Gianluca Fiorelli

About Gianluca Fiorelli

Gianluca is an SEO and Inbound Marketing strategist who operates mainly as an independent consultant. He is an SEO Moz Global Associate, blogs for State of Digital and speaks at Search Engine Optimisation and Marketing conferences worldwide.

In his Learn Inbound talk, Gianluca talks about how going international is a desire that many businesses have experienced and that even more continue to consider but are unsure of what steps to take next. The question that’s commonly asked, how do I do it well? Gianluca presents a checklist of things every business must do before, during and after going international to get the best results.

Key Takeaways

  • Think about law, logistics and localisation before considering marketing to another country.
  • You have to localise your messaging, rather than simply translating the content e.g. Portuguese in Portugal is very different to Portuguese in Brazil.
  • Use data to inform your decision – target countries you already get some traffic from first.
  • You need to invest in local/native support who really understand the culture and locale they’re writing about or for.

Video Transcription

So thinking of going international is really huge business opportunity first, even first when thinking about marketing. Why? Because people move, goods move, so obviously, this guy needs international marketing. But also this guy needs international marketing because, for instance, tourists are coming to Dublin for pleasure. So maybe with international marketing, he can attract tourists from all over the world to this spot.

Before thinking doing marketing, though, it's good to have everything related to your business very well done, because if you are at, for instance, in ecommerce, you don't think about international logistic. You don't think about below the legislation of the countries you are targeting, and blah, blah, blah. You are not going to sell anything. You will not be allowed to sell anything.

And then, okay, let's think back to you, your clients or your company as so all international business stuff before thinking about marketing. So let's start with talking about how to use the classic inbound channel for promoting your company internationally. So start with a first main important channel, which is analytics. Study, use analytics, in order to inform your decision. If you have, for instance, a site where is already receiving traffic from abroad, consider what other countries are giving you the most traffic, and eventually target them. If you’re already having conversion from abroad, prioritize the countries that are giving you the most conversion before traffic.
Obviously, before you go international, you have to know who your competitors in that market are. So I suggest you use for search to analyze SimilarWeb, because SimilarWeb allow you to analyze competition per industry and country. But if you are looking also for social, it is better Rival IQ. And obviously, we all know that if we want to have success in every market, we need someone talking about us. And usually this someone is sites. So again, with SimilarWeb, try to check out who are your biggest competitors in the new markets, and then see from what site they are receiving the most traffic.

Only after all these analysis, you can decide if you are going for a multi country strategy or a multilingual strategy. For instance, if you have, are receiving already, tons of traffic from UK or conversion from UK, maybe it is better for you to go multi country and target UK specifically. But for instance, maybe you...some traffic is from Spanish-speaking countries, some conversion, but not so much to justify...not yet Spanish website. It’s better to start with a multilingual strategy.

Search. You have to do the site of inversion. For the God, for the love you have for your kids and your loved one, before thinking about international SEO, fix your website, because if you don't fix your website, all the difficulties related to international SEO are going to explode geometrically.

So the classic dilemma, if I go multilingual, what I'm going to use? I'm going to use a subdomain or a subfolder. I don't care. Depends...many times, it's not an SEO decision. It's really business decision. If you have an Amazon kind of website, replicating a database into subfolder is just going to complicate your life. So maybe in that case, you can justify a subdomain even if subdomain is not passing page rank, blah, blah, blah.

I forgot to put here, in vis-a-vis is not considered using a new domain. Can be an idea. Should be only a generic domain name. Why? Because country called Domain Name are just for multi-country, international SEO, for a simple reason that Google instantly should target a regional domain name to the country to which it is related.

And again, another classic mistake: Don't try to know European countries or Latin American or the Gulf countries, because European countries, you cannot target them with an English version of your website because apart UK, nobody speak English. Users don’t use English for doing search. The same can be done is for South America. Okay, the black one is Spanish, but we have Portuguese which is Brazil. We have French. We have English, too.

So also, you cannot jail target with Google or being regions which are not states. I'm going to list you some classic mistake. For instance, like Dropbox do, don't do this. I got to from Spain and I see in Spanish. I got to Dropbox from UK and I see the same URL in English. This is really stupid, because you cannot target with Google or Google search control, console, or even using the href line. It is always the same.

