Preparing your website for Global SEO domination
International SEO is the process of optimising your website so that search engines can easily identify which countries you want to target and which languages you use for business.
Most of us struggle with getting to rank locally, so do we really need to care about international SEO?
Well if a good share of your website visitors are coming from a different country to where you’re located then it might be the right time to think global.
In this episode I’ll be chatting with Nitin Manchanda – an International SEO expert, about everything we need to know to get our global SEO in tip-top condition.
Tune in to learn:
- When should you worry about international SEO.
- How to structure your site for International SEO best practice.
- What is Geotargeting and how should you be using it.
- What to look out for when formatting your site for a country.
- Which signals Google uses to understand the countries you’re targeting.
- The importance of backlinks on international SEO.
- Tips on how to win links in other countries.
- How to handle local search engines like Yandex in Russia and Baidu in China.
- Tips on international SEO for e-commerce businesses.
- What are the biggest mistakes businesses make with International SEO.
- The best ways to measure your international SEO success.
Listen to the podcast
This episode is proudly sponsored by Ahrefs which offers tools to grow your search traffic, research your competitors and monitor your niche. Ahrefs helps you learn why your competitors rank so high and what you need to do to outrank them. Start a 7-day trial for $7 (Psst this is not an affiliate link.)
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And big thanks to Much About Australia for their lovely review.
Nitin Manchanda is a developer who turned into SEO and is now responsible for the organic visibility of Berlin-based travel startup, GoEuro, across the globe. In the past, Nitin has helped some really popular brands like Trivago and Flipkart grow organically.
Nitin also hosts the super famous webinar series, in association with SEMrush, “SEO Surgery in India”. He’s the founder of SEOSurgeon.in, the brand he uses for his SEO consultancy services. When not busy reading SEO articles or setting up his own experiments, you’ll find him spending time with his daughter in parks, or planning his next trip.
Connect with Nitin
- Moz International SEO Best Practices
- The Guide to International SEO – Just getting acquainted with international SEO? Start here.
- The International SEO Checklist – Aleyda Solis walks you through everything you need to know to get started with international SEO.
- International SEO – Google Technical Support
Kate Toon: International SEO is the process of optimising your website so that search engines can easily identify which countries you want to target, and which languages you use for your business. Most of us struggle with getting to rank locally, so do we really need to care about international SEO? Well, if a good share of your website visitors are coming from a different country to where you’re located, then it might be time to think global. And if you have products and services that could be marketed overseas, how do you attract those elusive international buyers?
Kate Toon: In this episode I’ll be chatting with Nitin ManChanda, an international SEO experts about everything we need to know about our global SEO, to get our global SEO in tip top condition.
Hello, my name is Kate Toon, and I’m the Head Chef here at the recipe for SEO success, an online teaching hub for all things, search engine optimization, and I love SEO. And today I’m talking with Nitin Manchanda. Hello Nitin.
Nitin ManChanda: Hi Kate, how are you?
Kate Toon: I’m good. It’s good to see you. I’m going to share a photo of Nitin because he does it rather cold today, he’s wearing a pretty nasty T-shirt, and looking pretty parky because for him it’s first thing in the morning, but for me it’s the last thing at night.
Kate Toon: a subject that the members of my digital masters community have a lot of questions about because it just feels, to be honest, a bit hard. It’s hard enough ranking in your local suburb, so how the heck are we going to rank globally? It’s just impossible. But anyway, before we begin, let me read out Nitin’s bio, so here we go.
Kate Toon: Nitin ManChanda is a developer who turned into SEO and is now responsible for the organic visibility of Berlin based travel startup Omio, formally Goeuro across the globe. In the past Nitin has helped some really popular brands like Trivago and Flipcart grow organically. Nitin also hosted the super famous Webinar series in association with SEMrush, SEO Surgery in India. Now is hosting another series called Indian Search Marketing Academy.
Kate Toon: He’s the founder of SEOSurgeon.in, the brand he uses for his SEO consultancy services, and when not busy reading SEO articles or setting up his own SEO experiments, you’ll find him spending time with his daughter or planning his next trip. So you have a life outside SEO, who even are you?
Nitin ManChanda: Absolutely, I love spending time with my daughter and my wife as well sometimes when I need… sometimes just for hauling the bags of… You know what I mean?
Kate Toon: Doing something fun, and it sounds like you’re a bit of a travel nut, so you’ve worked on couple of travel brands, you like to plan trips, so you’re an international man of mystery I guess already.
Nitin ManChanda: Absolutely, I love travelling.
Kate Toon: Yeah, me too. I don’t do enough of it. Anyway, let’s get stuck into the episode and we’re going to start quite with the basics. Okay. So when I talk about International SEO, what does that really mean?
