If your domestic market is stagnant, shrinking or over-saturated, targeting overseas markets online can provide a much-needed boost to your sales. E-commerce can also be a great way to expand your business when things are going well. In order to connect with new customers however, you need them to be able to find your website. SEO, or search engine optimization, is the process of making sure your site appears as close to the top of the search engine results pages (SERPs) when people enter relevant keywords.
If you’re just getting started, or investing in a fully localized website is not an option, keep in mind that there are a lot of international retail platforms that can help you get out there and test the market. Sites such as Amazon and eBay have global audiences and can help you get your products and brand name into whole new markets. There will be fees to pay but ready-made platforms can simplify the process and let you dip your toe in the international e-commerce waters without having to make a big initial outlay.
If you have decided to take the plunge, here are some tips for making your e-commerce website SEO-friendly.
Create Tailored Websites for each Market
English is the most commonly used online language and can serve as a lingua franca, or common language, to a certain degree. There are still many users who do not speak English however, and even multilingual users tend to put far more trust in sites written in their own language. A recent study conducted across the European Union found that more than half of internet users regularly visited foreign language websites. Only 18% said they would regularly make purchases from a site that was not in their own native language.
It is possible to target markets that share a common language with a single site. For example, Spanish is spoken in Spain and large parts of Latin America including emerging markets in Mexico, Argentina and Venezuela. It’s an official language of Puerto Rico and almost 37 million Americans speak Spanish as their primary language at home, according to the 2010 US Census. But there are differences between these varieties of Spanish. Just as British and American English aren’t identical, there are many differences between the Spanish spoken in Spain, Mexico and other countries.
Targeting by country rather than language also allows you to use more specific cultural references in your content. In pure SEO terms, you are also able to use country-code top level domains (ccTLDs) such as .es for Spain or .fr for France, which can give your rankings a boost.
Localize your Content
There are plenty of free translation tools available, but even the best automatic translation programs are prone to errors. Working with native speaking translators can help you eliminate mistakes, including potential cultural faux pas. You can also work in cultural references and ensure that your content has a trustworthy, professional feel.
Research your Keywords
Thorough research of foreign language keywords is even more important, as a keyword that is effective in one territory might not work so well in another. Start with your carefully researched English keywords, and work with native translators to brainstorm alternative terms and check them with keyword tools. Keywords should be used in headings, URLs and the body of your content.