Four Success Factors for International SEO Projects

Global brands need to think local when they’re targeting multiple geographies. Existing resources and approaches are unlikely to directly translate from one country to another, so a well thought-out international SEO strategy is crucial.

In our recent SEO Summit, Remi Stachowski, Senior SEO Consultant at DEPT®, talked about delivering successful international SEO projects in some detail. You can listen to the recording here, but this is what I took from the session – know your market and speak to them directly.

Remi explained the four factors he believes are crucial for international SEO strategies to successfully optimize demand:

  1. Understanding a new target market
  2. Simulate searches in the local market
  3. Utilizing competitor keyword insights
  4. Monetizing keyword insights

1. What potential does a new target market have?

“You start with market research. Competitor analysis is a part of market research, since you use the market research techniques and concepts to understand what your competitors do and evaluate their strengths and weaknesses. Then you go deeper into benchmarking and checking how good your competitors are and what they are doing.”

Remi Stachowski, Senior SEO Consultant at DEPT®

Remi believes that in order to be successful in a new market with your website, you must first analyze it. Helpfully there are models for doing this, such as the strength-weakness analysis or the 5P method:

Product – Do people in the target market really need what you are promoting?

Price – What can you charge in the target market?

Place – Where can consumers buy your product, your webstore and/or marketplaces?

Promotion – How do consumers gather the product information they need before buying?

Provenance – The country of origin of the goods and how well known the country is for the type of products. The country acts as a brand at the point.

The development of buyer personas and target groups – will help you find answers to the questions above.

Part of the market analysis is also the analysis of established competitors, how they operate, and their strengths and weaknesses. Benchmark analysis will then help you quantify how well or poorly competitors are performing in measurable categories.

Remi advises starting generally with population, market volume, purchasing power, and crucially – Internet penetration data. Besides the economic data, also add other factors like product use, brand awareness, legal issues and cultural differences, and target audience analysis including culture, traditions, religions, lifestyle, languages, and so on, then add the ecommerce landscape and customer journey, i.e. where users purchase such products and services. This information will help you decide if the target market meets your business requirements, and you can easily get it from various sources:

  • The EU publishes an annual report on e-commerce that is freely available.
  • The Big Mac Index was developed by The Economist and uses Burgernomics to compare purchasing power in different currencies.
  • Search engines provide important information about many things, from search intent and keyword clusters to your own website and those of your competitors.

2. Simulate searches in the target market

“The best method is to use MobileMoxie. It’s the best tool where you can choose a country or even a state or a city. Then you put your keywords into this language and simulate the search from a server from another part of the world so that you get a close to perfect example with a view on a mobile phone and a desktop view, and you can obviously scroll and see how it looks.”

Remi Stachowski, Senior SEO Consultant at DEPT®

Remi suggests simulating searches in a target market via MobileMoxie, to get an almost perfect sample view of the local SERPs and keywords used, as well as what type of content the search algorithms prefer. Using search results is so obvious and still so many people forget it but you can find true competitors, keywords, search intent, SERP features, information about ads and Google Shopping, the importance of pictures, videos, and so on.

Translation tools such as or Google Translate support SEO for target markets and help you find corresponding keywords in the respective foreign language. Content should then be verified or further localized and nuanced by native speakers.

3. Keyword based competitive analysis

“I think SEOs were very often very idealistic. We want the best. But in this case, I don’t have to be the best in the world, I just have to be bit better than my competitors. It’s not about building the best websites in the world, it’s about fulfilling our users’ needs and defining the true competitors.”

Remi Stachowski, Senior SEO Consultant at DEPT®

Competition-oriented keyword analysis is an elementary component of search engine optimization. In new, international markets Searchmetrics can help you to identify competitors, and compare keywords that overlap, what traffic they generate, how they rank, and which do not, in various languages.

This results in two options for action: Challenging competitor keywords, and/or conquering keyword gaps or niches with for example, long-tail keywords.

During keyword research often results in relatively large keyword sets, often containing several thousand search terms. Remi said the goal is to select a manageable set of perhaps 50 keywords from these endless lists, using filters.

Popular, competition-oriented filters include keyword ranking, turnover, and traffic and search volumes. These are used to extract keyword clusters, which summarize products or topics on your website.

4. Opportunity modeling legitimizes SEO investments.

“You should talk more in a positive way. Build a few scenarios, because the people are more afraid of losing something than motivated by the opportunity to get something… You are going to succeed, don’t be afraid to make assumptions. And go for a few scenarios, go for revenues, and make a deep dive into your new markets.”

Remi Stachowski, Senior SEO Consultant at DEPT®

Remi acknowledges that SEO can cost money, but he maintains that the ROI is high when SEOs present decision-makers with additional revenue opportunities, because keywords and keyword sets are a reflection of demand.

SEO investment is about turnover and efficiency as well as brand visibility, so SEOs always strive for the most highly performing and cost-effective keywords. To legitimize these strategies, they should be backed up with forecasts and opportunity modeling.

Measurable assumptions support an investment in SEO. For example, an assumption could look like this:

With an investment of X we get an additional Y million clicks. Competitor analysis shows this can lead to an increase in sales of Z.

Remi believes that thanks to powerful reporting and translation tools, international SEO projects can be simple, but that native speakers are indispensable when it comes to formulating precise and error-free content.

He emphasizes that SEO never stops. It is a never-ending process, because search engines continuously evolve how they rank search results. SEOs need to effectively communicate this crucial fact to decision makers to legitimize SEO projects more easily.

“It’s not possible to evaluate the final ranking. You always start by making assumptions. Keyword optimization is a snapshot, and the next optimization is always the best.”

Remi Stachowski, Senior SEO Consultant at DEPT®

Access Remi’s session on-demand and check out our other Summit sessions for more actionable demand optimization and SEO advice and best practices.

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