tips to improve your international online presence

Arguably the most important invention during our lifetimes, the World Wide Web and the business opportunities afforded by it continue to grow exponentially.  Given the global architecture of the web, anyone involved in the business of selling goods and services online has access to a vast and growing audience.

Merchants that steadfastly stick to an ‘English only’ outreach sales policy are therefore depriving themselves of new business from markets throughout the world.

Here then are 15 tips to help you ‘go global’ and reach into new markets and have an international online presence where your business is perceived as local and grow your brand world-wide.

  1. Domains – Penetrate specific foreign markets by creating sites with local domains: .co.uk, .de, .fr, .eu, etc. The more local domains you have, the more markets are accessible. Local domains mean increased credibility to your target audience and better ranking on local search engines.  Register your domains before somebody else does!
  1. Country specific design – Adapt images, color schemes and other design features to respond to the differences in cultures, environments, behaviours and mentalities, without diluting or confusing the brand.  Ensure coherency with regards to the original site design, but do not copy over outdated design and technical features.
  1. Country specific content – Translate or adapt content: language, terminology, measurement units, currency, and so forth. Bear in mind that even for English content, differences such as spelling, vocabulary, and relevant case studies must be taken into consideration.
  1. Translations – Always ensure translation is done by a native-speaker and is of quality. Only use automatization tools like Google Translate to quickly understand inbound enquires for your internal purposes, not to translate content to your audience.
  1. Don’t use multiple languages on one page, and ensure all information a visitor needs is available in their language – including the most important page of all, the check-out.
  1. Hosting – Improve page load speed and search engine ranking by hosting locally in different countries. 63% of people find websites via a search engine so it is important to rank well. Businesses searching for local suppliers identify you more easily if you are hosted locally.
  1. Multilingual Navigation – Ensure quality user-experience by having clear links to pages in other languages and create a quality user-experience by having clear links to pages in other languages. Flag icons at the top of page are the easiest and the most standard for language navigation. Link pages to their alternatives in other languages if possible, not to the homepage.
  1. Keywords – Research keywords specific for each country: keywords that sound most native to locals will help you optimize for search engine visibility. Use keywords with high search volumes (number of people that search the keyword), but low difficulties (index demonstrating how many websites are competing to rank the keyword). Place keywords in: page title, URL, meta data, header title, page content, alt text, bold text and in hyperlinked text.
  1. Search Engine Guidelines – Research local search engines, and find out which ones your target markets are more likely to use (mostly Google, but there are some exceptions, which can make a large impact). Follow guidelines from your target search engine which are freely available. The most recent guidelines advise on content quality and uniqueness.  Never duplicate content even within your own site, otherwise Google will penalise you!  Refrain from unacceptable techniques, such as keywords stuffing or unnatural link occurrence.
  1. Geo-location – Automatically detect local language based on country IP address and automatically provide contents in the relevant language. Use cookies to remember preferred language option and serve this in the future.
  1. Virtual presence – Provide local contact details. If you do not want to set up a physical presence in your target country, many businesses offer virtual offices, which will provide you with local address and phone number ,mail forwarding, and even a secretary for a couple of hours a month if required.
  1. Directories – Register your business to the relevant local directories to ensure it can be found. This will also help with search engine optimization.
  1. Social media – Develop a localized social media strategy to share content, be found, attract traffic and interact with your customers. Build a loyal following by community interaction and the sharing of valuable information. People like to know who they are working with so use images and videos to convey your company’s personality.
  1. Lead Generation – Use “Call to Action” buttons to bring attention to your key content, such as product catalogue, and landing pages with forms to capture visitors’ details and to convert visitors into leads and into sales. Use these “Calls to Action” and forms to encourage inbound enquires, for example “Request a quote!”
  1. Reports and analytics – Use reports and analytics to monitor successes of your international sites and highlight where improvements could be made. Set targets for improvements that are quantifiable and involve a set time-frame.

By taking these steps, your company will accelerate your export and business growth, develop your brand internationally, know your markets better, gain cross border market share, find and support distributors, prepare and leverage trade shows, and above all acquire new customers and better serve existing ones.