Making the decision to scale your site to an international level isn’t easy, but the benefits may far outweigh the risks. Let’s take a look at a few different reasons as to why you may want to scale a country-specific site for global reach so we can see why doing so would be beneficial. You’ll also learn how to scale your site, specifically in ways such as these:

  • Determining which regions you should target
  • Learning how to optimize your site for users in those regions
  • Learning how to attract those users to your site

Let’s get started.

Reasons to go international

Most reasons why you’d want to “scale” a country-specific site for global reach is to set your business up to “grow bigger,” but there are a number of different reasons as to why you’d want to do this as well as a number of different benefits you may find.

1. Expand your customer base

We’ll start with an obvious one. You may only be able to grow so much in a specific country, and there’s a variety of different reasons for this to occur. You may have already reached everyone who would be interested in your niche or not many people in that particular country are interested in it.

Businesses need to grow to be sustainable, which means there’s no sense keeping things where you’re no longer growing.

2. Reach untapped markets

This is a benefit that can come about as a result of expanding your customer base into foreign markets. There may be a lot of individuals who are interested in your niche but have no way of partaking in it as there’s nothing like it locally. That’s where you use the magic of the Internet to market to them using an optimized version of your site.

3. Stay competitive

This point kind of ties into the last one. A major reason as to why some markets in foreign countries may be untapped is because your competitors simply haven’t reached them yet. You can leverage your playing field by ruling the market before they have a chance to even get there.

4. Creates jobs & find new talent

This is another benefit that can come as a result of going international. It can benefit your home country and individuals in countries all around the world by allowing you to create more jobs domestically and find new talent abroad.

How to scale a country-specific site for global reach

Let’s switch gears and talk about how to scale a country-specific site for global reach. We’re going to go through the steps you need to take to determine which countries to target as well as how you can optimize your site for those countries.

We’ll then discuss ways you can target and bring those users to the optimized version(s) of your website so you can convert them into leads and maybe even customers.

Let’s get started.

Determining which regions to target

What you’ll want to do is look for individual countries to target to ensure you’re “niching” down as much as possible when it comes to finding your target market. You can look for entire languages to target, but this can be too broad.

We’re going to use Google Analytics to determine which countries and languages to target, but you can easily follow along using your own analytics tool. This is assuming you’re using an analytics tool to track the traffic your site receives.

If not, set up an account, and give this tutorial another go in a month or so. If your site is too young, you may want to research your competitors instead, but we’ll get to that.

Go into Google Analytics, and look up the countries and languages that make up the search traffic leading to your site. You’ll find these two pieces of data by going to Audience → Geo → Location…

Google Analytics Location

and Audience → Geo → Language…

Google Analytics Language

Make note of the countries and languages you see, and record the volume of traffic they bring to your site as well as any trends you see over time. Change the Geo display from Map Overlay to Explorer. You can change the date by clicking the date range in the upper, right-hand corner.

Google Analytics Trends Over Time

The data you collect for the volume and trends over time will help you determine which markets to focus on first. If the volume is solid for one country over time but fluctuates for another, focus on the one that offers a consistent flow of decent traffic.

Like we said, if you haven’t even gained enough traffic to receive data for your target country yet, research your competitors. You can find out who your competitors are with a tool called SEMrush. Enter your site’s full URL in the search bar on the front page, select the main country your site targets, and click “Start Now.”

You can find your competitors by going to Dashboard → Domain Analytics → Organic Research → Competitors.

WPSuperstars Organic Competitors

You can then input each of these competing sites into a tool like SimilarWeb to see which countries make up the majority of the traffic they receive.

Warfare Plugins Traffic By Location

Determining what to optimize

You can use Google Analytics to see which keywords users are using to find your site through organic search as well as which landing pages they’re visiting the most. You can even break this data down by location and language.

To see which keywords visitors are using to find your site, go to Behavior → Site Search → Search Terms.

Google Analytics Search Terms

You can use the Secondary Dimension setting to break this data down by location or language. Just go to Secondary Dimension → Users → Country or Language.

Google Analytics Search Terms By Country

You can do the same with your landing pages to see which landing pages users from these countries or users who speak these languages visit the most. Just go to Behavior → Site Content → All Pages, Content Drilldown or Landing Pages → Secondary Dimension → Users → Country or Language.

Google Analytics Exclude US

Click “Advanced” if you need to exclude a country.

Google Analytics Advanced

Select “Exclude”, select the country you want to exclude, and click “Apply.”

Google Analytics Exclude US

If you want to exclude a page, click “Edit” for your first filter, click “Add a Dimension or Metric,” select “Page,” select “Exclude” for the new filter, select the page you want to exclude, and click Apply.

Google Analytics Exclude Page

Why is this data important? It’ll let you know which keywords you need to target and which landing pages you need optimize first. It’s not entirely necessary, but it can help you be a little more aggressive in the way you target new markets.

Optimizing your site for international markets

Once you determine which international markets to target, you need to begin optimizing your site for them. You should prioritize the top countries and languages you found in your analytics over countries you simply “feel” are marketable. The data in your analytics proves you’re already accumulating traffic from these markets.

