Posted by Aleyda
One of the most frequent questions I get is about the tools that I use for international SEO, and although I included most of them in my international SEO presentation at MozCon, since I didn’t had the time to focus on them, I would like to share how I use them to support my international SEO activities.
There are tools to support every part of your journey, including identifying the potential, targeting an international audience, optimizing and promoting the websites, earning international popularity, and measuring and achieving benefit with the international SEO process. Let’s get started!
Your initial international search status
Identify your initial international search visibility, from the volume and trends of queries to pages’ impressions, clicks, and the CTR you get per country. Use the “Search Queries” report in Google Webmaster Tools and filter by location.
In the Google Analytics “Demographics” report, check your current visits, conversions, conversion rate volume, and trends coming from different countries and languages, along the traffic sources, keywords, and pages used.
Your international search potential
Beyond researching the search volume for relevant keywords in the language and country that you want to target (using the keyword tool of the most popular search engine in the relevant country), you can also use tools like SEMrush and SearchMetrics â€” which support many countries â€” to identify your current market activity and competitors.
To find out which search engine is the most popular in your target country, you can use StatCounter or Alexa, and then use their keyword tools to verify the specific search volume. It would most likely be Google Keyword Planner for the western world that mostly uses Google, Yandex Keyword Statistics for Russia, and Baidu Index for China.
Your international keyword ideas
Identify additional keyword ideas with Ubersuggest (where you can choose between many different languages and countries) and the Suggestion Keyword Finder tool.
Why I don’t recommend Google’s Global Market Finder
I’m also frequently asked why I don’t recommend (or recommend, but only very carefully) Google’s Global Market Finder in my International SEO advice, and here’s the reason: It’s frequently inaccurate with the translations and term localization, and can easily lead to confusion and misunderstandings.
The tool has an “important note” below the results:
“…since the translations are created using Google Translate, they are not always perfect so be sure to confirm that the terms you’re selecting are accurate…”
Even so, people usually assume that since it’s a Google tool the results should be okay. In some cases, though, when you’re not a native speaker of a language, it’s very hard to know for sure when it’s right or not.
Because of this, the tool is useless most of the time, since it only adds additional complexity to the process. In the end, you’ll need native support anyway, as well as validation with other keyword tools for more accurate keyword ideas and their search volume.
For example, let’s say I’m from an American company looking for the potential search volume in Mexico related to “apartments” and “rent apartments”:
The tool suggests “pisos”, “alquiler apartamentos”, and “alquilar apartamentos”. These results have the following issues:
- The term “pisos” in Mexico is not used as a translation of “apartments,” but instead is what the “floor” is called. It is in Spain where apartments are called “pisos.”
- “Alquiler apartamentos” is “apartment rentals,” and “alquilar apartamentos” is “rent apartaments,” but while these terms are popular in Spain (and some other countries), they are not in Mexico. In Mexico, for “Alquiler apartamentos” it would be “Renta departamentos,” and “Alquilar apartamentos” would instead be “Rentar departamentos.”
You can see how if you search for these Global Market Finder-suggested terms in Google’s own keyword research tool, their local search volume is very low compared to the ones I mention, which are the correct ones to use in this situation:
Additionally, the term “Alquiler apartamentos” is not grammatically correct, since it needs a “de” preposition. It should be “Alquiler de apartamentos” (literally meaning “Rent of apartments” in Spanish). Although it’s true this can also happen with any keyword research tool, in this case it adds even more confusion to the process. As I mentioned before, you will end-up requiring native support to be accurate anyway.
Your international audience profile
Understand your target international audience’s demographic characteristics and online buying preferences not only by researching with studies like the Comscore Data Mine, but by browsing the TNS Digital Life and Google’s Consumer Barometer sites. These sites let you select and interact with their data for almost every industry, country, and demographic characteristic.
Your international industry’s behavior and characteristics
Identify your competitors in the international market, including their characteristics and trends, by researching with Alexa, Rnkrnk, Google’s Display Network Research, and SimilarWeb.
You should understand which are their most popular products and content, their unique selling proposition, their weaknesses and strengths, which marketing activities they’re already developing, and a little about their online communities.
Your hreflang annotations
Make sure to include the correct hreflang annotations on the different versions of your international pages, indicating the language and country targeting of each page, following the ISO639-1 format for the language attribute and ISO 3166-1 Alpha 2 for the country attribute.
You can use the DejanSEO hreflang validator to check the usage on a specific page, or Rob Hammond’s SEO Crawler to quickly verify if all the pages are correctly featuring the notation. If you need to validate more than the 250 internal pages allowed, you can use the filters in Screaming Frog to specifically identify those pages which contain (or don’t contain) the desired hreflang tags.