Don't use parameters. Google understand parameters, but parameters cannot beat your targeted if you are doing multi-country. So you cannot tell Google, "This version is for France."

Obviously, this is another classic mistake. If you are using a CMS, remember to...and you are localizing for different languages or countries, remember to localize the URL. This is the Spanish version of this website, and the URL is in English.

Another classic question is, "Do I have to use my redirect VIP... I have to redirect my user VIP recognition or user browser recognition or not?" Again, all three are listed. From a user point of view, the best is using...let everybody visiting every version of your website. Why? I'm here in Ireland...okay, there is a little trick, because for instance, Amazon in Ireland redirected to UK. But let's say that I'm in the U.K. and I want to see something on Amazon. I don't want to be redirected to a UK version of the site; I want to see the Spanish version because I live my life in Spain. So Amazon has maybe the best idea, is recognizing me. And they say, "Okay..." but maybe I put from UK and it say, "Okay, but you are in the UK Maybe you prefer to go to the UK," but I can ignore it.

You can use all the others, but eventually you can both for Google port and both for the user, always to leave opportunity to go to other version. And then the href line. Secretly, I think it's not so difficult, but for instance, when I moderated Moscow Day International SEO questions, I see so many questions about href line. So essentially, you have to use href line always when you are doing multilingual or multi-country SEO. But you have to pay attention to details. You can use tools like Flang or theMediaFlow or Aleyda Solis href line task generator tool.

But, again, you have to pay attention to details. You have to use the right iso code for countries; in this case, it should be GB and not U.K. You have to pay attention to plugins, especially if you are using Wordpress, and the classic most used Wordpress multilingual plugin. Many plugins usually set off the href line with a language code, country code. But if you are doing multilingual, you just need the language code. So Google, if you are using this plugin, don't set up them correctly, for instance, Wordpress multilingual will put & U.S., so instantly you are going to have a really big success in the United States, but less visibility in United Kingdom, Ireland and so on.

This is the biggest, the biggest issue in international SEO related to href flag. Never, never use href flag with cross domain canonical, because it simply mess up things. For instance, you have, in this case Airbnb is saying, "Okay, this is my site, but it's chronologize to the general Spanish version of Airbnb." If we study, we can understand that in this case, there is a reason the Spanish version of Airbnb was the first one was the one ranking best and so on, and so they wanted to maintain the organic visibility they already hold.

But sometimes, like Skype, they did a really big mistake. So this is the Spanish version of Skype, and they put the cross-chronologize with Spanish version of Skype to the English version. But in the href flag, you see the correct annotation. So in the same time, you are telling to Google, "Show this URL to Spanish users speaking Spanish in Spain. But don't show this URL because it is cross-chronologize to the English one." So Google is going to say, "What I have to do?" So probably you are going to have English URL of Skype ranking in, and not the Spanish one. The canonical always prioritized to the href flag.

And then always, remember that the href flag is an alternate, so if you put it in a whole URL, you are to put it also in the reference URL. HubSpot has some problems.

You can verify the href line quite easily with a Google search control, and even better with these kinds of tools: DeepCrawl,, and ScreenFrog. But remember, note if you are targeting, especially if you are targeting United States, you have to remember that there's Bing. Bing represents something like 25% of a search market, I suppose. Maybe Rand knows. So you have to use Bing, and Bing doesn't follow the href flag annotation, so you have to use the classic HTML language annotation.

And then obviously, I saw many clients that forget to choose your target on Google search console or Bing webmaster setup.

Then obviously, use this kind of tool in order to check out if your site is being indexed and is showing correctly in the different countries.

Then it comes to the content. The first thing you have to do is to analyze what kind of content and what kind of formats are the most popular in the countries you are targeting. This is usually what every site is failing at. Content for international marketing is not just about translation. It's really about localization. You have to really understand what matters to the Spanish public, Italian public, because probably we don't care anything about what you are telling or creating as content for your Irish or British audience.

First of all, localize your template. And this is a trick because sometimes, as in this case, we think that a language is always the same. That's why I don't like that much multilingual.

This is the case of MercadoLibre, which is targeting goal to Portugal and Brazil. In both countries, they speak Portuguese. But the Portuguese in Brazil and the Portuguese in Portugal is very, very different. And the same is for Spanish. The Spanish in Mexico is very different from the Spanish in Spain or Argentina or Colombia, and you know, British English is quite different from American English.

