SEO & Local Market Orientation For International Expansions

In the last column, I covered the business benefits of an international SEO strategy, with the first benefit being to complement your broader global strategic plan.

This is an important alignment especially when it comes to how you plan to publish websites to target these markets.

Managing multiple global websites not only requires resources to create and maintain but must also add value to users in your target market.

How many market sites are too many?

Over the years, I’ve seen many companies translate their websites into another language such as Spanish or Arabic and then try to “maximize their investment” by cloning a local copy for every market that speaks that language.

For one company, this approach resulted in 1,600 separate websites and over 18 million web pages, most of which weren’t indexed because Google deemed the pages to be duplicates.

Image from Twitter, June 2022

on me Twitter Recently, Google’s John Mueller answered a question from a post asking if getting English versions for EMEA markets was a good strategy.

His response was: “Looks like you have 78 URLs of the same content”.

He went on to say, “It appears to be the same page, and there is no real reason for us to catalog multiple editions.”

Develop your local market trend

Domestic market orientation is the careful balance of managing the expectations and needs of customers in the foreign market with your organization’s goals, resources, and capabilities.

In your planning, you should consider each potential market in relation to localization of local business requirements, user behaviors, user expectations, language, currency, and any other elements that will enhance customer participation in the market.

It is not enough to simply clone an existing website into another language and then submit it to Google.

A previous article suggested tools to help you identify new markets that have consumer demand and make it easier to do business across borders.

Your content strategy will be driven by local market orientations which forces you to plan across the entire conversion chain to help determine whether this is a global one-language site, a local market site or a language-specific site, and whether the technology adapts to the user in-demand or dynamically.

This matrix often drives your technology requirements.

Many companies realize too late in their expansion process that you are not dealing with countries or regions but with people.

You can’t escape Rubik’s Cube variations when it comes to dealing with people.

People within your target market speak a specific language, use a specific currency and live in a specific location.

Custom market locations, language or currencies

Businesses planning to expand globally need to make many long- and short-term decisions.

Looking at their crystal ball, what does their full expansion look like?

Expansion into one additional market is very different from multiple markets in different parts of the world.

In the early stages of expansion, these decisions can be easy.

An Austrian company can target Germany relatively easily since they both speak German, use the Euro, and have cross-border shipping agreements.

In that case, do they even need another website?

Simply enabling the Shipping Calculator and managing VAT may be all that is required.

It gets even more complicated when a US website wants to target Mexico.

You’ll need a way to organize Spanish web pages, secret prices in pesos, ensure that products purchased can be shipped to a customer’s location in Mexico, and notify consumers if there are any additional tariff costs.

Once you have the infrastructure of Mexico, we might be tempted to expand south into Argentina or Peru or Chile.

Should we make use of the same Spanish language website and use a currency converter and shipping manager or are there specific market requirements and language differences that will force us to use separate market websites?

I’ve seen many companies launch “EU” websites to target the European Union using the Euro.

They clone the global site on a “.eu” domain, convert the prices into euros, and assume they can magically target this region with a common currency and legal structure.

It seems logical but despite using the same currency most markets speak different languages, which results in them failing to attract enough visitors to be viable.

Visual or technical direction

Once you’ve decided on your web structure, you’ll need to consider using visual routing such as forcing the user to involve a country/language selector to choose the site they want, or technical orientation using either the visitor’s physical location or language preference to direct them to a specific website.

There are many articles about the challenges of using a user’s local Internet address to direct users to specific websites based on where they are accessing the site and the potential cultural errors of using a country’s national flag to represent a language across different markets.

For either method, it is important that you test the implementation to ensure that search engines can access all of the content available for either method.

Selection pages usually set a cookie that records the user’s choice to remove the selector step in the future.

While great for users, search engines are often blocked from accessing any of the tracks as they will not accept cookies which prevents them from accessing any of the local websites.

Similarly, with IP and language detection, the system is designed to direct users to specific versions of a website.

This is very common for e-commerce sites with market-specific pricing and/or rules to do business in specific markets.

Unfortunately, this will often restrict search engines from entering these sites.

This makes it imperative to ensure that there are exceptions to the rules to allow search engines, including Google, to access any webpage they request because you don’t know where they are crawling your sites from.


While there is no easy answer to the question of how many global websites you should have or how many pages within each one, the best practice is to make the decision based on your business and market needs and not just because you can afford it.

Managing a successful multinational online presence requires detailed planning to ensure that the content you publish adds value to users in your target market that encourages engagement.

At the same time, it must meet Google’s increasingly stringent requirements for being relevant, authoritative, and unique enough to warrant being indexed.

More resources:

  • 4 key areas of international focus on SEO to enter a new market
  • International SEO for 2021 and Beyond: A 9-Point Checklist for Success
  • A guide to local search engine optimization

Featured image: ktasimar/Shutterstock

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