Kicking off Part 1 of Searchmetrics’ International SEO podcast series, search strategist Jordan Koene goes in-depth, discussing the key considerations before rolling out a global SEO program. Expanding into international markets is complicated, involving major strategic decisions that can impact the performance of your existing website and your new one. Treading carefully while considering the opportunities for the upside, Jordan delves into what you should know before expanding your online business into international markets, so you can decide what’s best for the business and generate the maximum traffic and awareness:
- What are the first tactical questions for your global SEO checklist: Where are my assets are coming from; how do I localize content; and what localized content will I need to acquire?
- What’s involved in broadening your online reach into new markets and sending the inventory?
- What’s involved in going into a new market and setting up local inventory for an entirely new business ecosystem?
- What are the consequences of expanding into different geographies if it’s done incorrectly?
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Ben: Welcome to International Month on the Voices of Search Podcast. I’m your host, Benjamin Shapiro, and this month we’re going to talk about expanding your horizons and your search strategies to reach new territories. Joining us is Jordan Koene who is the lead SEO strategist and the CEO of Searchmetrics Inc.
Ben: And today, Jordan and I are going to talk about how to determine your search strategy expansion plans.
Ben: But before we get started, I want to remind you that this podcast is brought to you by the marketing team at Searchmetrics. We are an SEO and content marketing platform that helps enterprise scale businesses, monitor their online presence, and make data driven decisions. We’d like to invite you, our loyal podcast listeners, to our upcoming webinar where we’ll discuss how SEM and SEO are joining forces to win the SERP. On June 19th, Tyson Stockton, Searchmetrics director of services and Leslie To, 3Q’s VP of SEO will dive into the ways that you can combine your paid and organic search marketing to be more effective together. To register for our SEO and SEM joining forces webinar, go to Searchmetrics.com/webinar.
Ben: Okay. On with the show. Here’s my conversation with Jordan Koene, lead SEO strategist and the CEO of Searchmetrics Inc. Jordan, welcome to International Month on the Voices of Search Podcast.
Jordan: Hola, Ben. (foreign language-Spanish)
Ben: (foreign language-Spanish)
Jordan: (foreign language-Spanish)
Ben: I’m going to be honest, that’s as much Spanish as I know. I got a C- in Spanish in high school, and that was the lowest grade I ever got.
Jordan: I’m shocked it was that high.
Ben: I appreciate it. Let’s not spend too much time talking about my high school transcript. It was just good enough to get me into college. Let’s talk about some search strategies and how SEOs can think about, like I said in the intro, broadening their horizons? I think the biggest thing for me to ask you here is how do you know when you should be expanding into new territories?
Jordan: Yeah. That’s a great question, and I think the expansion model is derived from a couple of different viewpoints. One that’s probably more traditional more common, which is the business’ strategic desire to move into new markets. So a good example is just over the past year or so Car Gurus has expanded outside of the U.S. market into other territories in Europe and other places. Other companies have done this over the years. Our previous employer eBay obviously started in the U.S. and then expanded into other markets. When there’s a really clear business decision behind these investments, things get a little more I guess defined for the SEO. Your checklist when it comes to where’s the content asset coming from, how do I localize content, what is the localized content that I’m acquiring. These types of questions become very, very transparent because there’s a clear business decision that’s being made to expand into that market.
Ben: I think there’s two things to think about here, at least two different types of business problems to approach. Right? The first is a company. Let’s take a hypothetical company. You mentioned Car Gurus. Let’s say there’s a car vendor that is in the United States and they are interested in expanding to Canada and Mexico, right? They’re similar to get a car to Canada and Mexico let’s say there’s no difference between those two territories, and they just want to broaden their reach to reach a different market. The first option is you’re taking your local inventory and you’re just sending it to markets that are relatively close to you. The second option is a company that is expanding really truly into a new market where they’re going to have to create new assets and basically start from scratch. Whether it’s inventory management and the whole kit and caboodle. The United States and we’re going to start a business in Pakistan, and we decide that we need to build assets and localize in a totally new market. And we’re starting from scratch.
Ben: Talk to me about the differences and nuances between those two scenarios.
