
Repeat this process for each country and language you want to target. You can also upload a spreadsheet using this tool to save you countless hours of manual work.
Lastly, you click “Generate The Hreflang Tags For These URLs” to get a compiled list to add to your site code:
This will compile a new list of code for you to add to your site:
Voila, you’ve completed it!
Now that you have translated your content and prepared search engines for hreflang tags, you can complete the last step to expanding your SEO strategy to overseas markets.
Redirect users to the region they are from
The last step in trying to profitably expand your SEO strategy overseas is to remember to redirect users.
When someone comes to your website, you want to redirect them to the region they are from. This is all due to browser settings.
For example, Google Chrome users will have settings on Google that tell you what language they prefer to read in.
Just like if you were browsing now, Google can detect what language you’re reading in.
The goal here is to redirect users who might land on your English pages to the proper page. With a little bit of tweaking, you can automatically redirect users.
I suggest hiring an experienced developer on Upwork to do this.
Be sure to let them know the following:
Do not redirect search engine bots.
Why? Because a ton of servers are in regions that are English-speaking, like the United States.
For example, if Google is crawling your German page from an English server, you don’t want to redirect them. You want them to read both your English and German site.
Simply tell your developer this, and they will know exactly how to get the job done for you.
If you don’t have a developer, turn to Upwork. They are one of my most trusted sources for outsourcing and hiring new workers at a fair cost that you can scale quickly with.
When marketers are looking to acquire more organic traffic, or boost their SEO strategy, they often do a few things.
They might create more blog content to drive inbound visits. Or they might run backlink campaigns to boost their domain authority and rankings of specific posts.
But both of those are extremely difficult and time-consuming. Plus, oftentimes they are actually futile.
Why? Because the SEO scene is so crowded.
Everyone wants to get skin in the game. They all want to strike it rich.
But what most don’t know is that there is a massive untapped market waiting to be used:
With everyone producing blog content for the USA in English, it’s no wonder it’s so crowded. But overseas SEO markets are still virtually untouched.
First, find out if expanding your SEO strategy overseas is the right move for your business.
You can do this by running a risk analysis on Analytics and gauging what kind of traffic you are already getting from international locations.
See if you have any traffic from different countries before going all in.
Next, translate your blog content into those languages for countries that are already visiting your site. This will help you increase time on-site and produce better experiences for those users.
Be sure to set up hreflang tags for your new content to ensure that you rank high in those languages and don’t get penalized.
Lastly, tell your developer to redirect users based on their regions.
This is one of the easiest, most profitable ways to start your SEO strategy overseas.
How do you expand your SEO strategy into international markets?
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