There are currently 1.7 billion active websites in existence today, many of which are going above and beyond in the race to attract clicks. If you have a website for your business or passion, you may find that expanding your target audience to include international users is the most effective way of standing out from the crowd.
Looking beyond a strictly domestic audience can be the most effective thing you can do to propel your business into the big leagues, but it is easier said than done. Transforming your digital presence into a global one comes with no shortage of logistical and practical challenges.
You will need to consider technical issues such as hosting location (i.e. where is the server located for your website), as well as language considerations, international regulations, and SEO on the global marketplace. Read this handy guide to see the five things you absolutely need to do to take your website into the global arena.
1. Learn Your Target Market and Adjust Accordingly
Before you can consider taking your website into the international domain, you need to figure out exactly who is visiting your site so that you can dedicate your resources efficiently. There is no point going all-in on building the Mandarin pages for your website if only a very small portion of traffic actually comes from China.
Therefore, run an audit using a web analytics tool like Google Analytics or AHRefs, which will rank the languages spoken by your users in order of popularity. From here, you can begin selecting your target markets. You can opt for country-specific domain names (ie. www.MyWebsite.fr), or you can go for the more cost-effective route of adding country-specific subdomains for your website, such as www.MyWebsite.com/ru.
Once you know what your target markets are, you might want to translate your domain name completely, especially if your target market uses a different alphabet from your own (i.e. Japanese or Cyrillic). Remember to add information about alternative language versions as a sitemap to Google Search Console, and include the localized domain code in your HTML headings.
2. Ensure That You Have International Web Hosting
One of the most important steps is to ensure that your hosting server location allows for your website to be accessible in as many countries as possible. Choosing the right web hosting service is a make or break decision that many businesses cannot afford to get wrong.
A good place to start can be by checking which hosting services are used by the biggest and most successful international websites in the world. By using a free check server location platform to see who is hosting the best sites, you can get an idea of where to start your search. It helps to choose hosting companies that have plenty of experience and operate in the region that you are targeting.
For example, if you're looking for a US web server to reach an American audience, then make sure to research the best American web hosting services available for your budget. Of course, it helps that web hosting companies in the USA are some of the largest in the world, and are likely to be able to provide you with the international reach that you're seeking.
3. Don't Translate, Localize
One of the worst mistakes that you can make as a website owner is to assume that all of your existing content is ready to be packaged and sold to an international audience, once the translation is done. Each market has different tastes, taboos, and ways of communicating.
You do not want to risk alienating international audiences, so make sure that you not only have locally relevant content but that none of the content on your international pages could be deemed offensive by someone from a different culture.
Localization of content goes beyond just these important cultural factors. If you want your website to rank highlight on local search engine results, you will need to tailor your SEO strategy for each country you wish to operate in.
Google's algorithms always elevate websites that they deem relevant to local users, which means you will want to include plenty of local keywords and links on your international pages. Also, don't forget little things like converting currency where necessary and using local variants of a language (i.e. American or British English).
4. Consider Varying Compliance Laws
You will also need to consider how different international legal frameworks will impact your ability to offer services and content in certain markets. For example, if you are looking for web hosting in Europe to offer services to EU users, then you will need to be mindful of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), as you will be unable to offer your website in Europe and risk being sued if your EU website does not adhere to it.
One way to help with compliance, in this case, is to focus your search on finding the best web hosting in Europe, as you will be able to find reputable, compliant hosting companies based in Europe. The same logic applies even if you are searching for the best WordPress hosting in Europe. In addition, you may find that certain regions ban certain kinds of content, so make sure to brush up on local laws beforehand.
5. Run Tests and Collect Feedback
Finally, you should always run testing of your international web pages before the full launch. Always conduct thorough A/B testing of all pages to see how they look, feel, and operate in your target countries.
In addition, when first publishing content in a new country, encourage feedback from local users so that you can flag up any localization or performance issues as soon as possible. By doing this, you will be able to guarantee that all of your users have the best possible experience, no matter where they are located.
By following these steps, you will be able to make a success of your global web expansion.