By Greig Holbrook, Oban Multilingual: International SEO

More and more businesses are discovering the opportunities the international online market holds for ecommerce opportunities, and developing a foreign site might seem like an ideal way to take hold of foreign opportunities. However, every country uses the internet and search differently, and the differences can be huge. By researching the culture, the language, and the political and religious practices of a region, as well as the internet trends, businesses will be able to develop an effective and successful marketing strategy for the market they are aiming for.

1. Around 73% of searches are not conducted in English. Research shows that people prefer to search in their own language; therefore a localised international SEO strategy is far more likely to help your site reach the right market.

2. Google is not search king in every country. In many markets there is a domestic search engine which holds the majority share. For example, in China Baidu is the most popular search engine, and in Russia it is Yandex. Local search engines follow different rules for SEO. For example, some search engines prefer sites hosted locally, with country-specific TLDs. What works for google.co.uk will not necessarily work elsewhere.

3. Search terms vary from country to country. Translating a site directly from English into German will not have a positive effect on SERPs in Germany. We recently found that there was a ‘perfect’ German translation of a technology term but it had only 140 searches a month on it. Our German team identified a term that was actually being used which had over 40,000 searches a month.

4. Social media is a great online marketing tool, and the effects of social media on SERPs are becoming more widely recognised. However, it’s important to consider social media tools outside of the Facebook/Twitter/Youtube box. Like search engines, domestic social media platforms are holding the market shares in some markets. In Latin America Orkut and Hi5 are big news, and in China it is Tencent owned QQ.com which rules the social media world.

5. In terms of website elements, preferences can vary hugely in different countries. Colours, text size, and graphic placement can all affect the success of a website in an international market. Testing site variations with a cultural multivariate tool can determine which elements work best with which audience.

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