The number of small businesses trading abroad is growing by the day. It’s no longer large companies hogging the international market, as entrepreneurs from all backgrounds gain access to money for exporting.
While more small businesses are doing business abroad, many fail to consider how international SEO affect their site, or if they could be more optimised.
If you’ve looked into international SEO, the chances are that you’ve heard numerous myths about the changes you’ll need to make to your site. We’ve come up with some handy tips to debunk a number of those common myths, and to get you on your way to optimising your site for your customers abroad.
You need multiple websites
One of the most common myths that plagues small businesses is that they must have multiple websites in order to rank around the world.
This comes from the belief that for a site to rank in different locations, you need various ccTLDs (country code top-level domains). However, many global brands use only one site, and instead include subfolders or subdomains for different locations.
If you do decide that you need multiple sites, you should remember that all new websites begin with zero authority, therefore it could take a lot more work to build up authority than it would to make your current website more internationally-friendly.
There’s only one site structure that works for international SEO
Linked to the belief that you need multiple websites is the myth that there’s one site structure that’s the be-all and end-all of international SEO sites.
Despite what you’ve heard, there is no one site structure that will help you dominate the international market. Subfolders, subdomains and ccTLDs have all been proven to work well for varying companies, but there is no one answer.
There are certain advantages and disadvantages to each, however, so it’s worthwhile doing some research to see what will work best for you.
Local servers are a necessity to rank abroad
A few years ago they might have been an important part of your ability to rank abroad, but last year Google confirmed that local server signals are not as important as they once were.
One of Google’s webmaster trends analysts, John Mueller said in a Webmaster help thread, “For search, specifically for geotargeting, the server’s location plays a very small role, in many cases it’s irrelevant”.
He added, “You definitely don’t need to host your website in any specific geographic location”.
Automated translations are a good idea
Automated translations might work well if you quickly need to order a taxi abroad or ask where the toilets are, but they shouldn’t be used extensively on your site if you want it to prosper.
While the technology is improving, it doesn’t mean it’s the best. Stay safe and avoid them all together, as online translators can seem disjointed and are often difficult to read.
Their use on your site could actually damage your ranking – especially if you’re in a competitive market.
If your website is copy heavy and you can’t afford a translator for all of the text, choose the most important parts that you want to translated and use an automated service for the rest, although you should try to use one that has human editing if possible.
The same site layout will work across all international markets
One prime example of this being an issue is eBay.
eBay kept their western UX for its release in China – forcing Chinese users to be faced with the same interface that had been popular in the US. While this sounds great in theory, it eliminated many interface features that Chinese internet users enjoy.
Ultimately this forced Chinese users to dislike the platform, and instead use sites that were localised to the market.
The takeaway here is to take into account different markets, rather than assuming the site layout and user experience works best in your core markets should be rolled out across all our markets.
Are you guilty of believing one (or more) of these international SEO myths? We want to hear about it! Leave a comment below and tell us which myth you believed, and how you’re going to change your tactics.