But when you are localizing your template, you have to localize not just the ward in the template. Take a vacation also to localize crafting very localized menus because the interests are different. This site, Uvinum, which is a site selling wines and alcohols and so on, the version above it is for English market and the one from American market. So they targeted the different taste, the different preference about alcohol and so they created different kind of menus. So people have different interests, so they can go easily to the section they really are searching for.

And content is really about culture. Natalie and I, a couple years ago, searched love talk about all these out stated dimension of movies. Out stated dimension is all about culturability, and there are, let's say, some characteristics that you can take... also rate and take under exam in order to see the difference between one country, the culture of one country and another culture. Very interesting, because for instance, Russians are really, really...they don't like it to be uncertainty. So from a web design point of view, that means that they prefer essential menu. They prefer simple image and they really, really want to know immediately what you are offering them.

In a country which is relatively close, Sweden, they don't care. They are really, really individualistic. They don't care if you are giving them the opportunity to discover the site by themselves, and they even created a
Pinterest kind of section, which is inspiration, where we are simply showing dresses or way of dresses so they can run, go, go, go, go, navigate it and find what we like without any suggestion from a website.

You can use different tools in order to understand what content is really like in the different country. One is BuzzSumo. Another one is Topsy, but they have a defect. Both BuzzSumo and Topsy have limitation in the countries where they are analyzing. You BuzzSumo, you can use a reverse way to understand what content is popular in Spain, in Italy, even if Spain and Italy are not targeted specifically from BuzzSumo.

So I suggest you to look at this tool, Transmap. In the pro version you can do searches with topics, so you can use your keywords, for instance, what keywords that you're targeting in Spanish, Italian or something else. And so you can see following a map, monitor, what is trending, so after awhile, give couple of weeks in order to understand the trends, you can understand the topics and so on, and what is the mood of other countries.

Obviously, when you are creating a website for international, you have to do the classic SEO stuff, nothing change. The problem is that if you are targeting, let's say 47 countries, you have to research 47 keywords. It can be long. I suggest you to go on SlideShare and download this talk I did for Moscow which is all about how to make keyword research thinking about topics and not simply keywords. Obviously, you have to analyze your competition, how competitive are the keywords you are targeting.

And yes, again, for the love of your kids, never use automatic translation. Invest in local native support. I mean, local, but you can have also people in house coming from Spain and so on.

Amplification, because you create content, you need to amplificate the content. In international SEO, it's important to have links from the countries you are targeting. I mean, even if you have a subfolder, you have a subfolder Spanish subfolder is supported by the links of your original website version of the website. Anyway, it will struggle if you are...your targeted country, if you don't have any link from that country.

So let's see, we have SEMrush and domain versus domain, you can see your competitors for which kind of keywords are visible online. So you can see, "Okay, let's go for what keywords." Then, remember what we have done before, the competitive analysis. So let's go see what our competitors, what's the content of our competitors, what...from where they are receiving the links, use Majestic MOZ.

Be aware, especially when you don't know the market. Do also this kind of search analysis. Let's see if your competitors are really ranking well in Google Italy or Google France, but are they ranking for the right reason or not?

You can use other tool to discover how your competitors, what is your competitor's content the most share. And using a function of a pro version of BuzzSumo, you can see also which kind of format are the most successful. I suggest you to do it both for directly analyzing your competitors, but also in analyzing the site, sending referral traffic to your competitors, because that means that you can target the same sites with the right format and the right content and you are going to have success. Obviously, you have to know who the influencers are in the local sphere. Use Klear, use Impactana which is recently news and has a different kind of metrics. You also consider in the influencer are commenting or linking to sites. And again, invest in native or local support.

Community building, I'm going to go really fast here, because we have to leave space to run. When it comes to social, but in general when it comes to international marketing, okay we were talking about globalization. This is the business. When we talk about marketing, it's about globalization. We have to think about global topics and then localize them for the given target.

I usually visit with two sites, SocialBakers and We Are Social because they offer wonderful yearly or monthly regional reports about how social media are used, for instance, in every country in the world.