Nitin ManChanda: Yeah. Well. So international SEO for me is an art of optimising your VAP set up, so the entire set up, it can be like list of domains or subjectories or whatever. So that search engines can easily identify and index your content for the right markets and right languages. For example, if you’re selling, let’s say football shoes in America and the UK, so you might want to call it soccer shoes with pricing in USD for the US market, and you might want to call it football shoes because that’s more popular in the UK, and the pricing in pounds to solve basically the localised experience. Hence you want Google to rank the correct version for correct market. So International SEO enables you there.
Kate Toon: So yeah, it enables you to market to multiple audiences in their language, in their currency and in the way that they want to talk. But I guess many business will be wondering if they really should be worrying about international SEO? I mean, a couple of questions, we’ve got people on the call here, we’ve got Carrie who is an SEO consultant, we’ve got Anu who has a jewellery brands, which would translate across the globe.
Kate Toon: I guess she’s trying to decide, well, is it really worth me putting the effort into thinking about international SEO? And a couple of questions I would always ask is, is location a factor that influences your web goals? Is it going to matter that you’re in a different country? Sometimes it will, if you’re a plumber, you’re not going to be marketing in Germany, if you’re in Australia. Do you have products and services that could be marketed to overseas customers? Or are they quintessentially your country only? I think it’s very, these days we live in a very global world, I think pretty much everything can be marketed everywhere. Is there enough traffic and conversions for your chosen keywords to potentially target a new country?
Kate Toon: So looking at how things are already going, so for example, with my website, my old copywriting website, nearly 80% of my traffic now is American and UK, rather than Australia. So for me, if I was still doing a lot of SEO copywriting, boom I could have a great audience overseas that built up over time, it didn’t start to begin with. But what advice would you give someone on thinking about whether they should investigate international SEO?
Nitin ManChanda: Sure. Well, so everyone speaks about user experience, and when you’re talking about international setup, so I would definitely recommend you, you’re not focusing on the localised experience, because if you’re been local then there are very, very high chances [inaudible 00:05:47] people from other markets as well.
Nitin ManChanda: So first advice from my side would be understanding the market and the potential demand, this is really, really important, because I would highly recommend doing this before you think about stepping in any different market where you are not present at the moment. So there are many tools which can help you here for example, you can check Google analytics to see from which geographies you are already receiving some traffic. So that gives you a good hint about the markets where you have demand for your product. And then also you can check similar web or some other tools like that to understand where your competitors are already present but you are not. So this gives you another like hint about the opportunity.
Nitin ManChanda: Then SEMrush has this tool called keyword magic tool, or you can also use keyword planner to understand the potential demand for the keywords that you would be, if you’re entering the market you would be focusing on. So these things basically help you understand about the market and the potential demand and then you can take, I think better call whether you want to enter in that market to solve the local experience to get some high quality traffic that can work.
Kate Toon: Yeah, I like that, just picking up on something you said earlier, I think it’s so important that we establish ourselves in our local market first, be a big fish in a small pond, and then expand your pond. Like don’t go after some huge market when you haven’t even got a foothold in your local suburb, it’s going to be pretty tough. I remember way back when I was establishing myself as a copywriter, first off I started with my streets, then it was my suburb, then it was the locale then the city, until I got to the point where I was ranking number one for copywriter Australia, and beginning to pop up in google.com and googleco.uk, but that didn’t happen over night. I had to get my foothold first before I could go global as they say.
Kate Toon: But let’s dig into some specific issues that people have. So say I’ve decided, hey look, I do want to go global, I’d like to have maybe different sites for different audiences. I’m not quite sure of the way to do it, so from what I can see, and you can argue with me afterwards, there are five different approaches to hosting International content.
Kate Toon: So the first one is top level domains, so you get your little codes to indicate to users and search engines where you’re registered .com, .com.au, .fr, .whatever. Or you go with a sub domain, so you put your international content on a separate third level domain, yeah. So some people don’t like that option. The other one is a sub directory, so you put your content in the sub folder of a root domain. I’ll put all this in the show notes people, don’t worry, if it sounds overwhelming, I’ll put it in the show notes.
Kate Toon: The first one is to use a top level domain with language parameters. So .com, .net, .org and it’s targeted to the specific language depending on the URL parameter. And then finally just having a completely different domain. So having different domains based on the country. Wow, that’s a lot, I don’t want to do any of that. Which one do I do Nitin?
Nitin ManChanda: Well, that’s one of the, I would say the most hottest topic in international SEO world, and everyone is talking about that because they are like five different approaches and I mean the perception of people of what is good and whatnot, it changes with time. I think from these options, these are the five options we have, I don’t think any other option that we missed here, but every approach has its own pros and cons.
Nitin ManChanda: So I think I would not go in details, speak about every approach pros and cons here, but I would rather talk about what is my favourite these days.
Kate Toon: Yeah, what worked for you as well, I mean you’ve worked on some international brands, so what did you guys do?
