After a successful seed round, my cofounder Faouzi and I decided it was time to start thinking international. Beyond simply translating our site, we also had to think about localization of online marketing to our target market.
We hope we can offer some insight into strategies for improving your visibility when taking your business to an international market. Here are three things you should consider.
Overcome the language barrier
First thing’s first: localization of language to the target market. Even though it is said that one in four people speak English to some level of competency, you will want to make sure your site is available in the main language of the country you are targeting. If you don’t know where to start with language translation, know that there are plenty of ways to overcome the language barrier and take your website to another market.
If you use live chat to service questions from your visitors, take a look at Zopim. Zopim (now part of Zendesk) offers automatic translation and detects your users’ language quickly. Your users can write in their mother tongue, and you can write back in English: both sides of the conversation will be translated.
Adapt your on-site strategy
Even though translating your offering is a great first step, stopping there won’t give you any visibility in a new market. To take your startup to an international market, you will need to adapt your on-site strategy and work on your search engine optimization (SEO). SEO is not the same from country to country – keywords differ depending on the market you are targeting. Though Google is the most widely used search engine, some search engines like China’s Baidu work with different algorithms, which you will need to adapt to.
So how do you adapt your SEO strategy?
First, be local and use the right top-level domain (TLD). If you are targeting France, use the extension .fr or use a subdomain such as fr.mysite.com.
Second, pay attention to meta tags. Use them to signal to search engines the country and language your site is intended for. For example:
Third, target the right keywords. I can’t stress this point enough. You need to know your market’s terminology and keywords.
Fourth, pay attention to the details. You’d be surprised, but the little things do matter such as correct date format. In the United States, the common format is mm/dd/yyyy, in France the format is dd/mm/yyyy.
Fifth, geolocate your site. If possible use a local IP address and specify the targeted country in Google Webmasters.
Finally, secure high quality inbound links from sites and blogs in your targeted country. More about this next.
Optimize your off-site strategy
Once your site is localized, you will need to get the word out to your target audience. To do so, you will need content that establishes your brand and social media that promotes your offering to local audiences as well as targeted SEO actions.
First, register your website on a local database. Make sure you choose a directory relevant to your industry and your market. For a greater impact: use targeted keywords in the title and in the description.
Once you’ve registered your website, you should focus your efforts on producing great content. With content marketing, you can create and deliver unique and rich experiences to your foreign audiences. Content published outside of your site contributes to your PageRank and therefore, to your SEO strategy.
Third, work on your network of links. To do so, reach out to users to obtain links pointing back to your site. This network of localized links increases visibility on foreign markets since search engines look for quality signals (i.e good content marketing).
Finally, in addition to great, localized, content, you also need to think about how to deliver your message via a targeted social media marketing strategy. Why? Because content without promotion won’t get you anywhere. To obtain inbound links, you need to spread the word and build a strong community around your product. A well-tailored social media strategy can turn into an amazing source of traffic for your startup and can drive user interest through word of mouth.
So how do you easily reach out to a foreign audience? Know where you are going and what you are getting yourself into. Language is a barrier but translation, by itself, is not enough. To get visibility in a foreign market, your service must be supported by a localized online marketing strategy that includes search engine optimization, content creation and social media strategy.