There are three main categories of things to tackle: SEO, content, and social media. You’ve got a shortlist of action items within each. Let’s review!
How much you decide to do for SEO will depend on what you learn from keyword research — an important first step. Try using Google’s Keyword Planner and filtering by location and language to determine the search volume of your usual keywords in regions of interest. Also, look for alternate terms that may be more popular in your target markets.
Make SEO Modifications on Existing Content
Whether you decide to optimise your whole site or only select content (which we’ll discuss in a bit), you’ll be focusing mostly on URL structure and language targeting. For URL structure, Moz, a marketing and analytics software company, says there are several options: “a country code top-level domain (ccTLD), a subdomain, a subdirectory or subfolder, a gTLD with language parameters, or … a different domain name entirely.” Click here to read the pros and cons of each from Moz.
In terms of language targeting (and we’ll also discuss translation in a bit), it’s all about the “hreflang tags” aka, language meta tags. These are snippets of code that tell search engines the language(s) your content is offered in. This is beneficial because it helps Google and others serve the most appropriate version of your content (language-wise) based on the searcher’s local language (determined by IP address) or the language they queried in (meaning that even if, for example, the searcher is in the US but they search in Spanish, the Spanish version of your page will be listed in the search results instead of the English one).
While implementing hreflang tags won’t boost your rankings necessarily — it’s one of many factors — it will help the right version of your pages rank in the first place. You can put hreflang tags in on-page markup, your HTTP header, or your sitemap. More on hreflang tags here.
If this is all sounding way too advanced, don’t worry: this great guide to international SEO from Moz breaks it all down in a digestible way. Still, if you don’t have a webmaster, this may be a good project to outsource to an expert.
Create New Content for New Keywords
If you learned in your keyword research that your usual target terms aren’t so popular with other audiences, and/or that there are high-volume searches for terms you don’t typically optimise for but are otherwise aligned with your brand, it’s probably worth it to create some new pieces around new terms. This doesn’t mean you need to dramatically scale up your production and start running multiple content streams for multiple audiences. Take it piece by piece, and do what you can. Some is better than none!
There are content tactics big and small you can implement to boost your global readership. Again, pick and choose what’s right for you right now.
Create New Content for Specific Countries
Outside of keyword research, another great way to identify international content opportunities is doing a content by country analysis in Google Analytics (or whatever you use to monitor your web traffic — this works regardless of tool or platform). It’s just what it sounds like: looking at which of your pieces are popular in which countries.
See what insights you can draw from this analysis — what topics and trends were a hit in which locations? Then build out some new pieces accordingly.
Update Top-Performing Content to be More Inclusive
You’ve already produced some excellent pieces that consistently drive large portions of your traffic (what you might call “pillar content” or “cornerstone content”). Those pieces could likely be even more widely enjoyed (and shared) with some simple updates:
- Explain regional concepts: Think about how you localise language, lingo and slang, and modify it without cliche or jargon where possible. Give some context.
- Be careful with regional phrases: Idioms like “it’s raining cats and dogs” can be very confusing for readers of other cultures. Revise these if possible.
- Note seasonal or event-based references: The whole world doesn’t do holidays like your culture does (or at all). The whole world isn’t experiencing winter when you are. Be sure to acknowledge these things.
- Convert currency, units of measure, etc.: Again, apply a global mindset, and provide figures from other systems.
Make these changes — and maybe even republish and re-promote the posts — to help readers from all over connect with your best work. And hopefully stick around!
Translate Some or All of Your Content
Take things from inclusive to custom-made by going beyond the updates mentioned above and offering fully translated versions of your work instead. While translation is definitely a project that should be handled with care — have a native speaker look over everything, if possible — it absolutely goes a long way in making whole new sets of readers feel welcome. Here’s a good list of translation tools and services to consider.
Your tasks for social media jump from a quick fix to a strategy overhaul. A good approach would be to implement the first this month, and the second over the next quarter.
Schedule Social Media Posts for Other Time Zones
While social media algorithms are constantly changing and the visibility of any one post is nearly impossible to predict, publish time does still seem to be a factor. Posts get stale and crowded out fast — even something that takes off in the morning in your time zone will likely fade by evening and potentially never even be seen in other regions. Be sure to schedule some updates during popular hours in all time zones you’re targeting.
Expand Your Social Media Presence to Other Networks
The popularity of individual social networks varies from country to country. While Facebook definitely dominates in terms of global use, there are other hugely popular platforms around the world. (Check out these global maps of the top networks by region and this list of localised platform alternatives.) How consumers split their time among different social networks is different for every country, too.
Take a look at your social media strategy through your international audiences’ eyes — do you need to have a bigger presence on other networks? One platform you should definitely be emphasizing if you’re not already is WhatsApp. As Sumo explains, WhatsApp “has more users than Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter and Pinterest combined. They passed the one billion user mark this year, reaching every corner of the world (except Antarctica … )”
Take your time working through each of these. Some will undoubtedly require serious effort — but all will help you better engage international readers. And that’s very worth it!