Jordan: Yeah. There’s a lot that needs to be unpacked there, and obviously we don’t have a ton of time to unpack it all. But in the first scenario, it’s a company say let’s just use the U.S. as most of our listeners are here in the U.S. But maybe another good example, probably not a great political time in the world to bring up this example, but U.S. Canada or UK Ireland, right? Neighboring countries. I mean, shipping and logistics aren’t really the highest cost in terms of like your ability to take a product and move it from one region to the other. And generally speaking, the tariffs and those types of costs are in decent shape to make this a feasible thing. So you could easily replicate your site into Canada or Ireland in these examples and be more aggressive to the searchers in those countries by delineating content that’s available to a Canadian or an Irish audience or delineating the inventory and products that would be made available to those Canadian and Irish consumers directly by creating site maps and setting up those files, creating a whole search console setup. And we’ll talk about this in our technical piece, but creating a very clear instance that allows Google to understand that this is content that’s available to those consumers because these products are made available to them.
Jordan: However, that’s a very kind of… It’s not a full strategic investment, like your secondary example, Ben, where a company is going into a market, setting up inventory, setting up an entire ecosystem. In those situations, like I said earlier, it becomes very clear the entire pathway that you’re going to have to go through as an SEO to both leverage content as well as set up your site so that Google is aware that you’re playing in that market. And there’s also other ripple effects like the back links you acquire because you’re actually really in that market.
Ben: Give me an example.
Jordan: So, one of the things that we did at eBay, it’s a really funny one, is constantly measuring this difference between eBay Canada versus eBay U.S. or Ebay.com. So, the funny this is that almost nine out of 10 times whenever eBay.com receives some sort of value from SEO, it would almost always go to .com not eBay Canada. And that was really disappointment because the Canadian team wanted to really grow their market share and grow that market share within their own country TLD. But it was very difficult to do because every time that say a local Toronto paper mentioned eBay, they would always use .com. And it really kind of prohibited the delineation that was required at that time to really help bolster and improve the presence of eBay Canada.
Ben: Jordan, I’ll be honest. I’m a little confused about the two examples. There’s one example where you’re extending your existing product, and one where you’re starting over from scratch. Why would you do one versus the other?
Jordan: It’s usually a business decision. The company itself either fundamentally doesn’t have the resources or assets to have a physical presence in those markets or wants to have a digital presence. And that’s not a bad strategy. It works in many countries, and it works very successfully in many countries. But that’s fundamentally 99.9% of the time the primary reason. The secondary reason when you switch gears from the product based focus to a content-based focus is that you’re trying to do an expansion of your content reach. So say I’m like Conde Nast, and I want to take one of my magazines and make it available to the Australian audience. So then I’ll go push then into the Australian audience because I think I can create a demand for my content there. Those are the two primary reasons that someone would do their kind of softer globalization approach versus the I’m going to create in market product, inventory, or content.
Ben: It seems like there’s inherently some risk by expanding into different geographies if you’re not doing it the right way. And the reason why I say that is if you’re going to be copying your content and publishing it in a different country. If you’re not doing it the right way, you’re running the risk of basically creating duplicate content for what you already have, and then you can also… I can’t think of a better term. Basically bastardize the experience that you’re having, right? If you’re going in the beginning, insert traffic from all around the world and you’re pushing it towards a centralized site, use the example of eBay and Ebay.com. And you start spinning off all of these regional sites, aren’t you potentially taking traffic away from the mothership?
Jordan: And that’s exactly the hard question that every SEO has to answer throughout all of these scenarios, which is what’s ultimately the best thing for my business, and how can I generate the most possible traffic and awareness for my business. I still fundamentally believe to this day that it does really behoove a company who wants to play in a new market to create an experience in that market and delineate content that’s really truly available for that market. If you really want to compete, and that’s a huge difference between being exposed in the market versus wanting to compete in the market. If you want to compete in the market, then you actually have to create genuine, high value content in that market that becomes recognized by the market leading publishers, bloggers, so forth and so on. So once you come down to that realization, you soon realize that you need a lot of resources and a lot of energy in order to produce results in a new market.
Ben: So talk to me about the trade-off between having a global brand and having a regionalized brand. It seems like that’s really what you’re getting at is if you’re going to have one asset that is universally popular, just keep rolling it back into your existing site. If you want to be a regionalized player, then you need regionalized sites. Am I oversimplifying this?