Nitin ManChanda: Yeah, well in our case at Omio, so we have this hybrid structure, which is a good mix of sub domains, and then we have CCTLDs as well for some countries. But my personal preference these days is subjectory approach. So basically having one domain serving different look to directories, so what you just mentioned about. Some of the great things that I love about this approach is one brand name, for example, booking.com. Everyone on this planet, when you speak of booking.com, they have just one name in their head, that’s booking.com that’s it. And in our case, it can be omio.com, omio.id, omio.es, and some cases where we have some domains that’s even complicated, de.omio.com, who would ever introduce a brand like this? Hey, you know what? I’m working on de.omio.com, come on. Yeah.
Nitin ManChanda: So one brand name is really important, if you talk about booking.com, yes, just one name, no confusion at all. So your brand team would love that. Then if you are really into outreach, so every quality link that you earn for your domain, they’ll add value for the entire universe, if you have one brand name. So your PR team, your outreach, your [inaudible 00:11:06] will be really happy about that, if you have one domain.
Nitin ManChanda: Then it’s really easy to consolidate and separate reports if you’re using, let’s say Google analytics, because you have, it’s really easy, I mean, you get data for the whole domain, and then if you want to get data for let’s say D only, so you can just go do your domain.com/d and you see everything there. So it’s really, really easy to consolidate and also separate the report.
Nitin ManChanda: Then users won’t ever be upset because they will get localised content on the domain they remember, because for example, booking.com case, they remember booking.com as the domain, and they go to this domain, they get their localised content because this domain has content for every market there, so your users will love this as well. So one brand name solves all the problem, but then there are some confusions about this subjectory approach, so it needs more… Well, there’s no confusion this is reality, that you need more efforts to Geo locate, because you’ll need proper hreflang setup, that you would need in other setups anyway. For this you would probably need a bit more effort spend it when it comes to geo targeting in Google search console.
Nitin ManChanda: Also you would need to add language tag, but that is again [inaudible 00:12:22] for all the setups. So there are some confusion that you need more efforts for hreflang setup or language tag, but that is also there for other setups. But yeah, for Geo targeting you would probably need a bit more effort when it comes to sub domains or subdirectory.
Nitin ManChanda: Then there is another, I would say [meek 00:12:43], which is about getting penalised for the whole domain, if you are doing something fishy for any particular market. Well it probably used to be true few years back, not Anymore. But I will still say just be careful, don’t do anything shitty because you are focusing on user experience for the local markets, so don’t do anything fishy which can hurt your brand authority and people believe that this domain is shit. I mean they don’t have localised content, or they’re doing something bad. So that basically brings your brand in the whole world basically.
Kate Toon: I love this, this is going to be the first episode that I have to have it explicit rate on, because you said shitty. So I’m going to say shitty too, shitty hurray. Just to be clear that you said that you’re going to have to make more efforts to geo locate by doing proper hreflang setup, the right geo targeting Google search console and the right language tag, but most of those you have to do with any of those options.
Kate Toon: We’re going to talk a little bit about whether that should be automatic or whether you should give an audience a choice, because there’s different approaches there as well, but we’ll come to that in a second.
Kate Toon: So what is, I guess the biggest problem people have? So we’ll take Anu, for example, Anu has a brand called Bidllia which is a jewellery brand, and she’s got her Australian version, but maybe she could set up an Indian version or UK version or a French version. I guess the issue for her more is what if I set up an American version that’s in US dollars, or US pricing, maybe I do products that are a bit more US friendly, but essentially they’re clones of each other, and I’m really worried about duplicate content and how do I set up an international site when the sites are pretty much a clone of each other?
Nitin ManChanda: Yeah. Well first of all Indians are pretty flexible, so if you have it pointed in US English or UK it’s fine, we’ll manage that, I’m just kidding. So yeah, coming back to the topic, so I would say here we have two major things, one set of local experience. So even if you’re present in two English countries, let’s say Australia and the UK, so in both the countries the English varies a bit, right? I mean you have your local slang or idioms that you use there, and that’s not common in both the countries. So here you should definitely focus on local experience, you just make sure that you are touching the heart of your local users.
Nitin ManChanda: I also shared an example about football shoes in the UK and soccer shoes in the US. So that’s how the people search in their local or respected markets, right? So make sure that you are hitting the right… Targeting for the right keywords and not general stuff. Also, I would also consider configuring your geo parameters properly to avoid any confusion here, so even if you have two different languages and you are serving content for different languages, so make sure you have proper hreflang which tells, Hey, this is for English in Australia and this is for English in the UK. You can also use language tag to declare that, and also use geo targeting settings in Google search console to tell search engines that hey, this website, this [inaudible 00:16:08] is for English users in Australia and not in the UK for that [inaudible 00:16:13].
