The Most Common Mistakes in Doing International SEO

The Most Common Mistakes in Doing International SEO
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The Most Common Mistakes in Doing International SEO

Many entrepreneurs and internet marketers are complaining that their effort in international SEO doesn't give a satisfying outcome. Most of the time, it is not that they are out of luck, especially if they are still newbies to this practice. There are a few crucial mistakes that they might make, which causes their tactics to not work out as expected.

Here are some of the most common mistakes in the implementation of internasional SEO:

  1. Getting Too Fixated on Google
  2. Indeed, Google is the number one search engine in the world. No wonder entrepreneurs are so diligent at evaluating their website's ranks and traffic from Google. However, according to statistics, only 70% of people worldwide use it on desktop and 85% on mobile. Furthermore, Google's dominance in the search engine industry is gradually declining as well.

    That means, if you only work your website on Google alone, you are not at your full potential. There are other search engines that people use, and their users are increasing. The SEO strategy you apply for Google might not work as effectively for other search engines. Therefore, your pages might perform terribly on other search engines.

    Also, there are countries where Google is not the most popular search engine. Thus, you need to find out what search engines are dominating there, find out how its algorithm works, and tailor an approach to rank up your pages there.

  3. Using the Wrong Hreflang Annotations
    • Using the wrong country or language codes
    • Using region values unsupported by the search engine
    • Failing to follow the tag specification
    • Getting the wrong location for the tags
    • Having too many URLs on each hreflang.
  4. There are many possible errors with your hreflang tags. Unfortunately, many people don't even realize that they have hreflang errors on their websites. Such a mistake can be fatal because your localization will not perform when the hreflang tags are incorrect.

    Here are some of the hreflang mistakes you need to avoid.

    After writing your hreflang, make sure to test it out first and fix any errors immediately. Evaluate them again every once in a while to avoid keeping an error you don't realize.

  5. Going Instant With Automatic Translation
  6. The difference is significant between using a tool to translate content automatically and hiring locals to do it manually. However, you can't expect those two techniques to deliver similar results.

    The manual one is costly and takes time. But your content will sound natural and engaging. With auto-translation, there are huge changes to have awkward phrasing and flat tones, which are not appealing at all for your audience. Even worse, some keywords might get poorly translated, especially if the target language doesn't have any equivalent terms for the particular keywords.

    If you have a limited budget, you can try to combine both techniques. Translate the content using an automatic tool first, and then hire a local to proofread and edit it. Even so, this strategy might not even work because many languages are so complicated that fixing language errors might take more time than manually translating it from the beginning.

    Yet if you do need to translate using tools, the best thing you do is to choose ones that have a glossary feature. It allows you to manually suggest the translation of specific words or terminologies. Research your keywords on the target language to find out what translation to suggest on the glossaries.

  7. Using Flag Icons for Language Targeting
  8. Flag buttons for language options may look aesthetic. Yet at the same time, this trick can be confusing and ineffective as well.

    Many countries share the same language. For example, the Spanish language is common to use not only in Spain, but also in Portugal, Columbia, and Venezuela. Not to mention how many countries use English. By using country flags, you might unintentionally eliminate a lot of international visitors to explore your website.

    The most optimal technique for language options is by stating the language itself. Although it may look plain, it is much more functional than using the flag icons.

    If you want it to give a more memorable experience, you can use specific terms in each language instead of the name of the language itself. For example, you can use "Hello" for English, "Hola" for Spanish, and "Annyeong" for Korea.

  9. Working On Too Many Targets
  10. It must be interesting to cover a lot of countries or languages (depending on your targeting strategy). The broader your coverage, the more your brand will get globally acknowledged. However, just because it is beneficial, doesn't mean it is worth it.

    Website localization requires effort, time, and even money. The more countries you target, the more you need to invest. Yet on the contrary, not every country has the potential to bring traffic, let alone lead to your website. Ambitiously chasing as many targets as possible might not deliver the results more than what you have invested in.

    You need to choose one or a few countries that you believe will be profitable enough for your business. If you have multiple targets in mind, it is highly advisable to do it one target at a time, so you can focus on its quality. Evaluation will also give out a more accurate result, so you can see how much impact each target gives to your website.

    Bear in mind that localizing your website may take a while before you can notice the results. Hence, give a time between each target, so you can review the effectiveness more accurately.

  11. Using Automated Redirection by Location
  12. Setting up a system to detect the visitor's IP address and redirect them to a specific version of your website can be helpful if it is accurate. Unfortunately, there are many times when it causes more inconvenience than ease.

