Increase Your Global Search IQ: Compete Smarter and Rank Better in International Search – Liveblog #smx

This session is sponsored and produced by Covario — not the typical liveblog target, but the topic of competing in international search showed promise, so here I am.

Here’s what’s in store according to the SMX East conference agenda:

SMX East 2013 Sponsor“Every significant search opportunity outside of the U.S. comes with a slew of targeting challenges. Local competition, foreign ranking factors, and newly emerged platforms have reshaped how brands spend their marketing dollars and drive results. Join the discussion with our panel of experts as we explore key competitive strategies and showcase proven tactics to make your global marketing budget go further. Hear from Covario client Lenovo, and learn how together they have successfully built a strong business management system and integrated search, content and social into all key functions of the business for international search success.”

There are three speakers ready to present and field questions from attendees:

David Cato, Sr. SEO Specialist, Covario
Elena MacGurn, SEO Strategist, Covario
Donna Bedford, Sr. Global SEO Manager, Lenovo

The big question in optimization for global search is how is it different than a U.S. only or country specific SEO campaign. To boil down the overall strategy of effective international SEO, there are 3 factors: credible, relevant, obvious.

Covario and Lenovo reps talk international SEO signals

Relevance for International SEO

Eliminate Internal Competition

If you’re a big company, your top competitor may be yourself. Is the right ccTLD showing up in the searcher’s country of physical location? Searchers in India, the UK and Canada are very often getting a US site even when a country ccTLD exists.

Geo-target Your Content

Tell the search engines which country your site should be associated with by using the geo-targeting toolkit. Here are strong signals of relevance for an area.

  • URL structure: ccTLD (best method but not always viable), subdomains (safe option 2), subdirectories (safe option 2), URL parameters (virtually no benefits, stay away) — these are options but which works for your site?
  • Google Webmaster Tools: specify the site’s target user geography. One tricky situation is if you have one site you want to cover 2 regions (like if you want your US pages to rank in the UK, if you set GWT to U.S. you’ll have trouble getting this to happen).
  • Server location: local hosting is a strong geo-targeting signal but not so necessary for root domain ccTLDs
  • Language tag on page: Bing pays attention to code-level language info while Google does not.
  • Local link-building: links from the right ccTLD pointing to your site. If you want to rank in the UK, you want links from or other sites that rank well in the UK.
  • Local business directories: Google Places, Yelp, Superpages, Yahoo!, review sites, Angie’s List
  • Scenarios for hreflang: Websites using similar content in the same lanugage, fully translated site targeting different regions, fully translated template keeping body content intact

Failing at hreflang is fairly common and will require a lot of attention to get right, and keep it that way.

Problem areas:

  • Very sensitive to user error
  • Requires careful application and at least some manual oversight
  • Implementations larger than a few pages will very quickly need automation

Credibility for International SEO

Improve conversion by making your site more credible. Content should be written in the native language. There will be authentic visual elements including videos and images, and they’re seeing search engines emphasize the inclusion of these elements in ranking. An easy-to-miss example might be a “Buy Now” button in English for your Russian translated site. You want to use regional spelling, property monetary units and measurements, and familiar cultural references.

Localize and optimize video content to drive traffic and conversion for search. The relative importance of this depends on the country.  Use subtitles in a native language over your video in another language, and even that can make the video credible for the target national audience.

Keep your eyes on the locals. Use local competitors to assist your enhanced credibility. Find the content that appeals to your audience. And socialize with the locals. Local social presence will assist you with your local credibility and with your SEO.


  • Improve domain authority, gain a few links and referring traffic
  • Consumer behavior drives keyword relevancy
  • Facebook is not the most used platform in all countries
  • What is engaging in the US might not be in other countries
  • Site, email, social, direct, communities can be promotion vehicles

Obvious Signals in International SEO

She’ll share some interactive elements: Google Now (Knowledge Graph) and Yandex (Facebook Open Graph) – the search engines are trying to provide intuitive answers.


Google Now and Yandex Islands are 2 examples of SEO shortcuts to use for conversion optimization. When a search query is a task, Yandex offers a cluster of information which helps a user find a solution.

XML in SERPs: a lot of actions can be performed in the SERP using XML forms for Yandex. You can complete a transaction from the SERP, without exploring, and this is an option that enhances the user experience for searchers; it’s like Rich Snippets on steroids.

Optimize for the right channel: One quarter of the world population is using Internet on their phone in 2013. The number of mobile Internet users will increase in double digits for the next thee years. More than half of smartphone users reside in Asia-Pacific.

Optimize for the deeper funnel: International purchase funnel is changing. With more consumers shopping online, our keyword strategy may need to reflect growing demand round purchase keywords. Search marketing opportunity is evolving in response to increasing demand around conversion optimization.







Virginia Nussey is the director of content marketing at MobileMonkey. Prior to joining this startup in 2018, Virginia was the operations and content manager at Bruce Clay Inc., having joined the company in 2008 as a writer and blogger.

See Virginia's author page for links to connect on social media.

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