Positioning your website abroad. 14 tips and best practices

Wojciech MaroszekWojciech Maroszek
Published: 18.11.2020
10 minute

Much has been said about SEO for the local market. However, what about when a company is getting ready to expand abroad or when someone has an idea for a new business outside Poland? Although SEO principles are the same or almost the same everywhere – Google’s algorithms work globally – positioning a site abroad involves nuances that you need to be aware of.

The following 14 points are not a complete “how to do SEO abroad” guide. Rather, it’s a collection of tips and best practices that aren’t necessarily obvious, yet important for overseas SEO. They were all taken from a webinar held in the spring as part of Senuto’s SEO Shield program. It featured experts with experience in foreign positioning: Robert Niechciał, Mateusz Dela and Maciej Chmurkowski, as well as Damian Salkowski of Senuto.

You can watch the webinar and read the transcript here: SEO International.

1. International domain vs. domestic domain

When your business goes beyond the local backyard and you want to reach foreign customers, you have two options:

  1. a) Migrate to an international domain, i.e., for example, .com, .net, .eu or .info, and flip alternative content for a particular language into directories – so, for example, senuto.com/en and senuto.com/en – these are the same sites all the time, except that they have different language versions in separate directories.
  2. b) Make a separate domain for each country, that is, for example, .pl, .de, .cz and so on. Senuto.pl and Senuto.de would be two completely different domains that are independent of each other and position themselves differently.
  3. .

These options differ in the cost of implementation. Naturally, having a site on several domains is more expensive than on one with several language versions available.

On the other hand, with the right budget, it’s worth considering splitting into separate domains, as you then have more control over links, what happens and how each domain ranks. You create independent environments and so you know why something went up and something went down.

Potential problem: it is possible that it is impossible to register a domain in a country or it will be very expensive.

The main reasons in favor of option “a” are lower costs and convenience – it’s easier to add a directory and do a translation than to buy and maintain X domains and put a site on each of them.

Option “b” is primarily better analytical capabilities and greater control.

2. What to do if the international domain is busy?

You can look for gccTLD extensions, such as .io, .co, .tv. There is an index of such domains on Wikipedia. Find an alternative for you.

3. Remember hreflangs

If you want to position yourself for another country, in another language, then just adding, for example, an English version of the text is not enough – you need to make a appropriate hreflang structure for this..

Hreflang is a special code that is placed in the head of the document. It contains the corresponding links to the language pages in question with the ISO code.

Note: with inadequate optimization, you may end up with a situation where you position for foreign-language phrases in Poland – but not in the country you de facto care about. So this is a waste of money and energy (the exception is when you want to invite foreigners using Google in Poland to your site).

Also, be careful about using language cripples. Literal translation of some phrases may not work in foreign positioning, as well as ignorance of certain linguistic nuances. If you want to position a business with a food delivery service in England, you’ll make the mistake of positioning for the phrase food delivery. Although linguistically it’s correct, English speakers say rather food take-away and that’s the phrase they will type into Google. So it’s useful to consult a native speaker or someone who is able to search for the right key phrases in your language.

4. Link acquisition does not look the same everywhere

When thinking about overseas expansion, you need to keep in mind that every country is customary. This also applies to the ways and costs of link acquisition. Some examples:

In Germany, the amount for acquiring a link is similar to that in Poland – only that zlotys have to be converted into euros. 200 zlotys with us, 200 euros with them.

Also not very popular in our western neighbors is whisper marketing. External links are obtained primarily from sponsored articles.

In some countries it may be cheaper than in Poland for this.

“In Romania, it costs about 120-130, maybe 150 euros to acquire a link, which was in the category of TVN-class TV, and it’s one of the largest TV stations in the country. In Poland, I don’t know if that would be possible at all,” – Robert Niechciał said.

5. In some countries the dropcatching (domain capture) market is practically non-existent

In some countries, the dropcatching market is virtually non-existent, in contrast, the cost of domain registration there is inexpensive. And often these are high-powered domains – they still have a lot of external links to them, which of course is great for search engine positioning.

“In, let’s call it, exotic countries that are in Europe, like Croatia, the drop catching market doesn’t exist. I laugh that this is characteristic of all countries where: a) there is Erasmus until the age of thirty, b) there is siesta. In them drop catching doesn’t exist and there you can capture domains with incredible power, just at the level of 3-10 euros per registration. I am currently in that place, and buying guest posts for high hundreds of euros I have already rejected” – Robert Niechciał.

6. If you go international, be prepared to optimize not by language, but by country

We touched on this topic a bit above. Content on a site that is supposed to rank high on Google in the UK and in the US should be optimized separately (we return to the food delivery and food take-away example).

