Localization is important to international search engine optimization (SEO) because it helps connect your brand to a location using the words, terms, and behaviors of an audience in a particular region. Rather than simply using a generic search term in the hopes that it is used universally, you want to use the terminology and language of your target audience.
Generally speaking, localization refers to aspects of your content, your website, and other marketing efforts that are tailored to a specific geographic place or region. This can mean anything from using terminology that is familiar to users within that region to establishing map locations for physical presences you have in the area.
While every country is different, here are some ideas for how to approach a localization strategy in a new country.
Getting Started With Localization
Do your research before you begin a localization effort. There are many horror stories about poorly translated advertisements, so don't think that you can simply pay for direct translation of your web copy and be successful. The assumption here is that if you're investing in an international SEO effort, you're serious about making inroads into a new country.
Take the time to understand your audience:
- How do they use your product?
- Where do they buy it?
- What do they call it?
- Who is writing about it locally that you should get in front of?
- Are there any cultural sensitivities that you need to be aware of in this new location?
Not only are all of these questions part of putting together a solid marketing strategy, they also help you craft copy on your website and inbound linking strategies that will help your SEO efforts to be more successful.
We know that even within the United States, depending on where you order a sandwich, you may need to call it something different. Now take that to a global level and you can see how one generic set of target keywords may not be enough.
People might refer to your products or services differently in different countries, or even regions within a country. You can do some preliminary research using Google's Keyword Planner or other keyword tools that perform similar functions.
In order to truly understand the way an audience in a new country finds your product or service, you will need to dive deeper than that. Here are a few ways to do this:
- Find out how your competitors are advertising their products and services in the same market.
- Find out where your competitors are getting inbound links from.
- Read blogs and other news sources to find out how people in the locale are talking about them.
- Talk to people in the region and ask them how they would respond to some potential content.
A little research goes a long way, and you'll quickly find enough to show you whether you're on the right track or you need to adjust your efforts a bit.
A Few Other Ideas
Make sure to add any physical locations in other countries on Google Places and complete any other profiles that might add credibility to your international location or destinations. These will help you show up better for localized searches as well.
If you have people on the ground in your target countries and regions, you should also have them blogging and contributing content on the target domain, subdomain, or subdirectory as well. Not only does this get you inbound links that are within your target country, but it also complements a multi-country hosting strategy very well.
Localization can mean the difference between creating a strategy to truly connect with your audience, or simply hoping for the best with a generic SEO campaign. Take the time to understand your audience, their behaviors, preferences, and habits, and your efforts will undoubtedly pay off.