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7 Biggest International SEO Mistakes You Should Avoid

  • Will Rice
  • 7 min read
7 Biggest International SEO Mistakes You Should Avoid

Table of Contents


What do you need to run a business? Customers of course! But first, they need to be able to find you. For businesses that run physical stores, this means choosing a prime location that will catch the eye of shoppers. It’s no use choosing a spot on the edge of town that few people will see.

The same goes for companies that operate online. If a customer is forced to scan pages and pages of search results, they’re probably not going to find you. Studies show that 75% of people never scroll past the first page of search engine results. If you want your business to succeed, you need to be the first thing a customer sees.

This is where Search Engine Optimization (SEO) comes in. But although many businesses are aware of SEO, too often simple mistakes hinder progress. This is particularly the case when trying to grow internationality and market their brand to unfamiliar locations.

Firstly… What is SEO?

SEO is the process of making your website search engine friendly. If you’re new to online business, it’s a term that you’ll need to familiarize yourself with. But where should you start? The following are some (not all) of the key points to determining your SEO success both at home and internationally.

How Mobile-Friendly Is Your Site?

There was a time when mobile users were in a minority. Website creators didn’t need to worry too much about making their websites mobile-friendly. It’s fair to say that this has changed _a lot _in recent years. In fact, mobile users now make up most online traffic – 57%. If you don’t cater to these users, you’re cutting yourself off from a huge chunk of customers.

You can use the Google Search Console enhancements tab to monitoring your mobile usability and AMP (Accelerated Moble Pages). This can be especially useful when a specific page gets a disproportionately large amount of mobile traffic.

AMP sites tend to load faster on mobile devices and pagespeed is a critical ranking factor as part of Google’s algorithm. You can use tools like PageSpeed Inishgts to see what items are costing you valuable page load time. Which brings me onto my next point

How Mobile-Friendly Is Your Site?

The Tools You Use

It’s all well and good improving your SEO, but how successful are you? With the right tools, you can dig deep into your strategy and make improvements. Google Analytics is a must if you want to improve your SEO.

Ranktracker also offers a full website audit, this can quickly identify issues with your SEO and offers advice for fixing them.

Your use of keywords

You might not have noticed them, but all successful websites contain keywords. Typically you want each of your pages to target specific keywords.

For example, you may run a software business specialising in team collaboration tools. One of your service pages might be all about video conferencing and that’s the keyword you focus on! When people type in ‘video conferencing’ you want your service page to show up first (ideally)!

Some keywords are harder to rank for than others. Video conferencing would be very hard because you have big companies like Zoom and Skype competing for the same thing.

But with proper research, it is possible to find less difficult keywords with relatively high search volumes (the number of people searching for that keyword).

Using Ranktracker’s Keyword Finder can be a great way to find said keywords.

Your use of keywords

A successful backlinking strategy

Backlinking is the process of getting high-quality websites to link back to you. The more links you have pointing to your site, the better your SEO rating. Just be careful to choose sites that are high quality when pursuing links, poor link building can penalize your website.

Want to keep an eye on your backlinks? This is where you can use Google Search Console for SEO. If you didn’t know, the tool can tell you lots of information about the performance of your website. Some Google Search Console features include

  • Keyword analysis
  • Information about a page’s position in the search results
  • Help with page indexing

One feature is particularly helpful for SEO, the Google Search Console links report. This gives a list of websites that link back to your own, helping to make sure that you are carrying out positive link building. The best part about Google Search Console is that it’s free!

International SEO Mistakes

These are the basic rules if you want to be successful with SEO. But marketing internationally brings up a whole range of challenges. Here are 7 mistakes you should avoid.

1. Choosing the Wrong Keywords

As we’ve touched upon above, keywords are a central part of SEO. And using those keywords the correct amount of times in order to rank is a part of this (keyword density). But using the _right _keywords is often easier said than done.

This is especially the case when marketing internationally. Just because a certain keyword works in your market, doesn’t mean it will work elsewhere. Some businesses make the mistake of translating a keyword to the language of the target market. This is only likely to backfire.

Instead, it’s far better to understand the market. Do research, what’s trending? Are certain topics classed as taboo? By taking the time to understand a market, you’re far more likely to make an impact.

This can even be the case between English speaking markets. Sometimes users in the US use an entirely different phrase than their UK counterparts even when talking about the same thing. Then you may have to decide, who is the bigger market? Do we need to create two pieces of content for the different phrases?

A good way to do this is to research your competitors. What are they doing?

