International SEO – getting the most out of your content and online PR

Search Laboratory


When planning an international digital marketing campaign, optimizing the website is only one piece of the puzzle.  From an SEO perspective, a site that has only been translated will have significantly lower organic visibility compared to the original site’s domain. On top of many other things, this is because the international site needs to create its own backlink profile within its own territory (especially if you’ve chosen a ccTLD or sub-domain rather than a sub-folder), as well as build its brand reputation and visibility, often from the ground up. This naturally takes time and resource.

Some of the better-known brands will have already established a level of awareness in new markets, and their target audience will have a pre-formed perception of the brand; even before a physical presence is established or marketing campaign is launched. Being aware of and understanding any existing perception is a starting point for your content and online PR planning.

To establish yourself in a new market – including improving your brand visibility and developing your backlink profile – requires a strategic content marketing and outreach plan tailored towards the interests and trends specific to the target audience in each market. A localized content marketing strategy, in your target language, focused on culturally-sensitive and specific content, is key to optimizing the authority of your local site and establishing your brand’s reputation in a new market.

Universally-relevant content

Brands with a global audience do well because they have adapted and localized universally-relevant content to appeal to different markets.

To build successful campaigns using universal content, start by identifying what the main hook for any audience is, and how your brand can appeal to them. The next step is to closely examine how this competes with recent campaigns and trends in your sector. It is often not necessary to change universal content from the ground up, but instead just tweak it to be more relevant for an individual market. This includes determining what angle is most suitable and how to communicate the message in the most effective way.

For example, our client Viking, a major supplier of office stationery and products, wanted us to enhance their online visibility for their office supplies in multiple languages, so we came up with a creative content marketing idea in order to earn high-quality links and coverage. By understanding the market differences, including keyword opportunities, competition and other factors, we were able to utilize the budget efficiently in each market in ways we believed would result in the biggest ROI.

To jump on the buzz surrounding the latest Star Wars film, we created murals of famous characters, such as Darth Vader and Yoda, using Post-it notes in order to inspire office creativity using stationery. Promoted to the right websites, the team knew that this campaign could get picked up in multiple countries, as the content was universally appealing. However, we still conducted localized outreach in each country to ensure that our approach was tailored, therefore increasing the chances of the story getting picked up.

Viking Star Wars Post it Note Campaign

This resulted in over 252 pieces of coverage, and 171 links to Viking’s different country websites, illustrating that you can create universal content and increase brand awareness globally. Content which possesses a universal appeal is highly desirable as it enables you to grow visibility and awareness across borders with the same brand voice and enables you to integrate your resources and plans. The campaign also led to Viking achieving first-page listings on Google for ‘post it note’ search terms.

Google UK – Viking keyword rankings


Google NL – Viking keyword rankings

Seasonal campaigns

When focusing on what you want to achieve in your domestic business, the key seasonal fluctuation of North and South can be and has been easily overlooked by many brands.

When marketing products, ignoring cultural and regional differences can be costly, for example, there’s a high concentration of German speakers situated in the North of Italy and some of these people will also choose to search online in German too, even purchasing goods from sellers on .de platforms. For this reason, we often see patterns of behaviour vary from other regions. Take Voice Search Assistants for example, Amazon Echo is available to buy in Germany and the UK, however, there is high search interest for Amazon Echo in the North of Italy, despite the fact it is not sold in Italy.

Red = Amazon Echo | Blue = Google Home


To truly engage with your audience, don’t discuss a culturally niche topic popular in the United States with a French or Spanish audience, who have never heard of the topic or person, and also avoid discussing latest summer fashions, when your audience is in the middle of their winter season. For example, boohoo localized their US and AU blogs by producing content that’s relevant to each audience:

First blog on the US site is all about California:

boohoo US blog

First blog on the AU site is about traveling abroad, and putting the spotlight on different cities:

boohoo AU blog

The US blog content wouldn’t have been that relevant for an Australian audience, so the content has been curated and produced differently for each country website. Being aware of and remembering the season of your audience, although a small thing, can make a large difference to a consumer’s view of a brand, which also affects their trust within the brand.

Deciding which topic or subject to talk about can take some time. The best approach is to undergo thorough keyword research to understand search trends and interests. It might be that what was previously thought of as a universal topic, such as a popular Netflix shows, might not always be the best option to go with. Because, looking at individual markets, it would be a mistake to assume that anyone in Italy or the US are crying out for content on The Crown, which is more popular in the UK. By doing this level of analysis at planning stages, decisions about where budget and time is best spent can massively affect results.

Netflix shows popularity across markets

Online PR

When in a new market, it is not only important to build trust and a positive relationship with your target audience, but to also engage with them via their preferred information resources. This helps to build visibility for your brand within the market, not only improving awareness and trust, but also supporting your website’s rankings within the search engine results. In order to build said visibility, it is vital to have your audience, bloggers and the general media talking about your brand and your creative campaigns. To gain the positive attention you require, you will not only need targeted content, but a targeted promotion plan for each country or territory.

Digitally skilled native linguists, who not only communicate with journalists and media correspondents in their preferred language, but also understand what angles and stories are most likely to gain coverage, will always have an advantage over those who do not spend resources on a promotion plan, or try to use non-language specific information to gain an interest. A communications expert will be able to give you an insight into what challenges and rewards their work entails, and how time, skill and the right resources need to be committed to this to reap any rewards.

Key aspects of in-country promotion include:

  • Understanding how your content fits into current news, trends and topics of interest
  • To accomplish this regular screening of a market’s news sites and key influencers is necessary
  • Knowing who is the right person to pitch your content to and how to do so
  • Researching their past articles, understanding their interests and meeting their needs
  • Choosing the right communication medium
  • Matching when they need the story; using the preferred communication medium be it email, phone, social media or a combination of all
  • Building and maintaining relationships with journalists and media correspondents
  • Who you know is key for PR campaigns. A lot of professionals keep their contacts close to their chest, as they understand the power of having an existing relationship with a media professional when you are promoting a campaign

If you are not able to address these aspects due to a lack of understanding and cultural insight, then you are likely to encounter challenges in your new market.

Finding a suitable platform

Identifying the magazines, news sites, and websites, which your audience is most likely to engage with, is the best way to gain the most out of a campaign. You not only want the public to see your campaigns, but you also want your target audience to see it.

While trusted and influential sites in the West often include newspaper websites, magazines and bloggers specialized in a certain area with a strong following, equally trusted sites can look very different elsewhere in the world. In China, for example, forum sites and online cafes are very much the dominant and authoritative platforms for users to find information. From a Western SEO point of view, these platforms are generally considered less trustworthy and even associated with spam, but that is mainly due to content of little value or interest being featured on the Western versions of these sites, while in China and other Eastern countries these platforms do include useful and credible information.

You will get the most from your content marketing and online PR campaigns by using a localized approach adapted to your audience and their preferred communication methods.

To get the most out of your own content and online PR plans internationally, please get in touch and we’ll be happy to help.

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