Seven Steps for Reaching International Markets Online

By Ian Fernando

European executives are already well acquainted with the benefits of an online presence, particularly the potential for direct contact with clients and 24/7 availability, as well as lower promotion costs when compared with traditional media.

A recent survey revealed that executives have a tendency to pay close attention to their companies’ online development strategies, with 64% of executives working at European level having voiced their intention of increasing their online marketing and SEO budgets.

The current economic instability demands that companies, particularly Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), become more mobile, with the aim of attracting new clients and taking up positions in markets outside of their home country.

However, some entrepreneurs remain unreceptive to the idea of targeting foreign markets. After weighing up the costs of such a venture, if the budget seems formidable and there is sufficient business in their local market to survive, many companies prefer to stick with what they know.

Companies also often make the mistake of not establishing themselves online in foreign languages simply because they have the impression that English is the official language of the internet. What they don’t realise, though, is that by disregarding a foreign language web presence, they are losing out significantly in terms of new clients. Here’s why:

  • 75% of the world's population speaks little or no English;
  • 40% of internet users are Asian;
  • There are 30% fewer internet users in North America than in China;
  • Four out of five internet users prefer to buy online from sites written in their own native language;
  • Almost 100% of Internet users search local websites.

These statistics present a strong argument for setting to work and formulating a multilingual web-development strategy. But whatever the size or scope of the approach, the following seven steps are crucial:

Step 1 – Identify your target market

First and foremost, it’s essential to analyse the socio-economic environment of the target market to establish whether it offers the necessary conditions in which to take up a position: demand, competition, buying power, potential clients’ living conditions, and attitudes towards foreign businesses. Whether the conditions are favorable or not will depend upon the type of products or services the business offers. As an example, a favorable condition for a translation company is a target country that has a high rate of exports. In Europe, Germany, Scandinavia, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Belgium are all major exporters, and therefore prime target markets for translation services.

Step 2 – Keyword searches

For a new site to achieve high search engine rankings in foreign language searches, keywords are vital. It’s advisable not to directly translate the key terms which produce good results in your home country, as you risk ending up with terms that are not suited to the specific culture of the target country or the search habits of local internet users. In order to be certain of choosing the right terms, use keyword search tools such as Google’s Keyword Tool, WordTracker, Keyword Discovery or SEM Rush. Bear in mind that search trends change regularly in all professional fields, so it’s important to follow these trends using keyword search tools, and subsequently adapt your site content.

Step 3 – Site construction

In terms of site location, you’ll need a domain hosted on a server in the target country for the purpose of credibility - this will also contribute towards boosting the ranking of your site in local search engines.

  • Colours: blue or green backgrounds combined with black/white text have been found to be the colours most universally liked by internet users, while pink and purple are unpopular in traditional cultures.
  • Typeface: use a standard typeface such as Times New Roman, Arial or Verdana so that text displays correctly on all screens.
  • Product names: many consumers, particularly those in Europe, prefer products with technical-sounding names containing numbers, while consumers in the US prefer catchy, buzz-word names; for example, Canon calls one of its cameras the "EOS 400D” in Europe, while in the US it’s called the “Digital Rebel Xti”.

Step 4 – Build links with local sites

To guarantee that your company appears in local search results, look for sites that relate to your industry and try to obtain links on these sites. Local online media can provide you with valuable links if you offer interesting information based on your expertise, and follow their editorial policy.

Step 5 – Use PPC (Pay Per Click) campaigns

Avoid squandering your company’s marketing budget by starting PPC campaigns with local websites, using your most popular search terms. PPC campaigns offer you complete control of your budget, allowing you to more effectively measure the return on investment. It’s also been found that a substantial amount of visits resulting from PPC campaigns convert into sales – however natural traffic should not be overlooked.

Step 6 – Obtain genuine local search results

For improved localisation, and to boost your genuine search results in local search engines based on regional key terms (e.g. “my product/service Stockholm”), buy a virtual office in the target country.

Step 7 – Constantly develop site content

As well as outlining your products and services, presenting the company and providing contact details, the content of your site needs to be constantly updated, offering your users the latest news from your professional field as well as case studies. Think also about launching discussion topics; a good tool for this is a corporate blog.

Following these steps to expand into new foreign markets is a foolproof method of winning new clients, and also building up your professional reputation around the world.

Article by international translation agency Lingo24, founded in the UK. Lingo24 has used e-marketing strategies as part of its global development, and today Lingo24 works with clients from over 60 different countries.

Ian Fernando
Involved in the internet space since 2002 and have been through the ups and downs of this online industry. I am a traveling digital nomad, media buyer, online strategist, and many more online titles.

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