Jordan: I mean, there’s a bit of an oversimplification there, but I’d say that generally speaking, yes, this is true. And this is true from the sense that you essentially have to be very cognizant of what kind of investment and resources you’re going to be putting into these local markets.
Jordan: I’ll give you a great example. Recently we were doing a bit of a study on a website called StockX. No, they do not sell stocks and bonds or other derivatives. They sell shoes. Mostly they sell like very popular sneakers, like some of the older Michael Jordan shoes and stuff that has been high demand, let’s just say.
Ben: They’re just called Jordan’s, buddy.
Jordan: Sorry. I like to clarify just so there’s no confusion.
Ben: Kids are calling them J’s. Anyway go on.
Jordan: Sure. That’s what they call them. But anyway, these guys sell shoes. Now the interesting this is they predominantly focus on the U.S. market. Most of their sellers come from the U.S. but there is a lot of global demand for these products. Now they haven’t necessarily invested in a global SEO strategy, even though that’s where the majority of their traffic comes from. But eventually if they start to play in creating brands in these other markets, they will most certainly have to create a very clear delineation within their website that says, “These are products that are available, sold, and shipped to Canadian, Brits, Australians, Chinese, Japanese, whoever wants to buy.”
Ben: The Pakistani.
Jordan: When they’re at that place… Pakistanis. When they’re at that place, then they can make that structural investment. But they’re no where near that yet.
Ben: Right. But isn’t that a filter, a search feature in their site of like here is my geography. What are the shoes that are available here as opposed to a separate site?
Jordan: Correct. Today that’s what it is. Today it’s just a filter like, “Hey, can you ship to me in Pakistan, yes or no?” But they are not actually producing separate content that’s available to the Pakistani audience today.
Ben: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Jordan: And they’re not actually creating pages that are dedicated to that. To your point earlier, they do not want to create a duplication prompt. They do not want to create a problem on their hands where now all of a sudden they have all these pages that aren’t properly targeted and thus prohibiting their own success in the market that they want to win the most, which is the U.S. And I think that’s what most SEOs should be thinking about is do I have the assets to actually be present in this market. Do I have a competitive advantage in this market to be in this market? And those are questions that are very hard to answer if you’ve never done SEO in one of these new countries.
Ben: So assuming that you can say yes to those things, what are the benefits of creating the… We’ll use StockX as an example. StockX.CA instead of StockX.com.
Jordan: A couple of things. The first one is that you can be much more targeted with your Canadian consumers. So you can actually show them in the SERP results, you can show the price in their monetary unit. I mean, the Canadians’ obviously have a dollar. We have a dollar. But in other countries, they have other monetary units. So that’s one benefit. The other benefit is that you’re able to control more of the experience in the SERP. So you’re able to control where users are going and why they’re going there as well as inform users of the pros and cons that are available through your experience. For example, you might not be able to promote free two day shipping on the Canadian site, but you sure as hell can do it on the homepage of your U.S. website. So those are the kinds of things that now you get an advantage on.
Ben: It has to impact rankings. If I am searching for Jordan’s in Canada and StockX has StockX Canada and StockX U.S. site, I have to assume that the Canadian site is going to outrank the U.S., right? It has to be impact your rankings in that geography.
Jordan: Good question. If all things are working properly, they U.S. domain really shouldn’t even show up at all. It should be mainly the Canadian one that shows up in Google.ca and should be available to users who have IPs and are doing searches in Canada on Google.ca. That should be the primary content source that’s accessed. If all things are equal. That is not how the ecosystem works, and that is not how it always comes out. But the trickle down benefits that I shared earlier should become very relevant to consumers and users and thus drive the local, the Google’s local search engine to surface and promote content from that market.
Ben: So what I’m assuming is that if there was a StockX.com site, there’s also a StockX.ca, and their competitors have just a .com. That StockX is going to have a better chance to outrank their competitors with the same pages if they have a regionalized page.
Jordan: Bingo. Absolutely. They should certainly be able to outdo say Footlocker.com who hasn’t maybe propagated a Canadian version of their site, which I highly doubt. I’m sure they have one. But anyway, if that is the example, then that is a great one where you can actually show StockX showing above a competitor like Footlocker.
