International SEO: Marketing to Foreigners

by Ron Kunitzky July 9th, 2009 

Are you based in one or two markets and looking to expand? Care to open up your offering overseas and capture a larger share of the global market?

The great thing about the online world is that storefronts can be built and launched within days as opposed to years, but there are some things to consider when looking to grow your business in new markets that you are unfamiliar with.

First, do your research – much is made to North American based online businesses about the benefits of expanding in to Europe or Asia, yet when we think about interacting with customers from different cultures – not only to we need to ensure that we get to them, but that we are effective in marketing to them once we do.

The UK, Germany, France and Japan, for example, are some of the most lucrative online marketplaces to get in to if you are coming from an online business that primarily markets and operates within North America.

A recent article in eMarketer talks about 'E-Germany' and how Germany leads the way with a percentage of online buyers at 73% of internet users aged 18-55 and higher than any other country sampled:

Online buyers in select countries

Pretty remarkable stuff and if you asked most North Americans (even those that work in the online industry), they would probably not even know about the opportunity that lies outside our borders.

Still, with such opportunity comes risk and you need to know what you are doing.

Chances are your US or Canadian website as-is is not going to gain much traction in the new markets you are about to enter.

You need to think about what to do.

10 Key Points To Think About

Choose a brand for your website that will create traction with local customers in that market, should the one that you are using in North America not be all that applicable.

Purchase Country specific TLD's for the markets you want to sell in.

 

Look into localized web hosting opportunities and host your new websites for the new countries in those countries, so you help Google and other search engines recognize your website's localized importance … and rank it with users from those markets. (Ed.: if you already own the country specific TLD you can get away with hosting elsewhere … but file this under "better safe than sorry" & "future proof SEO")

Ensure that you are well versed and can develop content in the local language and if you cannot, get someone who can.

 

Make sure you can legally sell your products / services in the new markets and that all logistics and customer service issues are sorted out before launching.

Learn about your new markets and what is important to consumers who live and play in them. Guarantee you can make a 'promise of delivery' and meet the demands of what customers.

If you plan to partner with other online brands to drive traffic to your site, verify your partners have strong enough a presence in that market. Wal-Mart is large in the USA and Canada, yet is not much of anything in Europe, for example.

Leverage the power of social networking sites that are strongest in your new markets. In the 'B2B' world, sites like LinkedIn are very popular in the USA, but if looking to market in Europe, Ecademy would likely be a better fit.

Sell in the local currency – buyers from the UK want to pay in Pounds Sterling and buyers from Germany want to pay in Euros.

 

Abide by all local online, marketing, consumer and privacy laws as selling online in one country can be very different from doing business in another.

Relevant Markets, Relevant Channels

I spent time overseas running Partner Marketing for AOL in Europe some years back.

The Germans, French and Brits are not only different from North Americans; they are different form each other as well as the citizens of every other country in Europe. Their online behaviors are different in everything from what they want to read about to what they buy online to what they do online.

Is what
you
are selling
relevant to the
market you
are selling in?
For example, online auctions are big in North America, yet virtually non-existent in the UK as most of their auctions are SMS based.

Be sure that whatever you are selling, promoting, auctioning or giving away is relevant to the market you are selling in and that you are leveraging the right online channels and communications vehicles to do so.

Research your markets…it's not only about size, but the right customers for your product.

Spain has a much smaller percentage of household internet penetration than Germany, yet if you are selling Spanish Tapas – then Spain is likely a better market for you than Germany just like how cupcakes are more appealing to US consumers than the French.

What are your experiences with international marketing?

Ron Kunitzky

Ron Kunitzky, an expert in strategic business affiliations and partnerships is the founder of Geyser Marketing Group, and has successfully brokered partnership marketing programs for companies as varied as Coastal Contacts, Dell Computer, NASDAQ, and 1-800-GOT-JUNK?

Geyser Marketing Group

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5 Responses to “International SEO: Marketing to Foreigners”

  1. Gabriella says:

    Thank God your advise on point #4 is clear. "…develop content in the local language and if you cannot, get someone who can." Nothing worst than those automatic translators. I cannot tell you how many times I clicked out of a site that translated (ruined the experience) in another language. I personally can read & write 5 languages so my curiosity is to look. Anyway, great post and thanks for your honest, spot on suggestions.

  2. Ron Kunitzky says:

    Thanks for the comment Gabriella. I could not agree more.

  3. I think it's extremely important to fully understand your market. You can have the best offer ever, but it wont matter if you don't present it in a way that appeals to your new market. Advertising tactics are not universal.

  4. Joelchrist says:

    Yes. content should be developed my in local language to get more exposure. Avoid automated tools to avoid errors on page. Try to have quality content writers for your page.