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11 most common SEO mistakes when expanding abroad

9 minutes of reading
11 most common SEO mistakes when expanding abroad
Category SEO

Are you planning to start selling in other countries? Be careful: when entering foreign markets, it is easy to make a mistake, which will make it much more difficult for us to reach an international client with the goods / service. What should you definitely avoid from the positioning perspective? And what mistakes are most often made on their websites by stores that are just starting to sell on foreign markets?


Mistake 1: The lack of the initial positioning strategy

Let’s start with the obvious one, which, as our experience from various consultations shows, is not actually so obvious. Well, the store positioning strategy should be prepared before entering foreign markets – this approach allows you to significantly reduce financial risk. The sooner we start planning expansion, the better; in this way, we can conduct a thorough market analysis, and then, based on it, choose a brand that will be understandable to the target customer.

Thanks to expansion planning, we are also able to buy domains in advance in countries where we want to sell. The occupied national domain is a big problem. Years ago, Orange found out about it the hard way, which initially did not plan to expand to this part of Europe, so it did not acquire the rights to the orange.pl domain. This decision turned out to be short-sighted and costly – after entering the Polish telecommunications giant, he had to buy the domain for a lot of money from an advertising agency of the same name.

Mistake 2: Incorrectly selected CMS

Selecting the right Content Management System, or CMS in short, plays a key role in expansion to other countries. You have to be careful, because not every CMS allows you to create different language versions of the store. Therefore, make sure that the solution you choose supports the language version of the country in which you want to sell and that it allows you to implement payment methods that are popular in a given market. Also pay attention to whether your CMS supports opinion systems and local suppliers valued among foreign customers.

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Mistake 3: Leaving a name that sounds foreign

By far the biggest blockade in e-commerce matters is the lack of trust in the store and the feeling of insecurity among potential customers. Users are very reluctant to buy in foreign stores, fearing possible problems with the return of goods or complaints. Therefore, it is a good idea from a business point of view to create dedicated brands for specific markets, thanks to which your online stores will give the impression of local entities. In this way, you will use the preferences of consumers who are more likely to shop in stores from their home market to your own benefit. An example of an effective metamorphosis of the brand is the Sneaker Peeker company, which is currently very successful on European markets, which would have been difficult to find if it had retained its original Polish name: Butlandia.

Mistake 4: Choosing the wrong domain

Our domain is of great importance when positioning online stores on foreign markets. We can choose a domain in the directory (Domain.pl/en), a subdomain (en.domain.pl) or a top-level national domain (domain.com). We definitely do not recommend the first two, because a foreign user can immediately see that the store is not local. As a result, we can lose one’s trust.

The domain in the directory also has the disadvantage that the penalty imposed by Google on one language version results in a penalty for the entire page and each language version; the subdomain is in theory treated as a separate entity, but practice shows that there are also unpleasant surprises here. The best SEO results are achieved by a national domain of the highest order and it is this domain that most effectively positions in national search engines. So, if you want to sell on the German market, invest in the .de domain, because thanks to this, the German version of the browser will be more likely to refer to your store.

Mistake 5: Missing hreflang attributes

The lack of the hreflang attribute is the most serious mistake we encounter when conducting SEO consultations with companies that already sell abroad. What exactly is hreflang? This is an attribute in the HTML code that should be place in the code of our website in the HEAD section. It informs Google that there is a counterpart of the page in another language and shows it the address of the foreign language version. Proper implementation of the hreflang attribute allows us to strengthen the authority of all national domains of our brand. Google can see different stores, but thanks to hreflang it knows that they are part of the same brand.

Remember: for the hreflang attribute to have a positive effect, it must be implemented on all subpages and work in every direction. So, if the Polish language version of your store leads to English, then the English must redirect to Polish.