Ben: I think the last question that I have for you is do you have any idea what they call Jordan’s in Pakistan?
Jordan: Great question. I haven’t asked, but I have some friends that I could-
Ben: No. As much as I kid around about translating the content, get it. As much as I’m kidding about Jordan’s and Pakistan, I do think that there’s another component to think about here, which is how do you think about the cost of translation and evaluate whether it’s worth going through this pain point. What all goes into it? And I know we’re going to talk about some technical decisions to doing your internationalization on our next episode. But when you’re thinking about your SEO strategy and you’re contemplating regionalized expansion, how do you put a dollar figure to understand what the investment is going to be?
Jordan: That’s a great question, and I would like to break it down into two sections. I think that the first one is understanding the technical and content assets and resources you have available to you. Many of those technical and content resources and assets should highly dictate whether or not you’re going to be successful in SEO in a new market. If you’re not structurally set up correctly or if you don’t have any unique content that’s available. Say for example, StockX is only going to show you the USD version of the page in Canada, probably not the richest of experiences and why would you create a Canadian version if you’re just going to show the same dollar amount of USD versus Canadian dollar. Those are the types of technical and content resources that you have to have available to be very successful in a market.
Jordan: The second one is understanding the market dynamics. New markets have new competitors. New markets have very different levels of say regulation or guidelines from Google, getting a clear understanding behind the competitive and Google ecosystem in that new market is an absolute must before you plow a ton of time and energy into expanding into a new country.
Ben: So what’s the right process for understanding what the cost will be for your market? How do you figure out whether you have the right resources, and how do you basically put benchmarks together to understand the cost and time it’s going to take to expand to a new market?
Jordan: Yeah. So a market assessment is a project that’s a big project to take under. But you can actually assess how much demand is available in a market, what inventory or what content you have that matches that search demand, and actually find out what the monetary value would be for your company from an SEO perspective. It’s very simple to explain here. It is very time consuming and very vested process. But every SEO that’s, especially the ones that are moving in a new market and have never done it before, going through an exercise like that really helps a lot because it kind of sets a benchmark for what you want to achieve in SEO traffic, revenue, as you move into a new market.
Ben: I think one of the lessons here for me is it’s complicated to expand internationally, and it is not only a big strategic decision. It can impact the performance of your potential new site. It can impact the performance of your existing site. So you want to trend carefully here, and there is an opportunity for upside. And you can out rank your competition with a regional site. But if you’re going through it the first time, it’s a good thing to ask for help for. It’s probably not a bad place to get a consultant or a search platform, Searchmetrics to help you out to do your market analysis.
Jordan: I would have given you the same recommendation after your first mid semester grades from your Spanish class.
Ben: At least I was able to respond to the first question, and let’s just table it at that. We’ll continue the conversation tomorrow when we’re going to talk a little bit more about the technical components of expanding to a new country.
Ben: So that wraps up this episode of the Voices of Search Podcast. Thanks for listening to my conversation with Jordan Koene, the lead SEO strategies and CEO of Searchmetrics Inc. We’d love to continue this conversation with you. So if you’re interested in contacting Jordan, you can find a link to his LinkedIn profile in our show notes, or you can send him a tweet where his handle is @JTKoene. Or, you can visit his company’s website, which is Searchmetrics.com.
Ben: If you have general marketing questions or if you’d like to talk to me about this podcast, you can find my contact information in our show notes, or you can send me a tweet @BenJShap. If you’re interested in learning about how to use search data to boast your organic traffic, online visibility, or to gain competitive insights, head over to Searchmetrics.com/diagnostic for your complimentary advisory session with our digital strategies team, or if you’re interested in attending our SEO and SEM joining forces webinar on June 19th, head over to Searchmetrics.com/webinar.
Ben: If you like this podcast and you want a regular stream of SEO and content marketing insights in your podcast feed, hit the subscribe button in your podcast app, and we’ll be back in your feed tomorrow morning to discuss the technical details of how to expand into new geographies.
Ben: Lastly, if you’ve enjoyed this podcast and you’re feeling generous, we’d love for you to leave us a review in the Apple iTunes store or wherever you listen to your podcasts.
Ben: Okay. That’s it for today. But until next time, remember, the answers are always in the data.