SEO and local market orientation for international expansions

In my last column, I discussed the business benefits of an international SEO strategy, and the first benefit was to complement your broader global strategic plan.

This is an essential alignment, especially when it comes to how you plan to deploy websites to target these markets.

Managing multiple global websites not only requires resources for creation and maintenance, but must also provide added value to users in the target market.

How many market sites are too many?

Over the years I’ve seen many companies translate their website into another language like Spanish or Arabic and then attempt to “maximize their investment” by cloning a local version in every market that speaks that language.

For one company, this approach resulted in 1,600 distinct websites and over 18 million web pages, most of which were not indexed because the pages were considered duplicates by Google.

Image from Twitter, June 2022

On Twitter Recently, Google’s John Mueller responded to a question from a post asking if having English versions for EMEA markets was a good strategy.

His response was, “It looks like you have 78 URLs for the same content.”

He went on to say, “Looks like it’s the same page, there’s no real reason for us to index multiple versions.”

Develop your local market orientation

Local market orientation is the delicate balance of managing customer expectations and needs in a foreign market with your organization’s goals, resources, and capabilities.

In your planning, you should consider each potential market against local business requirements, user behaviors, user expectations, language, currency, and anything else that will drive customer engagement. customers in the market.

It is not enough to clone an existing website in another language and then submit it to Google.

A previous article suggested tools that help you identify new markets that both have consumer demand and make it easier to conduct cross-border business.

Your content strategy will be driven by your local market orientation, which will require you to plan the entire conversion chain helping to determine if this site should be a single language global site, a localized marketplace site or a language-specific site, and whether the technology adapts to the user on-demand or dynamically.

This matrix will often determine your technology requirements.

Too many companies realize too late in their expansion process that you are not dealing with countries or regions, but with people.

You can’t escape the Rubik’s Cube of variations when it comes to transacting with people.

People in a target market speak a specific language, use a specific currency, and live in a specific location.

Sites dedicated to the market, language or currency

Businesses considering expanding globally must make several long-term and short-term decisions.

Looking into their crystal ball, what does their full expansion look like?

Expanding to just one additional market is very different from multiple markets in different parts of the world.

In the early stages of expansion, these decisions can be easy.

An Austrian company can target Germany relatively easily since they speak German, use Euros and have cross-border transport agreements.

If so, do they even need another website?

It may be enough to simply activate a shipping calculator and VAT management.

It gets complicated when an American website wants to target Mexico.

It will need a way to organize its web pages in Spanish, cover peso prices, ensure purchased products can be shipped to the customer’s location in Mexico, and inform consumers about there are additional costs for fares.

Once you have the infrastructure of Mexico, we might be tempted to expand further south into Argentina, Peru or Chile.

Should we leverage the same Spanish website and use a currency converter and shipping manager or are there specific market requirements and language differences that will require us to use separate websites?

I have seen several companies launch “EU” websites to target the European Union using the Euro.

They clone the global site to a “.eu” domain, convert prices to Euros, and assume they can magically target that region using a common currency and legal structure.

It seems logical, but despite using the same currency, most markets speak different languages, which prevents them from attracting enough visitors to be viable.

Visual or technical orientation

Once you’ve decided on your web structure, you’ll need to consider using visual guidance, such as forcing a user to engage a country/language switcher to choose the site they want or technical guidance using either the physical location of the visitor, i.e. their language preference for the itinerary. to a specific website.

There are many articles on the challenges of using the user’s local Internet address to direct users to specific websites based on where they accessed the site and on potential cultural errors. related to the use of a country’s national flag to represent a language in different markets.

Regardless of the method, it is essential that you test the implementation to ensure that search engines can access all of the content available for either method.

Typically, selection pages set a cookie recording a user’s selection to eliminate the selection step in the future.

While great for users, search engines are often blocked from accessing one of the paths because they won’t accept cookies that prevent them from accessing any of the local websites.

Likewise, with IP address and language detection, the system is designed to direct users to specific versions of the website.

This is very common for e-commerce websites with market-specific pricing and/or rules for doing business in specific markets.

Unfortunately, this will often prevent search engines from accessing these websites.

It is therefore essential to ensure that there are exceptions to the rules to allow search engines, including Google, to access any web page they request, because you do not know where they crawl your Site (s.


While there is no simple answer to the question of how many global websites you should have or how many pages they contain, the best practice is to make the decision based on your business needs and of the market rather than just because you can.

Managing a successful multinational web presence requires detailed planning to ensure that the content you deploy adds value to users in the target market, which encourages engagement.

At the same time, it must meet Google’s increasingly stringent requirements for relevance, authority, and sufficient uniqueness to warrant indexing.

More resources:

Featured image: ktasimar/Shutterstock