How to create a global SEO strategy

When implementing a comprehensive marketing strategy there are many factors to consider, more so when the business operates in more than one market. In this instance it’s important for each market to have an individual strategy to ensure consistent brand perception across all regions.

Putting together a plan of action to create a marketing strategy in every region can be difficult. Many marketers don’t even know where to start. The trick, however is to start with the data.

One size doesn’t fit all

One of the biggest mistakes marketing departments make when creating a plan for a new region is not adapting and localising the SEO strategy. Today, it’s common practice to have an effective SEO approach that generates results.

However, when websites, for example, are localised for other regions, identical SEO techniques aren’t guaranteed to generate the same KPIS – a mistake commonly made by marketing teams.

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Every market no matter the size requires a customised data-driven strategy in order to climb the local rankings. Everything from language to search habits needs to be prioritised to get a similar ROI to the SEO plan in place in the original market.

The 80/20 mantra

So, what do you have to consider first? As a rule of thumb 80% of traffic goes to 20% of website pages. The good news here is that the whole website doesn’t need to be optimised, prioritise the most visited 20% of the site in each market or if you have a lot of content then choice a Top 100 pages.

When it comes to selecting which pages to optimise, it’s vital the team undertakes careful research and understands that it will differ for each market. A mobile first strategy is now critical regardless if you company is B2C or B2B.

There is also a world beyond Google; know the search engine landscape: Baidu in China, Yandex in Russia, Naver in South Korea and Yahoo in Japan are primary. Identify which pages need to be optimised in each region and adapt your optimisation methodologies required by each search engine.

Audit your own local market data, really dive into analytical data on a per-market basis to understand that markets search requirements. Where is traffic coming from? What are searchers looking for? Did they find it or bounce? Can they navigate the site easily? What keywords are driving traffic? What local channels are driving links? Is there out of market searches landing on this localised site? What is driving this markets search requirements? How is this search and behaviour different to our other markets? It is always surprising what insight this audit can provide to marketing teams, and could even provide inspiration for tailored market campaigns for different regions.

Don’t get lost in translation

Just as website optimisation is key to success so is local keyword research – never, ever translate keywords. Every country searches differently, and the only way to understand these differences is through in-market research.

Keywords used in the UK won’t be the same in France even if they are translated exactly due to colloquialisms and trends, search intent is literally “lost in translation”.

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People can search for the same end result by using completely different sentences or phrases. For example, someone in the UK might search for ‘Winter Sun in Canaries’, they generally are not specific about which island, whereas someone in Germany could be looking for the same outcome but search for ‘Christmas holidays in the Tenerife (Teneriffa)’.

The Germans are much more likely to specially search by the name of the island. If a travel site didn’t factor in different search behaviours, then the German site could very easily not secure the critical traffic the business needs to sell the exact same holidays as they do in the UK to Germany.

Once keyword research has been undertaken, and the specific pages selected for optimisation in each market, the next stage is to ensure all on-page elements are leveraged correctly and keep in mind that this can differ depending on country specific search engines.

For an “all in look” here is what to consider and why:

Meta “Title”

The single-most important SEO tag. It must be unique for each page and include both the branded and primary unbranded local keyword. Honour character limits.

Meta “Description”

Despite having no search engine ranking value, the meta description is critical for click conversion. It is the brand’s first marketing message to the searcher and the first opportunity to ensure the searcher clicks on your result over a competitor’s.

It needs to be unique to every page, produce a very clear marketing call to action (CTA), include the primary unbranded local keyword, and honour character limits.

Header tags

This helps search engines and the viewer identify the primary topic for this page. When selecting the words, think if this was a newspaper, what would the headline be?

To be really impactful transcreate this line. Make them unique to each page and include the branded and unbranded keywords as close to the start of the heading as possible.

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Body copy

In an ideal world, and in order to get the most effective results from SEO, this needs to be transcreated for each market also. In this instance it’s very important to create the text with a human in mind, never write content for a search engine. Include the unbranded keyword as close to the start of the first paragraph as possible, preferably the first sentence.

Image alt tags

Develop descriptive text for each image, sentence based if possible. Include branded and unbranded keywords. This tag was originally designed to support visually impaired search queries but there has been a huge increase in image specific searches and images now appear directly in SERP results.

Taking all of this into consideration will not only drive organic traffic to your site in multiple markets, but enhance your ability to reach the target audience in the fastest amount of time.


Sourced by Aoife McIlraith, senior director of search and global marketing services, Lionbridge Digital


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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...

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