3 International SEO Tips to Help Penetrate Emerging Markets

ShareShare on Facebook7Share on LinkedIn250Tweet about this on Twitter0Share on Google+1

The rapid advancement in digital technology has made it possible for global brands to consider penetrating emerging markets much earlier than might have been possible in an analog world. This has led many to embark on revenue expeditions in far-flung locales.

However, the excitement over revenue potential in these regions has been tempered somewhat by the very real challenges of expanding into these markets. Many global brands have learned the hard way that each new market has its own unique characteristics and ideal points of entry.

Success lies in your ability to flexibly deploy custom approaches for each market. That means moving beyond a focus on linguistic differences and instead understanding local consumer behavior and preferences and incorporating those into product and marketing strategies. With so much of marketing digitally based now, international SEO services are an invaluable resource.

The revenue hunt in emerging markets will require a well-defined roadmap, with new tools and tactics to support your efforts along the way.

We have identified 3 international SEO tips that will take you a long way down the road to global marketing success. 

3 steps to successfully penetrating

Step 1: be found

It’s obvious that if your prospects can’t find you online, they won’t be able to buy from you. What’s not so obvious is how reaching emerging markets differs from your current approach in established markets. The minimum requirement is a localized website in the target language.

While many brands offhandedly assume that international users speak enough English to find and use the main website for purchases, the Common Sense Advisory survey report, “Can’t Read, Won’t Buy” confirms that people prefer to buy in their own language. In fact, over half of respondents reported that they exclusively buy from websites written in their own languages.

Being found in international markets, as well as converting those visitors into clients, is best achieved by catering to local linguistic and cultural nuances.

If your content doesn’t use the right keywords for that language, you will not show up in search results. In addition, if your content doesn’t resonate with the local audience and doesn’t compel them to engage with it, you will fail to attract the necessary off page links to rank at the top. Simply translating your current website and successful Google keywords into the local language word-for-word is not enough.

To win requires carefully studying your target markets and creating unique, focused campaigns for each. For an international SEO strategy this means you need to carefully localize your target keywords using in-country research that includes search intent and then create high-quality content that attracts both search engines and enthusiastic, connected visitors.

This is where nuanced and researched localization of your website goes hand-in-hand with the SEO strategy used to enhance your search performance. Your localized websites need to be created and promoted using SEO strategies that are carefully crafted for local consumers. That is because the SEO, social, and content marketing strategies that help you succeed with Google do not always work in the preferred search engines of emerging markets.

There are unique strategies required to drive search performance on engines like Baidu, Yandex, and Naver. And while you may never have heard of them, it’s important to pay attention to these engines; Yandex is the Russian leader and the world’s fourth largest search engine, while Baidu owns over 15% of global search due to its 62% market share leadership in China.

Step 2: land, launch, and execute

Reaching new markets is faster and easier than ever before.

Cloud applications, global marketing resources and the international SEO techniques described above enable an agility that makes it nearly effortless to reach increasingly connected global audiences. That ease of access may make it tempting to manage the whole process from a 5,000 foot perspective. And while revenue may start flowing with this approach, a little digging into the analytics might easily convince you that a more tangible presence could return even better results.

That’s because building a local customer connection goes beyond the web; real success requires in-market engagement that can only happen on the ground. Whether you’re refining global product offerings or preparing for a full market entry, landing, launching and executing can be greatly streamlined by leveraging the power of international crowd workers to be your eyes and ears in target markets.

Step 3: learn and listen

Once you’ve made a connection and inroads into a new market, it’s imperative to maintain your brand image and goodwill with consumers. Things can change quickly in emerging markets, making it vitally important to keep your finger on the pulse of consumer sentiment.

Just as in the US, social media channels provide a golden opportunity to connect with consumers and keep an eye on how sentiment is shifting in new markets. In fact, WebCertain reports that emerging markets have adopted social media in numbers far greater than the US and even Europe — Asia-Pacific has 777 million active social networking users. But the highest social media penetration is in the Middle East and Africa where 4 in 5 internet users are on social networks.

And according to a recent eMarketer report, the fastest increases in social network user populations in the near future will be in India, Indonesia, Mexico, China and Brazil. That makes social listening a powerful tool to help you focus your marketing strategy in emerging markets.

Social listening is the other side of the social media coin; it means paying very careful attention to what is being said about your brand.

By looking for patterns and trends in the social media chatter, you can discern an overall consumer sentiment that can be used to tune local messaging to support marketing initiatives, improve search engine visibility, and promote and protect your brand on a global scale.

In particular, sentiment analysis provides an indicator for how products and brands are regarded by customers and can help you head off perception problems before they blow up into fail whales — but only if you can wrap your arms around the vast quantity of social media information rolling in across countries, languages and cultures. The volume — and value — of the information demands a dedicated, real-time and highly responsive approach to discerning social sentiment.

While social listening may sound passive, it’s critical to be locally relevant with your social media listening — perhaps even more so than with SEO. Social media interactions are rife with slang, jargon and undertones whose meaning is invisible to machines and non-native speakers alike. But while being locally relevant, you also need to be globally consistent so that you can fold your social media strategy into your global marketing operations workflow to take advantage of worldwide social media intelligence without placing undue burden on your in-house resources.


Expanding globally is incredibly rewarding, but it is an endeavor that needs to be undertaken with an understanding of the challenges that may arise at every step. Starting with a nuanced web presence and SEO strategy, backing it up with on-the-ground resources on demand, and continually listening and improving your efforts are 3 sure steps you can take to make the journey smoother on your path to international profits.

About the authorpaula-shannon-lionbridge-headshot

Paula Shannon manages Lionbridge’s global sales forces and account management teams. In this role, she drives new services and sustainable solutions, develops strategic accounts, and ensures the continued delivery of innovation and execution excellence to a broad range of Global 1000 customers.

ShareShare on Facebook7Share on LinkedIn250Tweet about this on Twitter0Share on Google+1