Kate Toon: Okay. So let’s just clarify something, a quick question that has come through. So you’re recommending that we have booking.com/country, that’s right. Is that your option? Are you recommending country.booking.com, which one are you recommending?
Nitin ManChanda: I’m recommending booking.com slash language and country. So because here if you’re only working with country, then there are countries with multiple languages, what would you do in that case? So you would add another subject or something, so I would not take it back long, so I would rather use a combination of language and country. So for example, in Switzerland, there are three languages spoken German, Italian and French, so how would you handle that case if you’re just doing this slash country?
Kate Toon: Slash the country, so country and language, okay.
Nitin ManChanda: Exactly.
Kate Toon: Yeah, that makes sense. Now I guess a lot of people considered .com as the international extension, it works for every country. If you want to be universal or global, you have to have the .com, do you agree? I mean or do you think that that’s the American one? I mean, how do you approach that?
Nitin ManChanda: No, it’s definitely not the Michael one, it’s a default one. Even we use here .com as our extra fold in hreflang tags because for all the markets where we are not present at the moment for a CCTLD or something, so we have .com there. Even Google search console when you add any domain, let’s say .de, so Google automatically detects that domain for German market, but.com is default. So there Google does not detect that automatically, which means Google doesn’t consider that as US specific domain, but it is considered as standard domain is set.
Kate Toon: Thank you for clarifying that because I think a lot of people are quite confused about that, so that’s awesome. Okay, you’ve talked about a few things and I just want to dig into them a little bit deeper so that people understand. So we’ve talked about the Hreflang Tag, and again, if you’re not understanding any of this or you’re feeling confused, do head to the recipe for seosuccess.com where we’ll have a full transcript of this episode, and all the terminology will be explained, so if you’re struggling, don’t worry it’s all going to be there.
Kate Toon: So for the newbies, this is a little bit of code that indicates which languages your content is available in. So for example, if your primary audience is in Australia, you would maybe ensure that your site Nav and your content is in the primary language of your audience. A couple of tips around this, I mean, as a copywriter, I’m often asked to do translations and I see a lot of sites where maybe they’ve used machine translations which is just awful, because they don’t get the slang and the idiom and just the rhythm of language, it’s actually very hard for a nonnative to write in a foreign language, even if you’re bilingual, you can still miss a few things. My husband’s French and he still doesn’t understand, he’ll sometimes say to me, what’s those bendy things? Those bendy weakly things [inaudible 00:19:16], I’m like it’s snake dude, it’s a snake, but his brain just can’t connect for that one minute. Very smart guy, but there you go.
Kate Toon: The other issue that I think a lot of people have, and I’m jumping around here, is when you go to a site and it’s also detected where you’re from, from your IP address or something, and dumped you on a site that isn’t the right language. So yeah, let’s talk about the Hrefslang Tag. What can you tell us about this? How should we implement it in the best practise way?
Nitin ManChanda: Yeah, that is something that can easily go wrong, so maybe you can refer omio.com to see how it’s implemented correctly and there are a lot of… Aleyda SOlaris
Kate Toon: , we love her she’s amazing.
Nitin ManChanda: Yeah, she’s amazing. She has a lot of articles about that, and whenever I have any doubt about international SEO, so she’s my go to person. So I would probably recommend reading some articles and then Google has proper guidelines on peer forum as well, so I would totally recommend reading that as well. So it is something which can go wrong easily, so make sure you’re using the right ISO code for languages and countries, that’s the most complicated part. If you’re doing that right, then I think it’s implemented fine.
Kate Toon: Yeah, Auto direct say they are the pets, what do you think?
Nitin ManChanda: I hate them. I really hate them, I think everyone hates them including Google, because it’s another thing which can go wrong very easily, because Google comes from US space IP 99% of the time, right? So if you have implemented this IP based redirects and then even though you are white listing Google bot IPs, then if something wrong happens there, then Google is only able to see one version of your international setup, and then ignoring all other versions, which is really thin.
Nitin ManChanda: Then in some cases when Google is seeing different URL, and then content is different than target market, Google can even rank wrong URLs for wrong markets. So you would get traffic, but these traffic won’t ever convert, because a person who understands German would click on a link where the content is in Italian. So of course if this person is not relying on Google translate extension for an Austrian content, then that would be borne straight away.
Kate Toon: Yeah. So it’s tricky. I mean one of the site’s the Ivy’s [inaudible 00:21:48], it’s a bit embarrassing, but I’m a big fan of Marks and Spencer in the UK, I built their first ever e-commerce site when I was a young whipper snapper, first ever e-commerce site in the UK let me tell you. Anyway, that was a long time ago, I was young and happy. Anyway I liked the way they do it, so you go in it does serve your pop, it does recognise that maybe you’ve been there before and you’re in Australia and you changed to Australia last time, and it’s got the flags, it’s got multiple routes for you to choose your…
Kate Toon: But sometimes I want to choose the UK one, because my parents are still in the UK and I’m ordering something for them, so don’t move me unless I’ve told you to, thank you very much. The only problem is when I don’t realise, I go right down the path of ordering something and then I realise and find that it’s not available in Australia, and that’s pretty annoying. So you have to flag it along the way, but another thing to talk about was this machine translation thing and you made a point earlier or in the notes, that machines are a lot better than they used to be. So are there any ones that you think are good, that you would recommend?
