Although search engine optimization (SEO) best practices are generally the same no matter where you are, there are ways that you can tailor your content for your readers to improve their experience on your site.
Plus, different countries may use different terms or phrases that aren’t used in your own. For example, spellings of the same words can vary between the US and the UK as well as Canada.
By focusing on those nuances, you can be sure to have the best chance at ranking in your target country.
In this resource, I’ll walk you through some of the things to consider when writing content for a country that isn’t your own.
Step 1: Do your keyword research
Don’t assume that keywords are the same for every English-speaking country. Product names, technical terms, and common phrases can be different depending on where you’re writing for.
While you might see some surface-level similarities, it’s important to really dive in and explore what words your target audience is familiar with. If you don’t, you risk giving the impression that you don’t know what you’re talking about and you’ll end up confusing your readers by using language that they don’t immediately understand.
Keyword research for other countries needs to be more in-depth than regular keyword research because you’ll need to get to know some of the conversational language that your target readers use.
Outside of your usual keyword research, you can start by:
- Reading competitor content from that country. Get a feel for formatting, tone, style, and language.
- Getting an overview of the different spelling variations. For example, in Canada and the UK, “neighbour” is spelled with an “ou”, while in the US, they prefer “neighbor”, omitting the “u”.
- Finding the right keywords for the products or services you are targeting. A product in one country might not use the same common name as another. For example, something as simple as the word “chips” has a different meaning between Canada and the UK.
If it helps, make yourself a specialized style sheet with anything of note. You can use it when writing to make sure you remember all your research. It’ll come in handy again when you edit your work since you can use it as a checklist.
Step 2: Use country-specific links and resources
Your readers are likely to be familiar with businesses and organizations in their own countries. So, if you’re linking to another website to reference some good information, make sure it’s from the country you’re writing for if possible.
If you link to a resource from another country, it’s a dead giveaway that you may not be familiar with the country you’re writing for, and that can affect how much a reader trusts your content.
The same goes for quotes from experts or other articles. When you can, reference people and sources that your audience may already know about.
Step 3: Don’t stop at content
While it may not be a surprise that different countries use different spellings and terms, you may not realize that the same goes for graphic design trends and formatting.
When reviewing content for France, I was surprised to learn that overall graphic design trends at the time were very different from the American landing pages I was used to. While you may not be the one to decide what images are used, you can influence how your content looks.
Pay attention to formatting trends that you see across multiple websites. For example, do they tend to use headers differently? What about the length of their posts? How do they break up long pieces of content?
All of these things contribute to the quality and credibility of a piece of content. But don’t just look through one site and follow suite. Instead, review a number of different sites in the industry that you’re writing for and make note of any common trends across multiple publishers.
Step 4: Go big or go home
International content really isn’t something that you should only put a half-ditch effort into. If you don’t have the time or the knowledge to do it properly, you probably won’t see the results that you expect.
To really have your content succeed in another country, you need to have a solid internationalization plan that includes:
- Country-specific URLs and/or domains
- Language-specific subfolder designations
- Separate, custom content for each country
- Style guides for each country
- Experienced, high-quality writers and language experts
Be strategic about your approach and take time to consider the different aspects of your plan before you execute it. It’s easy to botch SEO internationalization, and hard to bounce back from a mistake.
Step 5: Open your search engine mind
Although Google is popular around the world, some countries do prefer other search engines. Double-check which search engines are the most popular in the country you are trying to rank in and review their search guidelines.
You don’t want to miss out on traffic simply because you wrongly assumed that you were trying to rank in Google when you should have been trying to rank in Baidu.
Even if Google is still the most popular in your target country, make sure that you know which comes second and whether there are any additional ranking factors that you should consider.
Step 6: Work with a language expert
If you aren’t well-versed in whichever version of English you’re using, find someone who is. Readers can tell when your content was written by someone who is inexperienced in their genre of English and it can be both off-putting and irritating.
If you don’t have someone who can write the content for you, try to at least find an editor who specializes in the type of English you are using.
If you really want to do business in another country, you need to be willing to provide accurate, customized content to its readers.
Step 7: Don’t rely on software translations
When writing an English version of French content, or creating an English version of a German site, never rely on Google translate. Ever. Words come with all kinds of nuances, meanings, and variations that translators can’t detect.
Instead, have a language expert write out an accurate translation, then write an optimized version of that.
Direct translations are almost always incorrect, awkward, and confusing.
Step 8: Watch for accidental bad words
Different sayings and phrases in other countries can mean different things, even if they’re in English. Be very careful about the words that you choose and double-check that the terms you refer to don’t have a second meaning.
It’s essential that you do everything you can to ensure that your content can’t be misinterpreted because if it is, you could end up ruining your shot at success.
Writing for a foreign audience
Whether you’re in Canada writing for readers in the UK and Australia or you’re from the US writing for English-speaking readers in France, the language that you use will vary.
To really optimize the return you get from SEO content for different countries, you have to be willing to put in the work. Conduct extensive keyword research, get familiar with common usages and different product names, and make sure that your content is top notch before you hit publish.