    Not only that the system can be wrong, but sometimes people want to check out the other versions of your website as well. Such an automated redirection system may block the visitors from accessing other content versions, even the root domain. This tactic is intrusive and overly-assuming your visitor's intention. Instead of providing ease, it might instead cause frustration and send visitors away from your website.

    Geographic auto-direction will also impact your rank in search engines. Google will only index the US version, Yandex will do the Russian version, and Baidu will index the Chinese one. Each platform might not even detect that your website has other versions.

    Making assumptions and automation is not entirely wrong. If you choose to use this system, make sure to provide your visitors an option to easily navigate other versions of your websites as well.

  13. Underestimating the Mobile Versions
  14. Many websites look aesthetic and pull out amazing interfaces on desktop, but are lousy when you open them up through a mobile device. It is such a big shame because, according to statistics, people browse the internet more on mobile than desktop.

    The number of mobile internet users has been rapidly growing up to 504% since 2011. Starting from 2020, more than 50% of internet users are browsing through their smartphones. Most experts even agree that this number will keep growing in the upcoming years. Imagine how much traffic potential you lose by not investing in the mobile version of your website.

    Even more than that, search engines have started to consider mobile responsiveness on its ranking system. By not having a proper mobile version, your website's rank may flop eventually.

    While desktop versions are usually the main investment on most internet marketing tactics, now is the time to shift. Mobile version is the future. It is where you need to pay more attention to.

  15. Not Looking Into Local Regulations
  16. Some countries may have specific internet policies. Had you failed to realize it, you might have unknowingly broken the rules. Hence, your website would get blocked or filtered out without you even noticing.

    As a general knowledge, the European Union has stricter rules about what companies can say and do online compared to the US. They also have regulations regarding internet privacy and data sharing. Meanwhile, the Chinese government has even stricter rules about internet censorship.

  17. Underestimating Local Competition
  18. When scaling up your business on the international level, your toughest competitors are not always the other international brands. Instead, you will struggle to steal the market from the local businesses.

    First of all, they have been there first. And, they also understand the market a lot more than you. The longer they have been around, the more established their businesses are. Local people tend to trust and feel more comfortable with these brands due to the familiarity. Hence, it will be more difficult for you to compete as well.

    While tailoring a country-targeting strategy, it is necessary to find out which local businesses are potential to be your competitors. Browse their website to see their quality and find a way to make yours even better.

  19. Messy URL Structure and Domain
  20. Ideally, you need to prepare your website for international SEO from the first time you start developing it. Choose what kind of URL structure to use, and be consistent in using it.

    Unfortunately, many internet marketers fail to organize the domain properly. Hence a website may use ccTLD for the English version, a subdomain for the Korean, and a subfolder for French. Usually, people do this for a practical or financial reason. Little did they know that this cheat may backfire.

    The URL structure will be such a mess. Over time, it will get even more difficult to grow your website. The lack of organization may also cause the user experience to be frustrating because people will have a hard time trying to navigate between versions. Even more than that, search engines may fail to crawl and index your pages effectively.

    If your website is already disorganized like this, you might want to take a pause on doing international SEO. Focus on reorganizing the pages until the whole structure is neat before resuming your SEO works.

  21. Assuming All of Your Content is Relevant Worldwide
  22. What is popular and liked in your origin country might turn out to be a massive meh on other countries. There are also times when the situations are different that anything you provide on your original websites will not mean a thing in your new target countries.

    When researching your next country to localize, make sure to find out if your existing content is interesting and useful for the new audience.Even if all of your content is relevant worldwide, it would not be strong enough to grab the market. Topics that are too general are not strongly engaging.

    You need to research the niche and the keywords for the specific countries you are targeting. It might be necessary to create some new content to attract your potential audience there.

  23. Forgot to Prepare Your Team
  24. There are many times when a website can generate a lot of international leads, yet they fail to take care of their customers well. With the terrible experience that they got, your brand will have a high risk of getting canceled.

    The most common issue is that the brand doesn't have a customer service staff who understands the local language. Hence, the customers find it frustrating to express themselves and get the assistance they need. Another common problem is shipping convenience.

    Before you start doing international SEO, make sure your company can run on the international market. The experience that international customers have should be just as good as your regional ones.

    It might even be necessary to prepare a team in the targeted country. With the advance of technology and the internet, you can employ local people online to handle your market there. To lower the budget and hassle, you can even do it with a freelancing contract system.

    International SEO is an effective way to expand your business. But before it gives the boost you hope for, there are a lot of efforts required in the process. If you are not careful, there might be a lot of details you are missing out on that cause your international SEO to underperform.