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Key Steps to Launching a Global Website

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Very often in this column, we talk about how large the opportunity is for global web marketers. We tell you how many people are connected where, which search engines they're likely to use, and that they're waiting to buy from you. We suggest that you should localize your website into many languages and new customers will beat a path to your door.

But is it really that simple?

Fortunately, you have an opportunity to get to grips with this tricky subject courtesy of the Search Engine Strategies conference in Chicago from October 18 to 22. At SES, make sure to attend the session "Key Points in Launching a Global Website." Here's a quick preview of what we'll talk about.

Deliver Your Content to Your User

If you're lucky, and you have a blank sheet of paper, then the process of rolling out a successful global website starts with the first step: selecting a decent global content management system. Having a content management system designed for global markets will make everything about your project so much easier. The system you choose should have the ability to work through a single login across multiple local domains -- and with a really good one it will even log your translation and localization workflows.

One issue many face is that they have a legacy system that was fine when they were working in just one language, but which starts to create obstacles and difficulties for a global rollout. It's hard to understand why more folks don't simply acquire an additional content system for their non-U.S. pages and live with the U.S. system they're stuck with -- but that's not generally the way people choose to go.

Customer Research and Keywords

The majority of global keyword marketing campaigns use keywords that have been "translated." This is the first big hidden trap for people who haven't been involved in an international search marketing campaigns before.

Keywords are abbreviated thoughts that people use to summarize their intended quest for answers. What those keywords mean if you translate a keyword to Thai, for example, this will be well understood by a Thai, but it frequently isn't what his or her fellow citizens would stick in the search box of a search engine.

Have a Content Development Plan

If only we were working in just one language, managing and generating content would be easy.

The problem with content is that it can be expensive to manage, especially if you're doing it the hard way with copywriters and people debating and creatively deciding what should go on the page. This isn't too bad for the first language, but it becomes a bit of a challenge when you're working in two or many languages.

You have to develop new ways of generating content that leverages what you already have and deal with the new stuff in a sensible cost-minimized cost-planned way. I'll delve into some of these strategies in Chicago.

Plan An Infrastructure With Local Tentacles

Whoops! We fell into the trap of describing this as a "global" project. Shame on us, because arguably there is no such project.

What we're actually running is a "multi-local" project because all customers prefer to buy locally. Oh yes they do. In fact, it's one of those conundrums of running international projects that calling them "global" probably misleads all of the teams involved from the outset.

Yes, we want to leverage the scale and commercial benefits of supplying a larger market. Yes, we want to harmonize the products we sell as far as possible. But if we want to be really successful, we have to listen locally to what the customers want and what they tell us.

That also means that we have to consider how we're going to staff our project. We need to ensure we have people involved who have a deep understanding of the countries we're targeting. Typically this means nationals of the countries concerned -- but they don't have to be based in the country and don't necessarily have to work for your company -- they just have to be available when you need them.

Designing Those Templates

You may think it odd that I turn to the design and template structure of the site only now. Of course, the programming to create the templates comes earlier in the process, but the design for different cultures and the structuring for SEO reasons and to cope with all the different languages you're targeting is much easier to understand when you know what keywords you'll be working with, how you'll be managing your content and content development, and what the specific local variances are that you'll need to encompass for the markets you plan to target. All of this makes it easier to make these decisions now even if that isn't ideal.

Geographic Targeting

Generally, it's a good idea to work with local domains rather than a global dot-com. We'll cover workarounds during the session in Chicago -- but there's clear evidence now that local domains make a strong positive difference.

You'll also need to consider working with search engines you may not have come across before, such as Baidu in China, Yandex in Russia, Naver in Korea, and Seznam in the Czech Republic. And that's just for starters. See you in Chicago for much more!

Join us for SES Chicago 2010, the Leading Search & Social Marketing Event, taking place October 18-22! The conference offers 70+ sessions on topics including PPC management, keyword research, SEO, social media, local, mobile, link building, duplicate content, multiple site issues, video optimization, site optimization, usability and more.


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