The same will be true for Latin countries. Although Spanish is spoken in Spain, Mexico and Argentina, minor linguistic differences can significantly affect keyword selection.

Germans and Austrians speak German, and some variation of it is also found in Switzerland. However, the markets are different, and the language spoken in these countries is not identical.

Keyword research can be done for the largest market among the countries that speak the same language (in this case it would be Germany), but in the next step it is necessary to tailor the content for a specific country. It is a good idea to verify it with a native or a person who permanently lives in the country.

7. Specify the country and language if you are positioning for a multilingual country

There are countries such as Switzerland, the Netherlands or Latvia where more than one language is used (officially or unofficially). If you want to position for both languages in that country, you need to set the geolocation and language code in the HTML code, using hreflang.

For example, the code for Latvia and the Latvian language will look like this: lv-lv, while for Russian it will look like this: lv-ru.

8. You don’t need a foreign specialist to position your site abroad

But your specialist from Poland may need a reliable business partner from the country.

In such an arrangement, the local SEO specialist directly consults with the client, sets business goals together with him, coordinates the work. In turn, his foreign partner takes care of creating or ordering appropriate content for the site, link building and so on.

Wanting to position yourself in a particular country, ask your specialist if he has the skills and capabilities to promote your site abroad. If he can’t do it himself, he may know the right people in another country or be able to reach them.

9. Use link building platforms – many countries have their own

In Poland, Whitepress is well known, which facilitates the acquisition of external links leading to the site. The platform serves a growing number of countries – there are offices in Slovakia and Romania, for example. Acquiring an overseas link is also possible with the Katowice-based Linkhouse platform or the UK’s Marketin9. But many countries have their own local solutions, working on a similar principle – look for the market you are interested in.

10. Be careful with backlink texts acquired at cost

SEO experts recommend caution when it comes to using spin texts – that is, alterations of the original text, based on synonyms. Such materials are cheap, but using them can lead to Google indexing your site.

“At one time we lost 30 or 40% of PBNs that were put on spinned text,” said Maciek Chmurkowski during the “International SEO” webinar hosted by Senuto.

If you don’t need high-quality texts, but only “backlinks,” look for platforms that offer inexpensive articles strictly for SEO. Synonymization – although priced the cheapest – may end up being the most costly solution.

11. Where can I buy foreign domains that have expired?

And for example, here:

  • dropcatch.net
  • .

  • sedo.com
  • .

  • godaddy.com
  • aftermarket.pl
  • undeveloped.com
  • .

  • SEO.domains
  • .

Prices on these types of sites can be high. Private providers usually offer prices even 4 or 5 times lower. If you manage to find such a provider, good for you.

12. Don’t be afraid of positioning abroad.

Ok, English-speaking markets as a rule are difficult. But if you have any experience with positioning in Poland, know that it is a market considered one of the most difficult in Europe. Maybe don’t expect it to be super easy, but in general it shouldn’t be difficult. Especially in these countries:

  • Lithuania
  • Latvia
  • Italy
  • Spain
  • Portugal
  • .

  • Switzerland
  • .

  • Virgin Asian markets: Thailand, Philippines
  • .

Why is it easier there? The answer is simple: lower prices (e.g., for sponsored articles) and/or less competition.

13. It’s very expensive in Norway. Want cheap? Go Spanish

Anyone who has been to this Scandinavian country once knows that cheap is not what they have there. And this applies not only to things in stores, beer in bars and hotel accommodations. Norwegian domains are also expensive. Links and content are also expensive. Creating content for Norway in Poland will also be expensive, due to the fact that there are relatively few translators with a specialization in Norwegian.

In fact, all of Scandinavia is very demanding in terms of pricing. Probably even more expensive than Norway is Finland.

It is definitelycheaper to do SEO in Latin countries. Prices for links and domains will vary from country to country, but content creation can easily be outsourced to, for example, Venezuela, Colombia or Mexico, where there is a completely different purchasing power of money than in Spain.

14. What to look out for when buying “expiries” (expired domains)?

The following tips are from Robert Niechciał. When acquiring a domain, check the following things:

  • the continuity of the link profile (if there are strange fluctuations – suddenly links “cut off” or for years there were none, and suddenly their number shot up, this may suggest manipulation),
  • .

  • In the inbound link profile, check the quality of the domains. If large sites are linking to the site, this is as positive as possible,
  • .

  • check the anchors. If branded phrases appear among them, such as “Ralph Lauren outlet” or “Nike Airmax,” then the domain should rather be bypassed (unless it was linked to well-known brands in one way or another).
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Wojciech Maroszek

Content specialist i copywriter w Senuto, tworzy i zarządza treściami w serwisie. Przez lata związany z branżą mediów jako dziennikarz i wydawca.

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