Your country-targeted website’s geolocation
If you’re country targeting and using a top-level domain, you can geolocate it using Google, Bing, and Yandex Webmaster Tools’ geolocation features.
Nonetheless, the best way to geolocate a domain is by using the relevant ccTLD for each country. Take a look at IANA’s database with each country code registry operator that usually allows domains to be purchased on their sites, or feature those approved domain registrars in each country.
Additionally, although it doesn’t play as important a role as before, take a look at the example below. Minube, one of the most important travel communities in Spain, is hosted in Germany. If you can have a local IP for your website without much effort, that could be beneficial. You can check any website IP by using the FlagFox extension for Firefox or the Flag for Chrome extension.
Your international web content
It’s important that you develop attractive and optimized content for your international target audience that not only includes the desired keywords, but is interesting, serves to connect with your visitors, and helps you achieve your international website goals.
For this, it’s fundamental that you have native support. If it’s difficult for you to find that, check out online translator communities such as ProZ.
In order to validate your content, you might want to use professional translation software (more reliable than Google Translate) that also integrates with Office for example, making it easier to use. PROMT is one good example.
If at some specific point in the process (hopefully not for long) you don’t have direct access to a native language speaker, or you just want to double-check something specifically, you should take a look at the WordReference forum. There’s an amazing number of threads around phrases and translations for many languages.
On a day-to-day basis, you should also keep updated with the international trends and hot topics in order to identify new content for the website. For this, you can use Google Trends (take a look at the Hot Searches per country); Twitterfall, which lets you to easily follow up with a specific topic and has geotargeting features; and Talkwalker, a tool that supports many languages and easily generates alerts via email or RSS.
Your international popularity analysis
To research and understand your international competitors’ link-building strategies, sources, and the popularity gap you have with them, you can use the same link- and social-analysis tools you likely already have, like Open Site Explorer, MajesticSEO, LinkRisk, and SocialCrawlytics.
Nonetheless, in this case, you should pay extra attention to the international audience’s preferences, beyond link quality, volume, trends, sources, and types. Look at the social activity and profile, the most linked and shared content, the seasonality, the terms used and sites shared, the local industry influencers, and the favorite types of content, topics, and formats.
Your international link-building
Promote your international website assets by leveraging relevant local sites, understanding cultural factors, building relationships with local influencers and media, and identifying what works best in each country to scale and track the response to each international version.
For international prospecting you can use Link Prospector, FollowerWonk, and Topsy, and then follow up and manage your links with BuzzStream.
Your international search visibility
To easily verify how your international search audience sees your site ranking in their search results, you can use I Search From or Search Latte to quickly get the desired country and language’s results.
Nonetheless, to make sure you’re really seeing what your audience from other locations is seeing, it’s best to do so with a local IP by using a proxy service. This will also let you verify your website from the desired international location and check to see if there’s any types of settings for them, like a redirect, for example.
For this, you can use a free proxy browser add-on, like the ones from FoxyProxy, along any of HMA’s Public Proxy list. If you want to have more reliable service, better speed, and select between many IPs, you also have paid ones, such as Hide My Ass or Trusted Proxies.
Your international search results
Measure each of your International web versions independently, from the rankings for each relevant country and language to the visits and conversions. Remember to pay extra attention to the currency settings, cross-domain tracking, and the country and language traffic alignment.
For each of the international versions, segment and analyze the rankings, visits, conversions, average conversion value and rate, the used keywords, pages, sources of traffic per languages, location, and devices.
For your search rankings, you can use web-based tools like Moz Rank Tracker, SEscout, and Authority Labs, which support international search engines, or use desktop applications such as Advanced Web Rankings, along with a proxy service to avoid being blocked. For quick revisions you can use free browser extensions such as Rank Checker for Firefox and SEO SERP for Chrome.
For the site behavior with the search engines, it is important that you also follow up with Google Webmaster Tools (or the Webmaster Tools of the relevant international search engine) along with Google Analytics, from a traffic and conversion analysis perspective. That will let you to continuously follow-up with your International SEO results, and allow you to make the appropriate decisions.
Your international SEO ROI
Calculate what’s required in order to achieve your conversion goals and a high ROI in your international SEO process while taking the SEO process costs into consideration. You can use the International SEO ROI calculator to facilitate this activity.
Last but not least, let’s not forget that despite all the help that these tools might give you the most important tool you have is your own brain.
Unfortunately I’ve seen how we forget sometimes about turning on an “autopilot,” missing great opportunities (or even making mistakes) as a consequence.
Tools are not meant to replace you, but to support you, so do your own analysis, test everything and validate frequently, using your brain.
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