2. Google Might Not Always Be the Answer

In much of the western world Google is dominant, owning a whopping 85% of the market. But this isn’t the case everywhere.

For example, in China the most popular search engine is called Baidu, owning nearly 80% of the market. Google is many miles behind with only 3%. A similar case applies to Russia, with the search engine Yandex taking the top spot. Like Google, these search engines have their own algorithm and rules. You’ll need to adjust your approach depending on the search engine.

Google Might Not Always Be the Answer

3. Remember Local Law

It’s never advisable to find yourself on the wrong side of the law. You might feel that your SEO tactics are above board, but have you taken the time to research the laws of your market? For example, data collection and analytics will inform many of your SEO decisions. But data law changes drastically depending on the market.

For example, the EU has the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). These rules have strict guidelines about how you can handle the data of EU nationals. This is particularly relevant if you’re running an Online e-commerce marketplace, where you’ll be gathering lots of customer data.

Before collecting any information, you first must gain a visitor’s consent. Breaching this law can bring about some hefty fines.

Remember Local Law

4. Not Focusing on Specific Markets

Marketing internationally can be a great step. But it’s important not to take on more than you can handle. Each market comes with a new culture that you’ll need to learn if you are to succeed. Sometimes you’ll need to have a grasp of different languages. If you’re not careful, you’ll end up overburdened and unable to do anything else.

It’s better to choose a market that is likely to respond to your product and brand. A good place to start is by looking to your competitors. What markets have they succeeded in? This should help you narrow the list.

If you want to better your SEO success, this Rank Tracker gives detailed information about your campaigns, complete with progress alerts and visual overviews.

5. Not Hiring the Right People

No matter how much research you do, you’ll never understand the market better than a local. It’s not just your SEO efforts that will need to be international, your team will, too. After all, locals will be able to advise about their market and let you know if a tactic is ill-advised.

Many of the approaches needed to improve SEO performance will be like your own market. For example, you’ll need to write articles filled with the right keywords. This is where a local copywriter and editor will come in handy. Rather than a poor translation you want a high-quality article, that will bring value to website users.

You can take help from any recruitment CRM to scale this hiring process and make the workflow smoother. It might cost a little more, but investing in the right people is key to SEO success.

6. Neglecting Your Website

User experience is a huge factor in SEO. But to provide the best user experience, you need a website that is responsive, fast and persuades a user to stick around. You might have ensured that this is the case for your native market. But what about website visitors that arrive internationally?

There are many challenges that can present themselves - handling multiple domains can be complex, as can URL structuring. As this isn’t your primary market it might be tempting to rush the job. But ultimately, the same care and attention should be applied to all websites that you run.

If you want to appear serious about attracting a new audience, you first need to look the part. Again, this might mean investing more money. But with a gleaming website, you’re much more likely to impress visitors.

7. Rehashing Old Content Marketing

Content marketing is a huge part of SEO. The right content, that is engaging and brings value to the reader, can give a real boost to your website. It can be satisfying when you get content marketing right; you’ll see your website rising in search results.

Rehashing Old Content Marketing (Image source)

But just because your article was successful, doesn’t mean that a translation will have the same success.

Once again, each market has its own trends. What is interesting and popular in your country, might not be relevant to a different country. If you’re to succeed, you’ll need to put time and effort into finding relevant and interesting topics for the new market.

It’s a good idea to use Google Tag Manager (GTM) to gauge the most successful pieces of content. With GTM you can learn valuable information about how people interact with your website, such as how long a user spent scrolling. This is particularly useful when you want to drive certain types of engagement on your site.

Research is Key

If you only take one lesson away from this article, let it be that research is key. Reaching worldwide audiences doesn’t happen by accident. You need to understand a market first. This means long hours of study. The steps outlined in this document will help set you on the right path.

Just remember, SEO is a game of learning. Just because one tactic doesn’t work, doesn’t mean that you are doomed to failure. Learn from your lessons and you’ll easily improve SEO performance.

So, start researching – new markets are waiting for you!

Still Unsure Where to Start?

There’s a lot of information to take in here. It’s understandable if you’re not quite sure where to start. Luckily, Ranktracker has a list of Actionable SEO Tasks to set you on the right path.

About Author

Will is a Digital Marketing Manager at MeasureMinds, a leading CRO, Google Tag Manager, PPC and Google Analytics agency. He specialises in SEO and content and has helped enterprises achieve #1 rankings for heavily contested keywords through thoughtful strategy and implementation. Check his Instagram and LinkedIn profile

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