Nitin ManChanda: Yes, absolutely. I mean, machines are becoming smarter and smarter every day now, for example, there is a translator called DeepL, so I heard really good reviews about it, but I take every SEO advice with a grain of salt. So for this as well, this tool I’m testing it myself, so right now I’m in the middle of test experimenting how it works, and from SEO I needed to experience perspective because I really care about user experience while focusing on SEO topics.
Nitin ManChanda: Another tool I heard is AXE Semantics, so they apparently support more than 100 languages now, and they generate content automatically. So now if this tool works like magic, works as expected then my problem of generating content at scale is solved. Well, I heard there are companies like Expedia, well it’s a big company, but yeah, so they have their own tool that generates content for them. I see this auto generated content on many sites these days, but they write smaller templates and then use these templates, but I was looking for a solution which generates huge content automatically at scale.
Nitin ManChanda: So I’m now testing this tool as well, so let’s see how it goes, I’ll share my findings.
Kate Toon: Yeah well, we’ll follow you on Twitter or whatever and see what you say. One thing that I thought was interesting when I went to YoastCon was that Yoast is extending out to service more languages as well, because obviously it’s been very English centric and they’re trying to work on bringing in other languages, which in a way for them it’s slightly easier because most of the languages have far fewer words than the English language. So it’s easier for them to work out synonyms and all that stuff. But I think that we are becoming a global market and yeah, it’s a shame to just always do everything in [limit 00:24:42] English.
Kate Toon: Anyway, let’s move on and talk about, you’ve mentioned a few times now the geo targeting option in Google search console. What is it? How should we be using it? What’s best practise?
Nitin ManChanda: Yeah. Well, so in Google search console you can set your target country under the international targeting section. So right now it’s available in the old version of search console, it’s not moved to the new one. They’re basically… here we are talking about two different categories, so one is CCTLD setup, so where Google automatically did text you a target country for example, if you are adding a property for Omia.de, then it detects that you’re talking about Germany here, because you won’t be targeting US audience or Australian audience with de. So in that case we did text your domain and target and maps to the target country automatically.
Nitin ManChanda: But in other cases where you have some domains or subdirectories, my favourite, so there you need to explicitly add your target country and language. So please note for subdirectory solution, you would need to create separate Google search console properties for all your target countries. So if you have that say Omio.com/en-au, that’s English Australia, then you will need to create a separate property for that. Then you can say, “Hey, this is for English users in Australia and so on.
Kate Toon: Even with the new Google search console where it does the domain level verification in the URL level verification you would need to do the URL bar for verification, you would need to have separate properties for every single URL.
Nitin ManChanda: Yes, absolutely.
Nitin ManChanda: So this is one step, in addition of course you would need hreflang and then language tag other things, but for a country targeting through Google search console, this is much needed.
Kate Toon: Okay, fantastic. So we’ve talked a bit about the techie stuff, let’s talk a bit more about cultural stuff. I mean, you talked earlier in the beginning of the episode about soccer shoes and football shoes, about matching things like currency and time zone, contact details, but cultural differences are a bit harder. What are some things that we should look out for here?
Nitin ManChanda: Yeah, well interestingly, the way people browse your site, or they perform a search on your website, or they think about booking for next trip, for example in our case to travel, right? So it varies a lot from geography to geography, like a lot. So I would say it’s not just about language, currency, time zone or contact details, but it’s much more than that. So you should also think about using the local slangs, idioms and humour. Sometimes also about web structure and layout because the way they search, the way the browser is different and also the colour scheme.
Nitin ManChanda: So for example, the lovely people in Spain are obsessed about red colour, and I think Australians are obsessed about yellow, aren’t you?
Kate Toon: I think you totally made that up, but we’ll go with it dude.
Nitin ManChanda: Okay. I love blue and I think the people in India love blue because our sports jerseys and everything is blue, so we are like, go India, I mean we bleed blue.
Kate Toon: I think British like grey because it’s the colour of our sky and the colour of our [crosstalk 00:28:06], but I think slang and idioms and humour are very important, what I niche down to when I was copywriting was definitely conversational copy, witty copy. My jokes sometimes feel so flat on this podcast, I’m sure people are listening in Azerbaijan going, that’s not funny, what’s she talking about that’s not funny. It’s so important, the wrong choice of words, we’ve all laughed heartily at those funny products that we find in foreign supermarkets called things like, I can swear on this episode, so they call things like poop waffles or cock muffins or whatever, I don’t know. And in their country means something completely different, but to us it’s hilarious. So you really do have to think about that. I also-
Nitin ManChanda: Yeah absolutely, I mean, I think about as many possible torches as you can give, to solve better user experience, and then all the traffic that you get would convert better than ever before.