Mistake 6: Wrong language code

Choosing the wrong language code is a big mistake when positioning an online store for foreign markets. Many business owners forget that while English is a global language, it has many local varieties, each with a different language code. There is a difference between the en-GB, en-US, and en-ZA codes, although they are English. Likewise, when positioning a store with customers from Barcelona in mind, it is better to prepare content in Catalan than in Spanish. It is not only about the fact that the two languages differ significantly in terms of pronunciation and vocabulary, but above all that Catalans value their autonomy a lot, have an anti-Spanish attitude and have dreamed of a sovereign state for many years. If the country where you want to sell has several official languages, make sure your stores are adapted to each of them – in the case of Switzerland it will mean the need to prepare four different language versions: German, French, Italian and Romanish.

Mistake 7: Saving money on the server

Many companies consider price only when choosing a hosting provider. Meanwhile, the physical location of the server has a significant impact on the speed of loading the store and its performance, and thus – the experience of users who shop on it. The farther from the client the server on which the website is running is, the worse, because more time passes from sending the query to receiving the first byte of data. If the server of our store is located on a different continent than our target customers, it is worth considering relocating it to a geographically closer location to users. In general, it’s best to invest in servers that are located in the country where you want to sell.

The location of the server is one thing, but its reputation is also important from an SEO point of view. If our server is also used by websites with dubious reputation, which search engines associate with spam or illegal content, this fact may have a negative impact on our website and its position in the search results, as it shares the same IP address. This is why a trusted hosting provider is essential.

Mistake 8: Ignorance of your own client

Customers in different countries have different habits. This is why it is worth getting to know their habits and behaviors first, and then start positioning the website for a given market. It may turn out that creating a mobile version of the store is pointless, because the majority of customers in the country where we plan to start selling, prefer shopping through the browser. And vice versa: there are markets where the lack of a refined mobile version means a collapse for the online store. Earlier market research and determination of the purchasing preferences of our target will allow better management of funds.

Mistake 9: Missing structured data/ wrong data entered

Structured data, in a nutshell, are information contained in HTML code that helps the search engine understand the content of your website. It allows Google to display more information about the landing page at the level of search results. What is it worth remembering about them? Results that have review starts, price size, or stock information are more eye-catching and stand out from the competition, thereby attracting potential customers.

Note: Remember to verify the structure data. Incorrectly introduced currency or the wrong measurement system can make your store unreliable in the eyes of foreign customers. So, if you want to position your store for the European market, give up pounds. In favor of kilograms and replacing inches with centimeters. Otherwise, some users may lose trust in you. Website and cancel the purchase.

Mistake 10: Copying your content strategy

Customers in each market have different habits, patterns. For this reason, your content strategy must be closely tailored to a specific market. Remember: the fact that something sells well in one country does not mean that it will be equally popular among customers in other countries. Therefore, instead of mindlessly copying your current strategy, invest in an analysis of the market on which you intend to start selling and prepare a new one based on it – this way you will avoid missed investments.

Mistake 11: Translating the content on the website

If you already have content ready in the English version of the store, why not rewrite it in a foreign language? After all, it is enough to simply translate them… Nothing could be further from the truth! Many linguistic flavors are simply lost during the translation process. Even the best translator will not replace a native speaker who knows the industry inside out and can use its slang. Remember that the quality of descriptions and articles on the website affects the reception of the store by customers: texts written by experts inspire much more trust, and at the same time hide the foreign origin of the store better than the content translated without panache.

Note: descriptions and articles created by native speakers should always be thoroughly verified before their publication, because it may happen that there is a mistake or misunderstanding and the finished text has nothing to do with one, we commissioned, causing consternation in a potential customer.

iCEA Group

As a leading international digital marketing agency established in 2007, we have consistently set the standards for traffic acquisition and conversion. We proudly host Poland's largest technical department, staffed with highly skilled SEO, SEM, and UX specialists with years of experience. Our offer knows no borders! As evidenced by our successful campaigns in not only the Polish market but also in India and the United States. Driven by our dedication and expertise, we empower our clients to achieve online success.

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