You should also make sure you’re prioritizing countries over languages, as stated before. You should only target languages if you don’t have enough countries to target or if the traffic in those countries seem too low.

You don’t need to re-invent the wheel when it comes to determining what to optimize on your site. You can do a lot by simply translating pages on your site and making sure your main site is optimized for the keywords you found.

When you’re deciding which keywords to optimize, make sure you conduct thorough research to determine how you rank for those keywords, what their keyword difficulty scores are and how your top landing pages rank. It’s more about optimizing your current content rather than creating anything new.

Creating optimized versions of your site

Scaling your site to an international level is a perfect way to use WordPress multisite. WordPress multisite is a feature built into WordPress that allows you to intertwine several WordPress sites together through the use of subdomains and subdirectories. You can even manage these additional sites from the WordPress admin area.

It’ll take a lot of work, and maybe even a bit of money, but what you’ll want to do is translate each and every word on each and every page of your site for every country or language you want to target. You’ll use WordPress multisite to create these additional sites using a subdomain (site.example.com) or a subdirectory (example.com/site).

EA, Beats by Dre and Skype are three companies that have optimized their sites for international markets through the use of subdirectories. If you scroll down to the bottom of EA’s website, you’ll find a setting that allows you to choose your country.

EA Official Site

The company’s headquarters is in the United States, but when you change the website to the UK, you’re taken to a completely different yet slightly identical website. The only thing that typically changes are the words. EA stores these sites in subdirectories, so the final URL for the United Kingdom version is https://www.ea.com/en-gb. Beats by Dre does the same thing with their own website.

Beats Br Dre Official Site

Skype does a similar thing, but they use languages instead. They also use subdirectories.

Skype Official Site

There’s a reason why you’re seeing a trend in using subdirectories over subdomains. Many search engines tend to see subdomains as separate entities, which can have a negative impact on SEO.

The solution is to simply create additional sites and store them in subdirectories so the URLs are example.com/site1, example.com/site2, etc. These should be the names of entire countries (example.com/netherlands), country abbreviations (example.com/nl) or language abbreviations (example.com/du).

You’ll have the option of creating subdirectories for the additional sites you create when you create them in WordPress multisite.

Translating your site

You have a couple of different options when it comes to translating your site. You can use a plugin to automatically detect a user’s language and translate your site automatically accordingly, or you can crowdsource and hire professional translators.

Here’s a list of free and premium WordPress plugins that handle automatic translations, mainly via Google Translator:

If you don’t want to rely on automatic translations, which may be highly inaccurate and likely will not reflect the tone you want your brand to have, you can outsource this task.

Take it from Airbnb as Patrick Yip of the OneSky Blog explains in this article about the company’s approach to expanding into 190 countries. It says the company crowdsourced the majority of the translation work that had to be done on its site, and then it had an in-house team of professional translators take over to double check everything and ensure the text matched the brand’s image.

Targeting international users

After you’ve translated your site and optimized your current one for the keywords your international visitors use, you need to start targeting those visitors to ensure more of them visit your site.

You can do this in a variety of different ways, but most business owners prefer to use advertising, especially Facebook Ads. Facebook Ads are relatively cheap, and they even allow you to target users based on a number of different factors, including location.

As far as the type of advertisements you should use, they should be optimized for each individual country you’re targeting. This is one of the reasons why country/region targeting is more crucial than language targeting.

Take it from Airbnb in that same article we mentioned earlier. They wanted to target East Asian countries, but all they should were western advertisements. So, they created a short commercial that depicted a young, East Asian woman planning a trip across East Asia.

They used an analytics tool to determine the top search terms used in that area were “how to search for a listing,” “how to book a room,” “how to contact Airbnb hosts” and “how to contact Airbnb.” They made sure the commercial depicted the woman performing all of these tasks.

If you don’t want to go as far as producing a high-quality, professional commercial, you can target users on a small scale. Create local content specifically for them. A typical approach travel companies use is to create city and country guides individuals can use to get the most out of a trip. They’ll then use the targeting features within tools like Facebook Ads to ensure they’re only targeting users in those areas.

You can read more about using Facebook to expand your business on a global scale here.

Final thoughts

Scaling a site with the intention of targeting international users is a difficult task to accomplish. Not impossible, but difficult, and it can be fairly time-consuming. Your main priority should be to determine which countries are providing the most traffic leading to your site and optimizing your site for those countries.

Use a tool like Google Analytics to figure this information out, and come up with a game plan to optimize your site for these users. Once your site is optimized, which mainly means you’ve gone ahead and translated every element on every page of it, you can begin targeting these users. Be creative, and go the extra mile by creating content specifically catered to them, and not just through translated text.

Once you do that, you can begin advertising to these users to attract them to your site where you can convert them into leads by getting them to subscribe to your email list or convert them into customers by getting them to complete a purchase. One (or both) of these outcomes should be your number one goal when it comes to expanding your business.

Posted by Brenda Barron

Brenda Barron is a writer from southern California specializing in technology and business. You can find out more about her at The Digital Inkwell.