Kate Toon: Yeah, and I love your points about UX and colour and imagery, the same imagery that works here might not work in another country. Imagery here is perfectly fine, might be offensive in another country, you just have to think of these things through. Obviously therefore it does pay to a degree to have somebody of that nationality who can talk you through the idioms, the slang and hey, hire a good copywriter, there are good copywriters all over the world, hire them they’re awesome.
Kate Toon: Okay, let’s talk about another thing that people talk about a lot when it comes to local SEO and International SEO, which is hosting. Do you think it’s vital for a site to host their website in the country that they’re marked into?
Nitin ManChanda: Well, what matters the most for Google is a fast website that keeps your user happy. So hosting your website in a different country sometimes hurt your site’s loading speed, and hence the user experience. So now user experience has a very, very high correlation with your SEO health. So if you want to solve fast and if you want to just avoid these cases then I would say you can think about hosting your website in the local environment, maybe the same country or any neighbouring country just to make sure that you turn it on time for every single request to the server is not high, which is basically increasing your [inaudible 00:30:26] time and hence supporting your user experience.
Kate Toon: Yeah, I think as well, hosting there’s other factors to consider because should you maybe you can host on the super, super local hosting company, but maybe the customer service isn’t great, and the site [inaudible 00:30:41] over a lot, maybe a content delivery network or CDN might be right for you, I don’t think it’s always the answer to host in the right exact next place to you. For example, I think my host sites are hosted in Singapore, I’m in Australia, it’s close enough and they’re pretty damn fast. So I’m pretty happy. So yeah. I think it’s -about speed more than nationalism, I guess.
Nitin ManChanda: Yeah, yeah, exactly, absolutely, absolutely. You actually mentioned about other parameters that you consider like CDN and what services you’re using, maybe you’re using local one, but it’s really horrible, so yeah, it’s not about nationalism definitely.
Kate Toon: Yeah. Let’s talk about a big factor with all SEO, People don’t like to talk about it because these are things we should be earning people not building, but let’s talk about back links, so they are a factor, we’re just general SEO, and a big factor with international SEO. How much of a role do you think they play in driving traffic from the country you’re targeting? And what are your tips for winning links in a country where you really have no presence?
Nitin ManChanda: Definitely, links are important, especially when you get them from really trustful sources, and local sources as well. Because let’s say you have a local website in Germany, and in Google’s eye, they are [inaudible 00:32:02]. And if you’re getting link from this company for your German domain, that adds a lot of [inaudible 00:32:07], because Google trust this domain from your [inaudible 00:32:09] link, and then if that site is giving you a link, which means that is endorsing you. So that really matters there in that case.
Nitin ManChanda: So links do not only add authority to your brand, but it also brings some referral traffic for you, don’t forget that. I definitely have some tips, I’m not an expert in this area, but I have some very, very basic tips, I would say to acquire links which can help you grow your SEO, and then also have increase some referral traffic.
Nitin ManChanda: So first one, solve user experience, like best user experience through your product, so I’m a big fan of user experience. I think you would have seen that already. So everyone talks about it if you have a nice product, and then share it everywhere on the web, so you can [inaudible 00:33:00] heavy traffic, and you get a lot of organic links, so just make sure you’re solving user, like top notch user experience from your product. I would also say target trending topics in your industry and think about possible partnerships with the right companies. For example, if you are in Germany and you know it’s going to be the big day Oktoberfest in Munich, so you can somehow try to connect with the topic, we actually did that.
Nitin ManChanda: So here in 2016 of the road about beer price index in 2016, and then we somehow connected that content with our market, [inaudible 00:33:40] and we spoke about top cities to visit. And then this worked like magic for us, we got so many organic links, we got a lot of referral traffic, and it was like magic for us. So I would say write on other hot topics and then try to link them to your industry in a smart way, well you are smart brains, right? So think about a smarter way to connect different topics with your industry. For example, this beer index price, well I’m not creative, I cannot think how can this be connected to travel, but someone here thought about it and then they implemented it and then it worked like magic. So think about these kinds of ideas, these kinds of growth hacks.
Nitin ManChanda: Then write awesome content that everyone would love to see. So now we are starting another campaign about high speed trains. Everyone here you’re always talking about high speed trains, so we thought of writing a content piece about that, because we have amazing content on that. So why not write something beautiful and then connect it to our website somehow and then make it viral, and through this virality, you get a lot of links, and a lot of refugee traffic as well. So yeah, I think get creative and then make the most of every outreach campaign you have in your list. So these are very tiny suggestions I have for you on this.
