Almost every business wants to make their website internationally friendly.
With the growing internet penetration rates and a rapidly homogenizing millennial culture, your business easily can rapidly expand its growth internationally. However, there are a few things that you should consider before expanding – lest you risk financial loss and potential damage to your reputation.
This points in this article on making your website internationally friendly is based on our experience, as well as the thousands of clients we have worked with.
1. Review your website analytics data
If your website is a few years old, you’re already likely to have received some queries from people abroad. Eventually, you may see a pattern develop. You can see your website traffic by country and even city in many cases. This can help you to determine where people are accessing your site and where the demand may be more.
However, you should investigate the reason behind the traffic. This will help you filter out spam traffic or some other anomaly.
2. Buy a flight ticket and book an Airbnb
There is a commonly used adage that top level salespeople are very empathetic. They can put themselves in the perspective of others to understand how they think and what they want.
From first hand experience, you cannot do this by reading books and watching TV programs. You also can’t do this by traveling there first class tickets and staying in a luxury hotel in the business district – unless your target market is foreign business travelers.
The best way to learn about any market is to fly there in person. You must live like a local for at least a week to learn the cultural values, business practices, and different brand identities.
3. Consider a regional pricing strategy
When we were consider looking abroad to expand our business plan writers company, there were a lot of queries coming from Southeast Asia and Africa.
While we think that they are great regions with a lot of brilliant and talented people, the overall income doesn’t support the same price point as Western consumers. In fact, in many cases, they are literally pennies to the dollar in comparison.
4. Hire a local translator – not machine translation
Regardless of how much AI is touted in the news, it is nowhere near the complexity of contextual translation.
Translators, even Google, works based on a literal word-to-word translation. And moreover, words change based on dialects and phrases. The same words can contextually have different meanings even in the same country. Hiring a local translator online can solve most of these issues.
For instance, hiring someone in Spain to translate your website for the spanish speaking market – or someone in Beijing for Simplified Mandarin.
5. Consider using a country level TLD
If you’ve ever been on Google, Baidu, Yandex, or any other major search engines abroad – you are already aware of this.
Most of the top ranking results are not actually “.com” websites, but are country top level domains (ccTLDs) e.g. “.co.uk”, “.ae” , “.cn” etc. Hence, you may have someone locally outrank you. This is why you might be at the top of the search results on Google United States, but nowhere to be found in Google Brazil or even Canada.
Using a country code top-level domain name is best if you really are concerned about ranking, rather than just providing a culturally tailored or translated experience.
6. Consider using a GeoIP redirect over a pop-up
There are two main ways websites show foreign users content best suited for them. The first is a GeoIP re-direct, which sends the user automatically to your country level page without asking.
This is best if you want users in that country to only access information specific to them – you don’t want them perusing content for any other country without a VPN. Google is against this method but there is no evidence on penalties arising from it.
The ‘best practice’ suggested by Google is to ‘ask’ the user if they would prefer to see a translated version of the site.
7. Start small and grow
A common mistake that many people make when attempting to expand abroad, is that they treat the country like a market overall.
In many cases, when companies started, they focused on select cities and have a very good reason for doing so. They choose San Francisco over New York for a good reason. But these nuances are not so available outside of online stereotypes, which are often incorrectly portrayed.
It helps to start small and re-enter the market much the same way you originally entered your home market. When we started expanding in the Middle-East, we started in Dubai and then moved into Abu Dhabi, using those cities as a hub for other GCC countries.
8. Learn what marketing channels work best
When it comes to marketing, its unlikely that you can continue doing things the exact same way as you previously did, unless you’re only concerned with SEO and AdWords PPC.
Some social media platforms are different. For instance, using WeChat and QQ in many parts of Asia. The best way to learn about these channels is to just go to the country. Again, most of the information online is distorted and if you’re dumping $50,000 into a marketing campaign , you might as well spend $500 on plane ticket to go there and start asking around.
9. Get a local team
There is an evident reason for hiring a regional team which is language and cultural relevance. Even hiring local marketers work best.
For instance, you may be more likely to hire a Facebook ads person in the United States to sell to a US audience than someone in Pakistan. While this is not always the case, you should consider it in some instances where you are targeting ultra-specific demographics or market segments.
However, even aside from the obvious, we often noticed that some sense of pure nationalist pride comes through in people not wanting to do business with a website simply because ‘they don’t have an office here’.
While this is not always the case, you can think of your own experience. If you were to use a website that only has contact information and offices in the UK, you may feel comfortable, but many people would not. This is especially true for a B2B oriented audience that may be concerned about their legal protection and civil actions if things go awry.
Author’s bio: Chase Hughes has over six years of experience helping companies prepare investment materials and raise capital. As founder of Pro Business Plans, a company dedicated to providing resources to companies during the fundraising process, he has been engaged in $3.0 B worth of collective funding across every major continent.
Adeyemi Adetilewa is the founder of Ideas Plus Business, online brand strategist, digital marketing consultant, and cryptocurrency enthusiast. He writes about business, marketing, and technology. Featured on the HuffPost, Evan Carmichael, Thrive Global, and several other publications.