Back in July, I did a research for myself and I was seeing how if I most...biggest five countries in Europe were using Facebook and Twitter, and divided for industry. So for instance, Italians, this line, are not at all following retail food brands. I mean, in Italy it would be quite absurd, people following McDonald's. On the other hand, in Italy, they are the one... Italy and Spain are the only one really following beauty brands, we are hedonistic.

You also see that on Facebook, for instance, Spain...okay, this is also because population is not so big, but Facebook is not so really used, but yes in Italy. Medium for post, we see for Germany, they really post a lot. This is more interesting. Which kind of format is really working on Facebook? We can see that photos usually are the most common format and then video. But we can see also strange things. Okay, what is France? They use a lot of albums, which are collection of photos and we don't understand why. Even better is the nature. With nature, I will say, which the mood behind the post is. So we say in Italy, it's substantially all basic instinct, which is really, really strong, emotional post. And in Germany, on the contrary, many, many formation are really, really informing people about blah, blah, blah, blah. About products, things, etc.

So if we… I was looking what was the most successful post month by month. It was coming out with people in Italy like me, we tend to be glycemic because the fact that we always share things about chocolate, because we are really, really about big emotion. U.K., you can classify British like committed gamblers because you can see a contest or you can see funny things, but you can see also socially committed stuff. In French, they really like posts with amazing photos. And the most successful are, you can see, that the most successful have thousands of comments commenting the photo. No, "Is this based on a color, its red?" "No, it's orange." "I like it, blah, blah, blah." Really love to talk. If you are able to engage in discussion, that is good.

Germans are crazy. All in German, in Germany, you can find an official post by buyer being the most liked, shared, mentioned post of all. I think it's in only Germany. But they are also quite crazy with really, really weird videos. And Spain, if we look at Spain, it could be like Spanish really loves contests, something like this.

Be aware. Even if you do this kind of an analysis, try to go further. Why Spain is always winning little with contest and voucher and coupons? Because of prizes. I mean, if Lidl is offering me 100 Euros of free food, I will try to like it a lot. And this is something that brands in Spain really understood it. For instance, this is Danoni with a video about food bank. And people asking to Danoni, "Where I can find a food bank in my city?"
And Danoni answer it, "You can find it at this address."

In the slide before, you already saw the Nike video. This is again a reminder about globalization. They work really a lot, and well, in every country but Spain. Why? Nike is not sponsoring the Spain national team shirt. So they put Iniesta with Barcelona one. All the rest of Spain went on rage criticizing, insulting and saying everything against Nike.

So you can do something global, a global campaign, but always remember the taste of a local people.

You can see this is Twitter and its funny, interesting. You can see Spain is the second most...the second country using the most Twitter, and Germany the last. Why? Okay, this is in English. Okay, again about the square personality of German people. Deutsche Bank is the most followed Twitter account. And they do it also in German. The German issue is that 140 characters is too small, not enough character for German's words. So what they did, they created a Twitter as the title, then put a snapshot of a text. But this is...they were weird...they were really not very intelligent, because they did it with, "Okay, 140 words. So the definition, you can count the words, they are really 140." So they do the game and it was nice.

Spanish is completely different. In Spain, for instance, if you are a brand, try to connect with other brands that maybe are sharing your values and start talking. Here is Red Bull asking to make a buck, "When the Fifa soccer is going tournament and your shop is starting?" "Oh, you have to come before Sunday," answer Media Markt. "Okay," Red Bull, with a Red Bull car, "We are coming." These are things that make the brands closer to the audience. They are funny; they receive a lot of shares. They receive also a lot of comments by normal people and so on.

Try to be funny and useful. Why is Twitter really working well in Spain, for instance? Because really, really brand understood that Twitter is a real time communication, social network. In order...that is needed to so...useful for solving problem and alerting stuff. The best Twitter account you can follow in Spain is not a brand one, is the National police one. I think the Twitter account of a Spanish police, the Spanish police, is the one with the most followers in the world. Why? Because we are funny. They give very useful advice. They ask people to tweet to them for solving for problem issue, etc,
etc., etc.

And then, obviously, if you are targeting Europe, especially country like Spain, Italy, now also the UK, France, where it's all a big, big channel which is the product messenger channel and Whatsapp especially. So I was surprised to go really, really fast. I had no time to talk about Baidu and Yandex. They would need another talk, because they are a totally different world. But with this slide, I think you are ready to conquer international market. Thank you.

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