Kate Toon: They’re great, and I think if you’re a smaller brands, if you’re a personal brand or one person company, I think there’s a lot to be said for just building relationships. I’m a huge fan of relationship marketing and what I call good Karma SEO and just reaching out to individuals not any kind of outreach, horrendous, hey, I read this piece of content you might want to put, Oh God, let me just delete, but forming relationships, I mean, you and I, I started tweeting about you, I saw you on LinkedIn, we started chatting, it’s taken us about eight months to get this podcast together, but it’s happened, and that wasn’t because I wrote a great piece of content or did an outreach email, it’s just through personal relationships. So don’t underestimate your personal brand, for me I’ve never focused on international SEO because I had more than enough work coming from Australia, but overtime, this year I’ve been lucky enough to speak in the Netherlands, and in New York and two years ago that would never have happened, but just having the podcast, connecting with people, being friendly, being nice, people being nice, that’s my top tip.
Kate Toon: Anyway, talking of being nice, that’s an awful segue because I’m not going to talk about being nice.
Kate Toon: Let’s talk about why China does not like Google, and why Russia doesn’t either. So in Russia we have the Yandex, and in China we have Baidu, and for lots of us here in Australia who are trying to deal with Google and maybe being sometimes what do we do about these? How do we get on them? How do we attack Chinese audience and the Russian audience? How do we reach them? It’s pretty hard.
Nitin ManChanda: yeah, absolutely. Well in our particular case, we have a team of local experts who are fluent in local languages, they’re sitting in China. They’re focusing on China’s domain, Japanese domain and Korean domain at the moment. We are not investing much in Russia yet, but I think the plan is to expand the team in the future, and then we will start focusing on these markets and these search engines as well.
Nitin ManChanda: In general, all the search engines you talk about Yandex, Baidu, Google, Bing or whatever. So all the search engines follow the basic principles. So every search engine cares about user experience, every search engine cares about site speed, content visibility, relevance. Well, it’s a different thing that on content visibility topic, when it comes to Java script, which is another hot topic in SEO Industry. So they’re different, so Google can-
Kate Toon: Yeah, love that. So do it right for Google, focus on the basics, site speed, content visibility, responsiveness, good content, relevancy, all that kind of stuff. And it’s probably going to be okay for all search engines. Even being in Yahoo, let’s talk about e-commerce websites. We’ve got a couple of e-commerce people on the call here, because this call is going live in the digital master chef screen, which is rather exciting. So I am a local brand thinking that it would be rather nice to get lots of orders from overseas, why would I start? What do I do first Nitin?
Nitin ManChanda: Yeah. Well, so here we are talking about tips exclusively for international e-commerce set up, right? So, well, the first one would be to think local. Like I gave this example about football shoes.
Kate Toon: You have just said football, soccer boots.
Nitin ManChanda: Yeah, absolutely. I love that example of Nike, so that’s a wonderful example if anyone wants to speak about this topic. So I always speak about that, and don’t just work on categories or products, so check local opportunities and create learning pages to attract some high quality traffic, that comparatively less competition. So I also spent a few years in e-commerce and we were only focusing on product and category in the beginning, but then I saw this opportunity that a lot of people are searching for short black dress for example. So here, this is not a category, here we’re talking about black, which is a colour and short dresses as category.
Nitin ManChanda: So it’s a combination of category and a filter, so think about these kind of opportunities. Do not just focus on categories and then products, so it’s much more than that. And this opportunity can be local as well, so probably there are a lot of people in Australia looking for short black dresses, but maybe it’s winter here in Europe, so people are not looking for short red dresses, but looking for something else, like maybe long black coats or something. So think about different opportunities, think about seasonality and then focus on your structure and then how you’re promoting your content.
Nitin ManChanda: Then different geographies have different shopping patterns as well, for example I spoke to former head of SEO at Zalando, he’s now a colleague of me here. So he was talking about Switzerland, so apparently people order stuff of on Zalando from Switzerland, and even if it’s not a good fit for them, they do not return because they have a lot of money. So think about that, I mean, every geography has different way of searching, and I think one interesting finding I have about a new market is when you add anything like free in your system, then you see a different CVR or conversion of everything. So free is the magic word there in India.
Kate Toon: I think in Australia it might be quite different, I think there’s something in our mindset, but it’s maybe a British mindset thing as well we’ve the reassuringly expensive, if something’s too cheap then, because we obviously have a big influx of products from Asia and from China and it’s just too good to be true, it’s $22, like it’s not gonna work. So then you start to change your search terms and you don’t, I know obviously you seem to be spending a lot of time looking for short black dresses Nitin, which does worry me, but we’ll move on. But maybe I’d be looking for short black dress, affordable Australia. And I would specifically set Australia, because I don’t want address from somewhere else, because I’ve had a bad experience.
