Your international marketing strategy must prioritize website localisation. The first objective of most direct-response digital marketing campaigns, be they social, email, banner ads or PPC/Adwords, is to drive clicks to the website. The website is the ultimate destination, and the place where you convert visitors into leads or paying customers. This is as true for international marketing as it is for marketing in your own country, so when expanding internationally, you need to make sure that your website will work equally as well in different countries as it does in your home market.

Why Fully Localize Your Website?

You may not think you need to localize your website, particularly if you offer services in a field where most of your customers speak English even if it isn’t their first language. You may think that social media marketing for your website, including video content creation and efforts to buy YouTube views are enough However this assumption may be costing you dearly. Studies have repeatedly proven the need for localized websites. For example:

  • 55% of global customers said they only buy products from website that provide them with information in their own language
  • 51% of business buyers would rather buy a product from a site with poor-quality localisation than from a site that only has content in English.
  • 56% of consumers said the ability to obtain information in their own language is even more important than price.

Of course, it won’t be practical to localize every site simultaneously in most cases, so you have to prioritize by audience or marketing importance; a three tier approach is common. For each site you then need to consider these issues.

Get the basics right: Domains and URLs

Selecting a domain may seem simple, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put considerable thought into what domain you use.

If you already have a successful brand name, it makes sense to use it in your domain name when expanding abroad. However, you should make sure your domain will be received well by asking native language speakers and conducting market research in the target country, to avoid any hilarious faux pas that could result from your brand name based URL meaning something very different in another language. For example Nokia’s ‘Lumina’ smart phones translates to slang word for prostitute in Spanish. Who knows what your brand name might mean in other languages?

There are also several different ways of structuring your URLs to serve different versions of your website to visitors from different locations. These have different pros and cons; so will need consideration before you decide which way to implement it. For more information on structuring URLs see here.

Don’t Forget The Law

The European court overturning the safe-harbor agreement between the US and Europe recently has put laws governing data transfers into the spotlight. However many countries have various laws requiring companies to store data on their customers within the host country, so if you are collecting data on your customers and storing it back home on your company servers, you could be breaking the law and will be leaving yourself open to big fines. Here is a by no means exhaustive list of countries that require data collected on their citizens to be stored within their country:

  • Russia
  • China
  • Vietnam
  • European Union- requires companies to comply with the marketing implications of the GDPR.

The EU does allow data transfers but only if the companies involved abide by their stringent rules.

International SEO

The search engine being used defines the rules of search engine optimization. In Anglophone markets, Google tends to dominate, so that is the platform most SEO experts try to optimize websites for. However whilst Google does get 67% of global search traffic, it doesn’t dominate in certain markets. The most obvious in China, where Baidu gets 70% of search traffic compared to a paltry 10% for Google. Yandex has a 40% chunk of the Russian Market, whilst Yahoo! Japan (a separate company to Yahoo!) has just over half of the Japanese search market. Optimizing your content for these search channels requires expert knowledge, so make sure to research the market share of different search engines in the market you are targeting so you don’t waste time optimizing for search engines that have insignificant shares of the local search market.

These are just some of the factors you should consider when building localized versions of your site for your international marketing campaign.