Kate Toon: I think it’s really, as always when we talk about keyword research is really understanding that searcher intent and the searcher intent is going to change depending on cultural and international things, the way you feel, the horrible preconceived beliefs you have and all that kind of good stuff. So try and delve into the psyche of your customer, I guess. So let’s finish up, and we’re gonna finish up with mistakes, because we always love to finish up with mistakes on this show. So what are the biggest mistakes you see businesses making big and small when it comes to international SEO?
Nitin ManChanda: A lot of them. So, yeah let’s speak about some major ones. So hreflang for example, that’s like a very, very big thing when it comes to international SEO, and it’s really, really easy to fuck up with hreflang, and it can totally mess up your entire set up, because Google starts ranking different pages for different markets, and then it affects your user experience, conversion metrics and your brand as well. So make sure you’re implementing your hreflang correctly because it can hurt you really bad.
Nitin ManChanda: Then no localization, so we spoke about this like Australian English versus UK, the UK English versus the American English.
Kate Toon: Soccer versus football.
Kate Toon: #soccerversusfootball.
Nitin ManChanda: Yes, absolutely. So yeah, no localization is another mistake that people generally do. So just make sure that you are serving the local experience [inaudible 00:43:10], local users and not just currency and basic things, it’s much more than that. And then auto redirects based on Ip, so trivago still has it and that’s the only thing I hate about them. Well-
Kate Toon: Is that why you left?
Nitin ManChanda: Not really, but that’s something I really hate about them. As I mentioned, Google mostly comes from US based Ip, and then even if you’re white listing all the Google Ips, then if something goes wrong there then Google would start seeing only one domain, which is for US market or maybe default domain, right? And in case of Trivago, they have 60 plus domains, so imagine if something goes wrong there they are screwed big time.
Kate Toon: Yeah. Yeah. Well let’s just assume that we’re not going to screw it up, and we’re going to do it wonderfully. I’ve started to implement, I followed your advice, I’m going with the directory option, I’ve done my hreflang perfectly, now my geo targeting people search console. I’ve done all the things. How do I know if it’s working? What metrics should I look at to measure the success of my internationalise, yeah?
Nitin ManChanda: Yeah. Again there are a lot of metrics that you can see, but some of the main metrics that I really see on a daily basis are, one is visibility index, so I use SISTRIX for that, so that gives you the visibility for your domain in a given market. So that is really important. So this tells me about how the domain disability of my domain visibility is growing in a market, so that’s really important. Then rankings of course, because that’s why we play this game of SEO, so you can use that SEMrush and there are many more tools that you can use. But yeah, SEMrush is really good, so you can definitely give it a try.
Nitin ManChanda: Then another thing is organic traffic the most, most important because if you’re getting rankings and still not getting traffic, then there’s something wrong with your CTR, so you need to work on that. So yeah, organic traffic is another one that I consider, and then CTR as well, because if you’re… I mean rankings plus CTR combines to give you traffic. So I would say rankings, CTR, [inaudible 00:45:25] index and organic traffic are my favourite four KPIs.
Kate Toon: I think that’s perfect, and I think that’s really illustrative as well because I think, so I also often do an awful lot that we talked about in terms of onsite optimization, but I really forget there are [inaudible 00:45:42] and they’re meta-description and a title tag and they forget that it starts there, that’s the first interaction, that’s the first copy anyone’s going to read, so if you’ve messed up on the idioms and the slang and the approach there, you could rank fabulously, but you’re not going to get click through rates, no. I think it’s a good call for copywriters of the universe even though there are these fabulous tools that we’ve recommended. I think it just means there’s lots of work for us copywriters out there to help localised content and make it work for every audience.
Kate Toon: Nitin I am so grateful for you coming and joining us today, thank you so much for being on the Podcast
Nitin ManChanda: I’ve been following you for quite some time, and it’s really a sheer pleasure for me, being here as a speaker, thank you so much for the opportunity.
Kate Toon: Stop it.
Nitin ManChanda: Loved it.
Kate Toon: Keep talking, say it again, no, I’m joking. It’s good. Will include links to all your various bits and bobs and I highly recommend following Nitin on Twitter and LinkedIn, and he’s part of the SEO community, he shares a lot of good stuff, that’s how I found him. I will say that people often ask me, where do I get my SEO information from? And I got a lot of it from Twitter, don’t you Nitin? I find a lot of good people tweeting random stuff in the SEO community.
Nitin ManChanda: Yes, absolutely. But some banks really useful as well.
Kate Toon: Yeah, and lots of arguments, I love the arguments and just get my popcorn and watch people argue, it’s fabulous. So thank you very much Nitin, we’ll finish it there, and as I said, head to the show notes to learn more about Nitin.